LitStaff Pick: Our Favorite Mad Characters

 Delirium, from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman seriesDelirium_Sandman

Delirium is unique.  She’s one of the Endless: seven mystical brothers and sisters who have ruled existence since before the dawn of time.  In Delirium, we get a character whose descent into madness is not fully explained, but who was once Delight, an ancient creature, like her siblings Death, Dream, Desire, Despair, Destruction, and Destiny.  Delight is represented as a young child, but Delirium is more the manic teenager – her hair changes color and shape, her eyes are two different colors, her clothes are a hodge-podge of styles and in varying degrees of disrepair.  And she is very, very mad.

We learn that Delirium’s madness was not inevitable, and throughout the Sandman novels we see glimpses of her original, less manic state.   Why she lost the innocent guise of Delight and became the bewildering, unpredictable Delirium is never explained.  The Endless are a variety of god-beings, ruling over things like dreams, love, hate, order, chaos, the past, and the future.  They are the representation of certain feelings, thoughts, and states-of-being; these things coalesce themselves into the “realms” that each Endless rules over.  Possibly something happened to Delight during her long past that made her no longer able to control her realm, or her sanity, and she became another god-being altogether.

Whatever the reason, Delirium is one of the most engaging, interesting characters in the entire graphic novel series.  She speaks in spikey, mismatched words, rarely making immediately understandable sense, and yet seems to have knowledge and intuition far beyond that of her siblings.  She has a temper, and a tendency to punish those who treat her poorly swiftly and terribly.  She is frenzied and gleeful, charming in a bizarre, off-putting way.  Her relationship with her brother Destruction is sweet and loving, and her sister Death watches over her protectively.  Delirium is a bright point in the often dreary journey of Dream, the main character of the series, and the mutual dislike shared between them grows over the course of the story into something more respectful and congenial.  Mad indeed, but a character of such depth that you find yourself waiting for her to turn up again.

-Kira Apple

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