Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Characters We Love To Hate by Barri Bryan

I once thought villains were skinny men with bowed legs, wearing cowboy boots and black ten-gallon hats. They smirked and twirled their handle-bar mustaches as they devised plans to defeat my cowboy movie heroes. Time and experience broadened my perspective. Villains come in all shapes and sizes, and are found among both sexes. This article takes a cursory look at some daring and dastardly female villains.

Euripides' play Medea hops immediately to my mind. Media marries Jason of The Golden Fleece fame. Later he puts her aside and marries Glauke, daughter of King Creon. Medea has her bloody revenge. She murders Glauke and Creon, kills the children that belong to her and Jason, and makes a hasty retreat in a chariot pulled by dragons, taking her dead children with her.

Lady Macbeth is a malevolent presence in Shakespeare's play Macbeth. She is ambitious, single-minded, and ruthless in her pursuit of power. After the death of Duncan, she loses her sanity and ultimately, her life. Her treachery and underhanded scheming trigger one of Shakespeare's more famous soliloquies that begins, she should have died hereafter.

Witches make fascinating villains. The Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, has one eye and one driving purpose, to take from Dorothy the magical silver slippers. I know, in the movie the slippers are ruby. In Baum's book, published in 1900, the slippers are silver. Dorothy finally melts the witch by dousing her with a bucket of water.

Jadis, the White Witch who appears in C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, has no conscience. She is egotistical and narcissistic. Despite her white skin and great height, she has a small spirit and a heart as black as sin. Her subjects finally rebel and banish her forever.

Queens can be the vilest of villains. The queen in Grimm's fairy tale titled Snow white and the Seven Dwarfs is also the quintessential wicked stepmother. When her magic mirror tells her that she is no longer 'the fairest in the land' because that title now belongs to Snow White, she orders a hunter to take Snow White into the deep forest and kill her. The hunter returns leaving Snow White alone in the forest. The seven dwarfs find and rescue her. The queen locates Snow White. Disguised as a peddler, she gives Snow White a poisoned apple that puts her in a state of suspended animation. Later Prince Charming's first kiss awakens her. At the wedding of Snow White to her prince, the queen is forced to step into a pair of blazing hot iron shoes and dance until she drops dead.

The Queen of Hearts in Lewis Carol's Alice in Wonderland is a delightful villain and quite a card –pun intended. She is quick to decree death sentences to her subjects for the slightest offence by shouting, "Off with their heads." Her relatively restrained husband rescinds the sentences as fast as the queen declares them. This queen is no real threat since she never gets around to executing anyone.

Caroline Bingley is a character in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. She is an attractive and rich young woman who is also a total snob. Her family gained its riches through trade. Caroline desires to become a member of the aristocracy. She sets her sights on Mr. Darcy. Like all villains, she pursues her agenda with persistence and resolve. Her atrocious treatment of Jane and Elizabeth qualifies her as a first-class female villain.

Phillis Nirdlinger is the female villain in James M. Cain's Double Indemnity. She is a complex and mesmerizing woman. She is not beautiful. She is on the back side of thirty. She has a 'washed-out' look. Despite all this, she intrigues Walter Neff, insurance salesman. He recognizes almost immediately that she wants to kill her husband. She soon has him involved in a plot to literally throw her husband from the train. The scheme succeeds but leaves Walter a wounded and wanted murderer.

Mrs. Danvers is the housekeeper female villain in Daphne du Maurier's novel Rebecca. From the moment she comes on the scene, the reader recognizes her as vicious and mysterious. The heroine of the story is the recent bride and second wife of rich and handsome Maxim de Winter. Rebecca, now deceased, was his first wife. Maxim takes his new wife to live at Manderley, his Cornish family home by the sea. It is also, where less a year ago, Rebecca mysteriously disappeared. The second Mrs.de Winter finally conquers her fear of the conniving Mrs. Danvers, but no before the housekeeper has robbed her of much of her self-assurance and almost persuaded her to commit suicide.

Eight-year-old Rhoda Penmark is a charming, well-behaved, polite child. She is also a serial killer. In his novel The Bad Seed William March creates perhaps the most terrifying of villains, a child who is seemingly sweet and innocent. After a series of deaths of people Rhoda dislikes, her mother Christine, becomes suspicious. Christine then discovers that she is adopted and her birth mother is a sociopathic murderer. She is devastated and guilt-ridden. All this is her fault. She has passed along a bad seed to her child. She gives Rhoda an overdose of sleeping pills and then puts a bullet through her own brain. A neighbor hears the shot and rushes over in time to rescue Rhoda. "Thank God we saved the child."

Do you have a favorite female villain? If you do, leave a message and tell me who it is and why you chose that particular villain.

Barri Bryan is an author and poet with poetry collections published through eTreasures and novels published through Desert Breeze Publishing. Check out her website to learn more.

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Carlene said...

I'd forgotten about the Queen of Hearts from "Alice in Wonderland". She was mah-velous.

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