Supporting Characters: Why We Like Them

Outlander novelist Diana Gabaldon between Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan — who, in their roles as born-two-centuries-apart couple Claire and Jamie, interact with many memorable supporting characters in the Outlander TV series. (Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images.)

I support the idea that supporting characters are important. 

They’re a big part of the world authors build in their novels; they’re needed for the protagonists to interact with; and they’re frequently quite interesting in their own right.

What they’re often NOT is super-three-dimensional. Why? In most novels, of course, less space is devoted to a supporting character than to a book’s star, so there’s less space to really flesh out secondary players. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because somewhat-one-dimensional characters can be quite memorable in their somewhat-one-dimensional-ness. 

I noticed this while currently reading the ninth Outlander novel, Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone. Diana Gabaldon’s riveting series with time-travel elements is chock-full of distinctive supporting characters, with a notable Bees example the strict, stiff, religious, judgmental Elspeth Cunningham — a woman in her 60s or 70s who’s among the settlers living near the Fraser family in 18th-century North Carolina.

Actually, Elspeth becomes a bit more nuanced as the novel goes on. That can happen with supporting characters, as is the case with nosy neighbor Rachel Lynde of L.M. Montgomery’s wonderful Anne of Green Gables and several of its sequels. She morphs from a gossiping busybody to kind of likable.

Very likable yet mostly one-note — as supporting characters often are — is Helen Burns of Charlotte Bronte’s iconic Jane Eyre. That suffering young friend of Jane’s at the miserable Lowood institution is kind, patient, forgiving, and near-saintly. She almost feels more like a symbol than a human being, but stays in the reader’s mind.

Much less saintly is Flintwinch in Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit, who ruthlessly uses the secrets he knows to gain power over people and get ahead in life.

Not quite so evil but definitely fraudulent are “the duke” and “the dauphin” — the colorful conmen encountered by Mississippi River travelers Huck and Jim in Mark Twain’s classic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Speaking of on-the-water novels, the cast of Herman Melville’s epic Moby-Dick includes Starbuck — the Quaker first mate who’s a “voice of reason” on the Pequod ship. (It’s a small role, but Captain Ahab’s underling would become the novel’s star of stars of sorts as the namesake for the Starbucks coffee chain.)

Another minor character who makes a major splash is Flicka, a teen girl suffering from a serious disease. She is fatalistic, funny, and charismatic in (Ms.) Lionel Shriver’s So Much for That — a compelling novel that takes a well-deserved smack at America’s profit-driven medical system.

Death is even more pronounced in Nikolai Gogol’s ultra-quirky Dead Souls, whose supporting characters include the glib, rakish, lying Nozdryov.

And it’s hard to forget Otto Katz — a Jewish-born Catholic priest who’s an atheist (and a drunk) in Jaroslav Hasek’s hilarious The Good Soldier Svejk.

I realize I’ve only scratched the surface here. Any supporting characters you’d like to mention? Anything you’d like to say about the role of secondary players in novels?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com every Thursday. The latest piece — about an alternate universe of tiny development — is here.

177 thoughts on “Supporting Characters: Why We Like Them

  1. Pingback: Supporting Characters: Why We Like Them – MasteredWriter

  2. This is a continuation of a previous remark on this article. Some of Mark Antony’s memorable lines in “Julius Caesar” are “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones;”, “If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.” and “This was the noblest Roman of them all:”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Dave Bebe here, my all time favorite book still is To Kill A Mockingbird.
    I am sure it’s been mentioned in here, Boo Radley was my favorite character occupies a small character in the book. A recluse only was known to come out at night.
    There were talks ad gossips around the neighborhood about him and later readers find out how he protected the children..lessons never judge a character by their looks .oh judge a book by their cover.

    Later the actor Robert Duvall became a prolific actor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Bebe!

      Boo Radley is indeed a memorable supporting character in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” A small role, as you said, but so crucial — including to the novel’s conclusion. And, yes, his presence really illustrated how people are gossiped about and misunderstood.

      Robert Duvall was great playing him in the “TKAM” movie. His first film role, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What is remarkable about Dostoevsky’s and Tolstoy’s works are that many of their secondary characters seem rather three dimensional. A good example is Anna’s son Seryozha (I had to look up this name) in “Anna Karenina”, even though he is a minor character and appears only in a few scenes, he is written in a very nuanced manner. he is one of the best, most believable pre-adolescent characters in literature.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Dave, I could think of following supporting characters:
    Jane Austin-Pride and Prejudice
    Melanie Hamilton-Gone With the Wind
    Helen Burns-Jane Eye
    Octavia-Antony and Cleopatra
    Mariam Lievers_ Sons and Lovers…
    Guess many more, but can’t recall, I believe supporting characters really enhance the character traits in main ones through contrast and dichotomy.

    Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks Dave for being so kind.. writing is tedious for me esp. in English coz I’m not a native speaker. I am a product of Post Colonialism like Edward Said born and raised in East fed in English Literature…🤪🤪🤪🤪 and convent education 🙄🙄

            Liked by 1 person

            • You’re very welcome, Tanya!

              Writing can indeed be difficult to do, especially when one is not writing in one’s native language. That makes your poetry even more impressive!

              I’m an admirer of the late Edward Said’s work.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Thanks Dave, your words are encouraging.
                Edward Said’s discourse and works shaped me. In the early stages of my literary journey, I was drawn towards existentialism and nihilism reading works of writers such as Camus, Beckett and Kafka… but than I discovered Orientalism. It made so much sense and was like coming home. I was fed on traditional British literature from Chaucer to Hughes and here comes a literary figure who revised and revisited these discourses
                , although it made me a cynical reader. Dais’s analysis and commentaries are spot on 🙂

                Liked by 1 person

  6. Dave, you mentioned the fantasy adventure novel “She” some time ago on your blog. Although this is not one of my favorite novels I remember the courageous, doomed Ustane more than the three main characters in this novel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ustane is indeed a memorable, brave, and poignant supporting character, Tony. I wish things had worked between her and the man she loved (Leo Vincey, who was of course basically bewitched by Ayesha aka “She”).

      Like

      • In “Crime And Punishment”, Roskolnikov’s sister Dunya is an overlooked character. Although I don’t remember a lot of the details in this novel, she shows a great deal of inner strength and is probably one of the few virtuous female characters in classic literature to fire a pistol in anger (in self defense).

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I wrote this and posted it elsewhere, but I thought, on the chance it might amuse, to let readers here have a look:

    After the discovery that the former president had actually gone so far as to bite the head off a baby, Swanson White of Fox News wondered “What’s become of this great country? Are we all just whiny sob sisters who can’t see the big picture? Have we all forgotten the long teeth and big bellies of the Founders? Who’s to say that Washington himself didn’t eat babies whole, not just the head? After all, relish was invented in his lifetime, and relish is all you need to enjoy babyflesh, cooked or raw.”

    CNN meanwhile, had earlier reported that, during his tumultuous first year in office, Trump may have eaten more than one baby’s head, and had phoned several associates to ask if they had a line on babies available in bulk, at wholesale prices. But by afternoon, further investigation revealed that , while he may have phoned friends to inquire as to availability, there is no incontrovertible proof that he had actually received any such shipment, though at least one staffer did recall hearing what might have been a baby’s cry coming from the Oval Office, though it might have been Ivanka.

    By nightfall, bearded news dispenser Blister concluded, “I was pretty sure this looked pretty bad, but now it might look better if we wait long enough for the DOJ to investigate, which they just might do, or maybe we’ll forget.”

    Breathless from his sprint down the interminable Hall of Congress, Freedom Thought Leader McCarthy spoke in short bursts. “Nothing to see here. The gutter mainstream media has recklessly accused the president of multiple instances of baby-biting.”

    When a reporter, in track shoes but otherwise clad in business attire, pushed back by saying the initial report had not been denied, McCarthy bristled: “Look, maybe he kissed one baby extra hard one time. Besides, even if he did bite him, even if he accidentally ate his head, it’s just one little baby.” And with a boyish glint in his eye added “and I know how we can make more.”

    On Newswax, Baron Stenchfield opined “At last we have a real man in the Oval Office, and I can sleep at night, especially now that we don’t have that damn baby at home howling at all hours, though I’m sure wherever he is, President Trump is doing good things to him. When I first asked the president if he’d take the baby off our hands, he told me “Stenchfield, not only will I take in your baby, but I will do so with relish.”

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Stephen King’s The Stand is almost all supporting characters. The novel opens with a killer flu and we go from character to character watching them lose and bury loved ones. In the end we’re left with a group of survivors (and some bad guys) who try to find some normalcy (and beat the bad guys). I guess there are a couple of characters who have more presence on the page than others, but something I love about this book is how individual each character is. It’s one of those ones where you get to the end of the chapter and say No! I like him and don’t want to leave; and a second later you’re so happy because I love this character! I can’t wait to find out what she’s doing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Susan!

