I was going to say Big Brother, that nonexistent, but tyrannically perpetuated abstraction. As for a real character, how about Madame Defarge from "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens. She the vengeful, bloodthirsty embodiment of a revolution gone mad. Created out of the injustice meted out by aristocrats, she uses the same tactics to oppress others.
— Adam Music, Lakemoor
While reading "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," I became so angry with Dolores Umbridge and the horrible things she was doing to the students at Hogwarts that I wanted to fling the book across the room in hopes that she might be hurt on impact. She embodies many kinds of evil, all wrapped up in a toady, pink, kitten-like package. The best part about Dolores is her applicability as a villain to so many different readers.
— Emily Fardoux, Chicago
For me, it's Pap Finn from "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain. Pap is a world-class alcoholic, racist and child abuser. The old miscreant gets another incarnation in Jon Clinch's "Finn."
— Sam Winston, New York, N.Y.
Humbert Humbert from Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita" is the most villainous because he knows he's evil, he knows he's corrupting Lolita's childhood, if not precisely her innocence, yet he refuses to control his impulses. He thinks of no one but himself, and he'll sacrifice the girl's mother, his rival, and even the object of his passion in his need to possess her. Even Hannibal Lecter had the good manners to leave Clarice Starling alone. Humbert wouldn't bother. He'd destroy her or watch while she destroyed herself, and make a joke about it too.
— Rebecca Johns, Highland Park
Richard III of England from William Shakespeare's "Richard III." The guy that will do anything to be king.
—Cheryl Harris Wright, Bensenville
It's a toss-up for me between Severus Snape from the "Harry Potter" series and Shakespeare's Iago: Snape because he is forced to be a villain and go against his principles and the love of his life; Iago because he has no principles and is just evil for the sake of being evil.
— Nina Catanese, Chicago
Next week's question
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Feedback: Who is your favorite literary villain?
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Literary villains (March 2, 2012)