100 Best Characters in Fiction Since 1900


Book Magazine compiled a panel of 55 authors, literary agents, editors, and actors in 2002 to “rank the top one hundred characters in literature since 1900.”

1. Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Catholic)

2. Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye(1951) by J.D. Salinger (Jewish Catholic; Scientologist)

3. Humbert Humbert in Lolita (1955) by Vladimir Nabokov (Russian Orthodox)

4. Leopold Bloom in Ulysses (1922) by James Joyce (Catholic (lapsed))

5. Rabbit Angstrom in Rabit, Run (1960) by John Updike (Lutheran)

6. Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Catholic; Spiritualist)

7. Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird (1960) by Harper Lee

8. Molly Bloom in Ulysses (1922) by James Joyce (Catholic (lapsed))

9. Stephen Dedalus in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) by James Joyce (Catholic (lapsed))

10. Lily Bart in The House of Mirth (1905) by Edith Wharton

11. Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958) by Truman Capote

12. Gregor Samsa in The Metamorphosis (1915) by Franz Kafka (Jewish)

13. The Invisible Man in Invisible Man (1952) by Ralph Ellison

14. Lolita in Lolita (1955) by Vladimir Nabokov (Russian Orthodox)

15. Aureliano Buendia in One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Catholic)

16. Clarissa Dalloway in Mrs. Dalloway (1925) by Virginia Woolf (Neo-pagan)

17. Ignatius Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces(1980) by John Kennedy Toole

18. George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy(1974) by John LeCarre

19. Mrs. Ramsay in To the Lighthouse (1927) by Virginia Woolf (Neo-pagan)

20. Bigger Thomas in Native Son (1940) by Richard Wright (Seventh-day Adventist; Communist)

21. Nick Adams in In Our Time (1925) by Ernest Hemingway (Catholic)

22. Yossarian in Catch-22 (1961) by Joseph Heller (Jewish)

23. Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind (1936) by Margaret Mitchell (Catholic)

24. Scout Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird (1960) by Harper Lee

25. Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep (1939) by Raymond Chandler

26. Kurtz in Heart of Darkness (1902) by Joseph Conrad (Catholic; atheist)

27. Stevens in The Remains of the Day(1989) by Kazuo Ishiguro

28. Cosimo Piovasco di Rondo in The Baron in the Trees (1957) by Italo Calvino (Waldensian Protestant (lapsed); Communist)

29. Winnie the Pooh in Winnie the Pooh (1926) by A.A. Milne

30. Oskar Matzerath in The Tin Drum (1959) by Gunter Grass (Catholic)

31. Hazel Motes in Wise Blood (1952) by Flannery O’Connor (Catholic)

32. Alex Portnoy in Portnoy’s Complaint (1969) by Philip Roth (Jewish)

33. Binx Bolling in The Moviegoer (1961) by Walker Percy (raised agnostic Presbyterian; Catholic convert)

34. Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited (1945) by Evelyn Waugh (Catholic)

35. Jeeves in My Man Jeeves (1919) by P.G. Wodehouse

36. Eugene Henderson in Henderson the Rain King(1959) by Saul Bellow (Orthodox Jew (lapsed); Anthroposophist)

37. Marcel in Remembrance of Things Past (1913–1927) by Marcel Proust (Jewish Catholic)

38. Toad in The Wind in the Willows(1908) by Kenneth Grahame

39. The Cat in the Hat in The Cat in the Hat (1955) by Dr. Seuss (Lutheran)

40. Peter Pan in The Little White Bird (1902) by J.M. Barrie

41. Augustus McCrae in Lonesome Dove (1985) by Larry McMurtry

42. Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1930) by Dashiell Hammett

43. Judge Holden in Blood Meridian (1985) by Cormac McCarthy (Catholic)

44. Willie Stark in All the King’s Men (1946) by Robert Penn Warren

45. Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander(1969) by Patrick O’Brian

46. The Little Prince in The Little Prince (1943) by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

47. Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea(1952) by Ernest Hemingway (Catholic)

48. Jean Brodie in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961) by Muriel Spark (Catholic)

49. The Whiskey Priest in The Power and the Glory(1940) by Graham Greene (Catholic)

50. Neddy Merrill in The Swimmer (1964) by John Cheever

51. Sula Peace in Sula (1973) by Toni Morrison

52. Meursault in The Stranger (1942) by Albert Camus (Catholic; Existentialism)

53. Jake Barnes in The Sun Also Rises (1926) by Ernest Hemingway (Catholic)

54. Phoebe Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye(1951) by J.D. Salinger (Jewish Catholic; Scientologist)