      Great and very well described point that novels like “The Stand” with “ensemble” casts basically feature a group of distinctive supporting characters with perhaps a few somewhat more prominent than others. Another, more recent example of that is Liane Moriarty’s excellent “Nine Perfect Strangers.”

      And, yes, one hates to leave one character for another when reading a novel with an ensemble cast, but we soon get absorbed in the next character when an author is skilled — as King and Moriarty are. Later, we’re also happy when characters reappear. 🙂

      Like

  9. I wanted to think on this. However, 1 character kept being front and centre in my mind.
    This is Scarlett O’Hara’s Mammy.
    I understand the portrayal of slaves is of controversy. Nonetheless Mammy is an important secondary character.

    I mention here that Hattie McDaniel won Best Supporting Actress for her performance in “Gone With The Wind” at the 12th scars in 1940. She was the first black person to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Resa! That’s a great mention!

      The treatment of African-Americans is problematic in “Gone With the Wind” — whether because Margaret Mitchell was racist, or because she wanted to show racism, or some combination of the two. But Mammy is a memorable supporting character, and Hattie McDaniel did a terrific job portraying her in the movie even though there may well have been some embarrassment for the actress in doing so.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Good Morning Dave…I just thought of Pride and Prejudice is an 1813 novel of manners written by Jane Austen . Supporting character who leaves a mark could be Lady Catherine, a small but unforgettable character.
    I have read the Novel so many times since my teenage years.
    Anyways HBO was showing the movie version of it today, and Madame Judy Dench was remarkable.( if you want a laugh in these trying times )
    Of course the better version of the movie was long ago the five hour series on PBS.

    ( could you plese delete my post I posted in another topic ? thanks )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, bebe, and good morning to you, too!

      Love the clip — Judi Dench is amazing in it…funny and intimidating. A remarkable actress indeed.

      Great that you’ve read “Pride and Prejudice” a number of times. I like the novel a lot, but have only read it once. 🙂

      Will delete that other comment after I post this comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. For old hands and grizzled vets of Shakespeare, Falstaff and Mercutio will come trippingly to mind, each in his own unquiet way stealing scenes and affection throughout the audience by means that the putative lead characters, more constrained by their archetypal roles, do not, because they cannot.

    But I will go back further in my life with books than college daze to recall and laud a sidekick/supporting character out of my boyhood: Reepicheep, the hero rat of CS Lewis’ “Voyage of the Dawn Treader”, one of the adjunct Narnia tales. This plucky rodent, chivalrous, fearless and loyal to point of death, stole my young heart 60 years ago, as I was a small boy who was ever on the lookout for small beings capable of great deeds. I treasured especially the scene of his last appearance among his fellows, a calm and shallow blossom-covered sea,wherein Aslan gives him leave and a boat to row toward his everlasting reward. Of course, being a small boy, I was in a lesser way also charmed by the boisterous doings of those lesser characters, the charmingly dense and monopedalian* dufflepods.

    * For example of this possible neologism in a sentence, kindly take a gander at Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s 1964 sketch, “One Leg Too Few” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbnkY1tBvMU

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, jhNY!

      You named several scene-stealing supporting characters — with the adjective “scene-stealing” about the highest compliment one can offer a secondary player.

      Great mention and description of Reepicheep! Supporting characters who are small and plucky definitely draw our regard. The hobbits created by C.S. Lewis’ pal Tolkien are prime examples of that.

      Loved the skit you linked to! 😂

      Like

      • As a rather lofty gentleman your own self, I am touched you could find interest in such minuscule characters as touched me, metaphorically speaking, in my youth. Perhaps the most ur-character of them all, out of my boyhood: Wee Geordie, who through faithful absorption of the teachings of Charles Atlas, grows to a brawny magnificence, eventually mastering the art of hammer-throwing, which, as I eventually came to realize, outside of the Highland Games and the Olympics, is an art one is seldom called upon to employ. Though it does occur to me that had John Henry known what Geordie learned to do, he might have cast his troubles far from the track, and lived.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Dave, I have scattered supporting characters all over this discussion, but I would like to mention Clara from Heidi and also Grandfather who I loved [reminds me still of my dad]. Rupert the Bear had fabulous supporting characters and the author/artist was very diverse with her characters for that time. Do you have Rupert in the USA? If not you can read about him here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Bear. Nancy in Oliver Twist is another wonderful supporting character, as is Fagin. I just love this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BtRMxBYaqs

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Robbie!

