18 October, 2021

LitStaff Pick: Characters We Really, Really Hate

Sebastian Dangerfield
The Ginger Man
J.P. Donleavy

When a character misbehaves, we expect some kind of revelation in the end—a reversal or recognition of what makes him that way. With  J.P. Donleavy’s novel The Ginger Man(1955) , you have to take the renegade heroThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 127020.jpg Sebastian Dangerfield as he is: unreliable, opportunistic, and most of the time, really unlikeable. That of course is what makes the novel so much fun to read, but for this reader, it’s the kind of fun you don’t examine too closely. Dangerfield is an American living in Dublin and studying law at Trinity College. He’s married to an Englishwoman, Marion, and father to their infant daughter, Felicity. The basis of the novel’s action though is Dangerfield’s pursuit of alcohol and women, as well as dodging rent, fatherhood, and his studies. The novel’s many female characters suffer his exploits—and though fate catches up to Dangerfield when his long-awaited inheritance is deferred, he suffers no guilt. There is no there there, as they say, though that hasn’t kept the novel from being a classic of its time, and a weirdly pleasurable read, despite its character’s unlikeable traits.
-Lauren Alwan

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