55. Janie Crawford in Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) by Zora Neale Hurston

56. Antonia Shimerda in My Antonia (1918) by Willa Cather (Episcopalian)

57. Grendel in Grendel (1971) by John Gardner

58. Gulley Jimson in The Horse’s Mouth (1944) by Joyce Cary

59. Big Brother in 1984 (1949) by George Orwell (Anglican)

60. Tom Ripley in The Talented Mr. Ripley(1955) by Patricia Highsmith

61. Seymour Glass in Nine Stories (1953) by J.D. Salinger (Jewish Catholic; Scientologist)

62. Dean Moriarty in On the Road (1957) by Jack Kerouac (Catholic; Buddhism)

63. Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web (1952) by E.B. White

64. T.S. Garp in The World According to Garp (1978) by John Irving (Christian background (lapsed as adult))

65. Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man (1934) by Dashiell Hammett

66. James Bond in Casino Royale (1953) by Ian Fleming

67. Mr. Bridge in Mrs. Bridge (1959) by Evan S. Connell

68. Geoffrey Firmin in Under the Volcano (1947) by Malcolm Lowry (Methodist; Anglican; agnostic)

69. Benjy in The Sound and the Fury(1929) by William Faulkner (Presbyterian)

70. Charles Kinbote in Pale Fire (1962) by Vladimir Nabokov (Russian Orthodox)

71. Mary Katherine Blackwood in We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962) by Shirley Jackson

72. Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited (1945) by Evelyn Waugh (Catholic)

73. Claudine in Claudine at School (1900) by Colette

74. Florentino Ariza in Love in the Time of Cholera(1985) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Catholic)

75. George Follansbee Babbitt in Babbitt (1922) by Sinclair Lewis

76. Christopher Tietjens in Parade’s End (1924–28) by Ford Madox Ford (Catholic; agnostic)

77. Frankie Addams in The Member of the Wedding(1946) by Carson McCullers

78. The Dog of Tears in Blindness (1995) by Jose Saramago (Catholic; atheist)

79. Tarzan in Tarzan of the Apes (1914) by Edgar Rice Burroughs

80. Nathan Zuckerman in My Life As a Man (1979) by Philip Roth (Jewish)

81. Arthur “Boo” Radley in To Kill A Mockingbird (1960) by Harper Lee

82. Henry Chinaski in Post Office (1971) by Charles Bukowski

83. Joseph K. in The Trial (1925) by Franz Kafka (Jewish)

84. Yuri Zhivago in Dr. Zhivago (1957) by Boris Pasternak (Jewish)

85. Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1998) by J.K. Rowling

86. Hana in The English Patient (1992) by Michael Ondaatje

87. Margaret Schlegel in Howards End (1910) by E.M. Forster

88. Jim Dixon in Lucky Jim (1954) by Kingsley Amis

89. Maurice Bendrix in The End of the Affair (1951) by Graham Greene (Catholic)

90. Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men (1937) by John Steinbeck (Episcopalian)

91. Mr. Biswas in A House for Mr. Biswas(1961) by V.S. Naipaul (Hindu)

92. Alden Pyle in The Quiet American (1955) by Graham Greene (Catholic)

93. Kimball “Kim” O’Hara in Kim (1901) by Rudyard Kipling (Anglican)

94. Newland Archer in The Age of Innocence (1920) by Edith Wharton

95. Clyde Griffiths in An American Tragedy (1925) by Theodore Dreiser (Catholic; Congregationalist; Chrisitan Science)

96. Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh (1926) by A.A. Milne

97. Quentin Compson in The Sound and the Fury(1929) by William Faulkner (Presbyterian)

98. Charlie Marlow in Heart of Darkness (1902) by Joseph Conrad (Catholic; atheist)

99. Celie in The Color Purple (1982) by Alice Walker (Buddhist, Vegan)

100. Augie March in The Adventures of Augie March (1953) by Saul Bellow (Orthodox Jew (lapsed); Anthroposophist)

Source: Book Magazine, March/April 2002, http://www.adherents.com/

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