      Terrific mention of those two supporting characters in “Heidi” — which I FINALLY read about a year (?) ago. What a great novel. And, yes, Nancy and Fagin in “Oliver Twist.” Few authors created as many colorful supporting characters as Dickens. Mr. Micawber is among many who come to mind.

      I’m not familiar with Rupert the Bear, but it might also be in the United States. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  13. As I’ve been mostly re-reading LOTR lately, I forgot how much I absolutely adore some of the supporting characters in there – especially Merry and Pippin. They’re always bringing comic relief into the situation when we most need it. And of course Jane Austin novels are always filled with a slew of memorable supporting roles – Mr. Collins has always been a favorite of mine. I’m one of the few who never got into the Outlander series, just not my cup of tea I guess! 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, M.B.!

      “The Lord of the Rings” is indeed teeming with excellent supporting characters — also among them Treebeard the Ent 🙂 — and you brought up a great point that some secondary players can provide comic relief, in Tolkien’s work and in other authors’ work.

      And, yes, what a gallery of memorable supporting characters in Jane Austen’s novels!

      Liked by 3 people

  14. The first person comes to my mind Dave is Bela Mitra in Jhumpa Lahiri`s The Lowland..
    Bela Mitra is the biological daughter of Udayan and Gauri, though she is raised in Rhode Island by Gauri and Subhash. Bela is politically-minded, socially conscious, and fiercely independent.
    Her mother Gouri lefet Bela by herself when she was only five with her adress unknown. Gouri was highly educated but had no compassion.

    I am quoting this from someone else

    “Every night, at Bela’s insistence, Subhash lay with her until she fell asleep. It was a reminder of their connection to each other, a connection at once false and true. And so night after night, after helping her brush her teeth and changing her into her pajamas, he switched off the light and lay beside her. Some nights he, too, fell asleep briefly beside Bela.
    Carefully he removed her hands from the collar of his shirt, and adjusted the blanket on top of her. Her head was thrust back on the pillow, in a combined posture of pride and surrender. He’d experienced such closeness with only one other person. With Udayan.
    Each night, extracting himself from her, for a moment his heart stopped, wondering what she would say, the day she learned the truth about him.”

    EventuallyBbela learned the truth and when her Mother came over to claim her Bela set her straight. That was the best part of the book.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, bebe!

      Bela is indeed a terrific supporting character in “The Lowland.” Smart, moral, and possessing a mind of her own, as you note. And the close, friendly relationship between her and her (non-biological) father is indeed very moving.

      I agree that the scene between Bela and her mother near the end of the novel is the best scene in the book — among many excellent scenes.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Jennifer!

      You’re right about Cathy in “East of Eden” — what a memorable villain. One sort of reluctantly admires her uncompromising approach to life, but she’s quite evil. Glad she’s a supporting character rather than the protagonist of the novel!

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Louisa May Alcott built an entire unique ensemble cast with adverbs. In 20th Century authors who routinely give just enough information for us to roll our own. Elmore Leonard, Faulkner, Steinbeck, MacDonald et al often wrote scene stealers as secondary to the main protagonist. Something still obvious in as diverse a crew as Hiaasen, DeMille and Caroline Graham.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Phil!

      “Scene stealers” is the perfect phrase for some supporting characters. 🙂

      Your mention of Louisa May Alcott reminded me of how some supporting characters end up more prominent in another book. The Civil War-absent March family father either doesn’t appear or appears very little in “Little Women” — I’m not remembering; it’s been many years since I’ve read Alcott’s novel. Yet he becomes the protagonist in “March,” the 2005 novel by Geraldine Brooks (an author, like the Carl Hiaasen you mentioned, with a journalism background).

      Liked by 3 people

      • Alcott is the 19th Century exception to adverbs are the devil. I use the first page to show how well she lets everyone know who’s who and what to expect from them. Without the adept use of adverbs, she’d have been 10 pages in with active body and emotion beats. Faulkner got away with them, too. Not that I’m advocating, but from a literature standpoint it’s silly to “outlaw” anything but bad sentences.

        Liked by 3 people

  16. Hi Dave, what a great idea to focus on those supporting characters! I really liked the character of Flicka in ‘So Much For All That’ and there was also mention of Porfiry in ‘Crime and Punishment’. I enjoy the way he wends his way through the novel, although I was probably overthinking his role and wondering if he was all that he seemed because of his name! I have a couple of favourites though – Sydney Carton in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, he was such a noble character. And I also really like the character of Curley’s Wife in ‘Of Mice And Men’, partly because I think she’s so misunderstood!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you, Sarah!

