Getting away with murder: literature’s most annoyingly unpunished characters | The Knowledge Dynasty

Getting away with murder: literature’s most annoyingly unpunished characters

Nobody wants to see the baddie win, however much sense it makes to the story. Which of the worst villains in books do you want punished?

From cunning spies who evade discovery to baddies who literally get away with murder (and worse), novels that leave villains unpunished can be nail-bitingly frustrating. Even if you dont believe in karma, something still feels wrong about seeing the bad guys triumph. Here are some great fictional evildoers that I really wanted to face justice:

1. Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest by Ken Kesey

The cold, calculating Nurse Ratched is one of literatures most manipulative villains, reigning over a psychiatric ward with real sadism. In the books finale, when depressed patient Billy Bibbit proudly emerges from his bed with a woman, Nurse Ratched drives Billy to despair by threatening to tell his mother.

What worries me, Billy, she said. Is how your poor mother is going to take this. Billy flinched and put his hand to his cheek like hed been burned with acid. Nuh! Nuh! His mouth was working. He shook his head, begging her No! he cried. We watched Billy folding into the floor, head going back, knees coming forward. He was shaking his head in panic like a kid thats been promised a whipping just as soon as a willow is cut.

When Bibbit commits suicide, protagonist McMurphy hurtles himself at Ratched in anger and wraps his hands around her neck. While this attack leaves her voiceless and wipes out her authority she couldnt rule with her old power any more, not by writing things on pieces of paper the bitterest pill to swallow is McMurphys defeat, as the Big Nurse forces him to have a lobotomy that leads to his untimely death.

2. Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

Assassin Anton Chigurh is another merciless baddie, who slinks away after leaving a slew of bodies in his wake. After killing Llewelyn Moss for stealing drug money, he decides to murder his innocent wife Carla Jane based on the flip of the coin.

He straightened out his leg and reached into his pocket and drew out a few coins and took one and held it up. He turned it. For her to see the justice of it. He held it between his thumb and forefinger and weighed it and then flipped it spinning in the air and caught it and slapped it down on his wrist. Call it, he said.

After shooting Carla Jane, a car runs a stop sign and hits his truck breaking his arm in two places, cracking some ribs and cutting his head and leg. Though this may feel like payback, the harm is short-lived as he manages to patch himself up with a torn shirt and continues on his way, relatively unscathed: They watched him set off up the sidewalk, holding the twist of the bandanna against his head, limping slightly.

Actor
Actor Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in the 2007 film No Country for Old Men. Photograph: Publicity image from film company

3. Big Brother in 1984 by George Orwell

Big Brother is simultaneously an all-seeing, omnipresent villain and a symbol of totalitarianism either way, we never know if he is one person or many. After Winston is arrested for treason and tortured for months on end by the Ministry of Love how many times he had been beaten, how long the beatings had continued, he could not remember he finally succumbs to his oppression. He was in the public dock, confessing everything, implicating everybody. He was walking down the white-tiled corridor, with the feeling of walking in sunlight, and an armed guard at his back. The long-hoped-for bullet was entering his brain.

As the book ends, Winston tells himself. It was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother. But this defeated, broken confession leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

4. George Wickham in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Handsome, charming and charismatic: Austens George Wickham is one duplicitous character who manages to elude any repercussion for having affairs, seducing women and piling up gambling debts. This is perhaps due to his appearance, which Austen wrote as being greatly in his favour; he had all the best part of beauty, a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address and his similarly well-spoken manner: the introduction was followed up on his side by a happy readiness of conversation at the same time perfectly correct and unassuming.

This charming facade slips when Mr Darcy gives Elizabeth the letter in Rosings Park and she realises she has been fooled by Wickham: [Mr Darcys account of Wickham] must overthrow every cherished opinion of his worth, and which bore so alarming an affinity to his own history of himself.

But in the end, Wickham never does get his comeuppance for deceiving the family; he marries 15-year-old Lydia so her family continues to financially support them, and Darcy uses his connections to help Wickham secure a respectable career.

Christian
Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in the 2000 film American Psycho. Photograph: Allstar/LIONS GATE/Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar

5. Patrick Bateman in American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

The epitome of the sadistic, psychopathic villain, Patrick Batemen is one literary sinner who faces no justice for his heinous torture and murders regardless of whether they are rooted in reality or delusional fantasies.

With a lack of conscience so chilling it makes your skin crawl, Bateman makes no secret of his murders, yet throughout the novel his confessions are simply laughed off or misunderstood as when his friend mistakes him saying murder and executions for mergers and acquisitions with no hope of retribution. His lack of remorse continues throughout the novel, and the story ends as he pointedly leaves a bar through the door marked THIS IS NOT AN EXIT.

So from cold-hearted murderers to callous governments who never get their comeuppance, which baddies have I missed? Who are your favourite literary wronguns that got away with it? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2016/apr/11/getting-away-with-literatures-most-annoyingly-unpunished-characters

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