Ten of the Scariest Literary Characters

Anahita Padmanabhan ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

With October in full swing, Halloween is fast approaching. While this is usually a time for scary movies, books can be terrifying too. That’s in part due to the characters that fill the pages. Here are ten of some of the scariest characters in literature.

1. Professor Dolores Umbridge (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling)


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It’s pretty safe to say that the Harry Potter series has a lot to offer in the way of scary villains. All other villains outwardly show their darkness, but not Umbridge. She shows her evil in her actions, whether it’s torturing students, censoring, or manipulating through the ranks. She sure frightens, all while covered in pink.

2. Patrick Bateman (American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis)

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Well-groomed, wealthy, and a successful investment banker, Patrick is everything readers want or want to be. Except, behind all that, there’s a murdering psychopath, who pretty much has done every unthinkable action. To add to the whole mess, whether or not any of these acts are real is up to the reader to decide.

3. Tyler Durden (Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk)

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This guy loves doing things that definitely fall in the “not okay” category. He hurts, he steals, he makes a bomb, and he also starts Fight Club. His character is everything that the Narrator wants to be, and his magnetism reveals a lot about the people who surround Durden, as much as it does about Durden himself.

4. Humbert Humbert (Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov)

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Humbert Humbert is simply one of the worst characters in literature. He preys on a twelve-year-old and, while he expresses regret throughout the book, he is a pedophile, and there’s no way around it. What makes his whole character even worse is the way Vladimir Nabokov manages to get readers to almost sympathize with Humbert.

5. Miss Trunchbull (Matilda by Roald Dahl)

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Roald Dahl has created some of the scariest villains in children’s books, but Trunchbull is one of the worst. Miss Trunchbull is the headmistress of the school, a teacher, and an obvious child hater. She torments kids and teachers alike and thoroughly enjoys it. The woman has a cupboard called “The Chokey,” which emphasizes the most terrifying qualities of her character.

6. Jack (Lord of the Flies by William Golding):

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Jack is scary because, like another character on this list, he’s just a child. Yet, this child has a frightening penchant for violence and abuse. He controls the other kids and punishes them as he sees fit. Yes, he represents humans’ ability to turn violent, but seeing that manifest in a child is hard to reconcile.

7. Alex (Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess)

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Perhaps the worst thing about Alex is that he represents an entire culture in this dystopian society. Every time he rapes, assaults, and robs someone, readers are reminded that this is totally normal in this society, and that the teenagers of this world are doing this regularly. Alex surely does some horrible things, and he gets away with it all.

8. Kevin (We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver)

Photo credit: Mount Prospect Public Library

This kid has a lot of reasons for why he should be on this list. There’s the school massacre, how he convinces a girl to gouge her own skin, and his involvement in an accident where his sister loses an eye. All the while, he is a kid during this. Later, when his mother asks him why he did these terrible acts, he can’t produce an answer.

9. Nils Bjurman (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson)

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Bjurman’s character defines abuse of power. After being assigned as Lisbeth Sander’s guardian, he takes advantage of his control and forces her to do things in order to access her money. Lisbeth eventually gets her revenge, but everything that comes before that is reason enough for Nils to be on this list.

10. Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey)

Photo credit: Paste Magazine

This nurse rules over the mental institution where the novel takes place with unquestioned power. She abuses her patients—who are helpless to her violence—she terrifies, humiliates, and tortures these people, and in the process, terrifies readers as well.

These were just some of the scariest characters in literature. Hopefully, this has inspired other readers to go out and read some of these books, and to think of some creepy characters of their own. Happy reading, and happy Halloween!

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