      Porfiry is a great mention by you (and Tony in another comment). Despite him appearing only occasionally in “Crime and Punishment,” he’s quite crucial as sort of an antagonist to Raskolnikov. Porfiry definitely creates some suspense! And, as you note, he has quite an evocative name.

      Also, excellent citing of those Dickens and Steinbeck novel characters! Speaking of the latter author, I love the “servant” who’s more than a servant Lee in “East of Eden.”

      Liked by 5 people

  17. Thank you very much, Dave, for giving me all these new ideas about important minor characters:)
    For the moment I can just think of Emma, who always seemed to be a little bit jealous of Jane Fairfax, who was quite a good musician and also had a somewhat misterious relationship with Emma’s admirer.

    Liked by 5 people

  18. In Fannie Flagg’s, “A Redbird Christmas ” Jack,the Cardinal was,in my opinion, a supporting character. This inquisitive, resilient little bird really changed the lives of so many in this charming book. I see the 🐦as a reflection of each character in story. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Michele!

      I loved “A Redbird Christmas.” Such a feel-good novel, though there were some distressing moments.

      Yes, animals can be wonderful supporting characters. So many examples — Rollo the dog in the “Outlander” novels and Whinney the horse in Jean M. Auel’s “Earth’s Children” series are two that come to mind.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. I like to read a novel in which, as the book progresses, the supporting characters are more tightly woven into the story, and while the protagonist is pulling the reader forward, the supporting characters are adding tension and surprise that fit nicely into the protagonist role but give added views, suspense, tension, to the story.
    When an author mostly focuses on the protagonist, the story can become one-sided and have a weaker pull.
    My life would be very dull if I didn’t have many supporting characters (all different ages) coming into and out of my life. I like to think I did shine sometimes in my roles as a mother, wife, friend, teacher, etc. Realistically, much of my shine comes through those who have walked hand-in-hand with me.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Mary Ruth! Very well said!

      Yes, supporting characters can add a lot of depth, variety, and synergy (a bit of a pretentious word on my part 🙂 ) as a novel advances. Heck, the outcome of the book can sometimes be shaped by a supporting character or three.

      And nice to think of real-life people who, at times, are supporting characters — us, family, friends, co-workers, etc. Glad you mentioned that!

      Liked by 2 people

  20. Great post Dave. I guess that any supporting character is king of their world offpage as it were. I remember doing a post way back about ‘being the bellboy’. I used the story about how Harrison Ford played a bellboy in a first role and got hauled aside by the director nand told straight that the world knew when the likes of Curtis and all first walked on the screen they ‘had it’ as in star quality but he didn’t, to which Ford apparently replied, ‘I thought I was just meant to be the bellboy.’ And I guess that is perhaps it for secondaries, they’re not there to take over the show. Set against that though I can’t help thinking that writers like Dickens wrote in a very different time in terms of how stories were told and created some of the most memorable secondaries going. You also have books where there’s a narrator… take Nelly Dean for example, who narrates the story to Lockwood who narrates it to us. I’ll shut up now before I write an essay, since I’m a secondary here – lol.

    Liked by 6 people

  21. Some interesting or well written supporting characters in literature include Betsy Trotwood, Uriah Heep, and Mr. Micawber “David Copperfield” Madame Defarge “A Tale Of Two Cities”, Bertha Mason “Jane Eyre”, Dunya, Svidrigailov and Porfiry Petrovich (I had to look up these names) “Crime And Punishment”, Diggory Venn “The Return Of The Native” and Alfred Doolittle “Pygmalion” (a play).

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you, Tony!

      Very nice list. I suspect few novelists created as many vivid supporting characters as Charles Dickens did. Often not three-dimensional, but often memorable.

      And Bertha Mason moved from supporting character to a star turn of sorts in Jean Rhys’ “Jane Eyre” prequel “Wide Sargasso Sea.”

      Liked by 2 people

  22. You know that I will be mentioning Samwise from Lord of the Rings. I loved that character and even named my “cat-friend” Samwise. Going back to my early reads, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which from “A Winkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle.

    “Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.” Mrs. Whatsit

    My favouite Pride and Prejudice character was Mrs. Bennett. She was the loudest character of novel and enjoyed being the victim. But she worked diligently on behalf of her daughters, taking advantage of every opportunity to position them for a happy and financially secure life.

