18 October, 2021

LitStaff Pick: Characters We Really, Really Hate

August
Water For Elephants
Sara Gruen

Writers are taught to give their antagonists some small redeeming quality, some quirk or characteristic that, even in their despicableness, will cause the reader to, if not necessarily like, at the very least, find some sympathy for the bad guy. For example, maybe after the villain kills his victim, he bends down and gently pets the kitty. But there are some characters that are simply evil to the core, undeserving of any shred of compassion. Such is the ringmaster August in Sara Gruen’s Water For Elephants. He swaggers with a sense of entitlement. He considers his wife a piece of property. If anyone opposes or tries to stand up to him, he doffs them off the circus train. He is cruel to both the animals and circus workers. Nothing gets in the way of his ego and ambition. And he does it all through a sneer that pretends to be a smile. Of course, these types of characters, if there be any literary justice, always get theirs in the end. Rosie the elephant sees to that.

-Angie Dilmore

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