    Boo Radley from “To Kill a Mockingbird” was an extraordinary character. Harper Lee brought him to life slowly, with great care.

    Winnie-the-Pooh has marvelous supporting characters from Eeyore (Thanks for noticin’ me) to Piglet (Oh d-d-dear) to Tigger and Rabbit (“Tiggers never go on being Sad,” explained Rabbit.)

    Another wonderful post, Dave. I am looking back to follow-up on the discussion. Many thanks for reminding me of dynamic supporting characters.

    Liked by 7 people

    • Thank you, Rebecca! 🙂

      You named several unforgettable supporting characters — including Samwise, who in a way is just as much a star of Tolkien’s trilogy as Frodo, Gandalf, Gollum, etc.

      Yes, what would “Pride and Prejudice” be without Mrs. Bennet? Even as her daughters — especially Elizabeth — and Mr. Darcy are more prominent in Austen’s novel.

      Boo Radley is certainly a “minor” character in “To Kill a Mockingbird” compared to Scout and Atticus, but so crucial to the book…and its conclusion.

      I’m looking forward to the discussion, too — and enjoying the discussion so far. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Rebecca, thank you for mentioning Eeyore from Winnie-the-Pooh, he is my favourite favourite (like the purple Quality Street – do you have Quality Street in Canada?). I wanted to ask you what you thought about Princess Anna Mikhailovna Drubetskoy from War and Peace. I think she is a wonderful supporting character. She has so much determination and is always around (so far) when anything of importance is happening. We can all learn the art of social climbing and manipulation from her.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Princess Anna Mikhailovna is my most favourite character of War and Peace so far!. In fact, I felt an immediate kindred spirit the first time she was introduced. She is brilliant, strategic, determined and has great intuition. I love how she managed to persuade Prince Vassily to well-position her son, Boris. Indeed, she is a master of the art of social climbing and manipulation.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Hi Rebecca, I basically skimmed through “War And Peace” so I don’t remember Princess Anna, but my favorite character is Prince Andrei, he seems stern on the surface but can also be kind, generous, and honorable. I also like Marshal Kutuzov (an actual historical figure), Pierre, Sonia and Denisov in this novel.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Thank you, Tony. As I continue to read “War and Peace” I wonder why I didn’t read this book before. What I find truly remarkable is Tolstoy’s ability to reveal characters as the narrative evolves. When I first met Prince Andrei in the first chapters, there was a coldness, even aloofness until Pierre walks into the room. There was genuine joy at seeing his friend.Then there was the profound exchange between father and son just before Part 2. I have just met Marshal Kutuzov and look forward to how Tolstoy will build his character. 2022 will be a very interesting year!!

            Liked by 1 person

      • JRR had an interesting way of intertwining characters so that it was very difficult to identify supporting characters. He was always digressing (something I enjoyed in LOTR and The Hobbit) into stories that were not directly attached to the overarching storyline, but without them the narrative would not be as rich and rewarding. For example – Tom Bombadil and his wife Goldberry. Beorn was brilliant, wasn’t he? And he came up in JRR’s LOTR. I imagine that JRR became attached to the characters he created. As a reader, I found it very easy to become attached to them as well.

        Liked by 1 person

  23. In Dickens’ “Great Expectations” the eccentric but vindictive recluse Miss Havisham and the frightening but ultimately generous convict Magwitch are among the most memorable characters in this novel. In Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” Anna’s amoral and irresponsible but genial brother Stiva Oblonsky is also a memorable character.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Tony! Some supporting characters — such as the two you mention from “Great Expectations” — can be so vivid and interesting that they almost feel like the novel’s co-stars. (Even though they’re not quite the novel’s co-stars.)

      Liked by 2 people

    • Fantastic mentions, Tony. I watched the film of Great Expectations with my mom when I was 8 years old. The scene with Miss Havisham in her wedding gown and the rats on the wedding table scared me to death, as did the scene where Pip meets the convict in the graveyard and he asks for food. I have never forgotten those scenes. I subsequently read the book a few times and it is my favourite Dickens.

      Liked by 2 people

  24. Many of my favorite supporting characters were created by Jane Austen: Mr. Bennett, Charlotte Lucas, Mrs. Jennings, Harriet Smith…I could go on.
    I have fun going back and forth about who is really the main female character and who are the supporting female characters in the novel “Rebecca.” Is it Mrs. Danvers, Mrs. De Winter, or Rebecca?

    Liked by 5 people

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