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The 100 Best Characters in Fiction Since 1900

Book Magazine, now defunct, 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, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925
  2. Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger, 1951
  3. Humbert Humbert, Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, 1955
  4. Leopold Bloom, Ulysses, James Joyce, 1922
  5. Rabbit Angstrom, Rabbit, Run, John Updike, 1960
  6. Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1902
  7. Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960
  8. Molly Bloom, Ulysses, James Joyce, 1922
  9. Stephen Dedalus, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce, 1916
  10. Lily Bart, The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton, 1905
  11. Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Truman Capote, 1958
  12. Gregor Samsa, The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka, 1915
  13. The Invisible Man, Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison, 1952
  14. Lolita, Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, 1955
  15. Aureliano Buendia, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1967
  16. Clarissa Dalloway, Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf, 1925
  17. Ignatius Reilly, A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole, 1980
  18. George Smiley, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John LeCarre, 1974
  19. Mrs. Ramsay, To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf, 1927
  20. Bigger Thomas, Native Son, Richard Wright, 1940
  21. Nick Adams, In Our Time, Ernest Hemingway, 1925
  22. Yossarian, Catch-22, Joseph Heller, 1961
  23. Scarlett O'Hara, Gone With the Wind Margaret Mitchell, 1936
  24. Scout Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960
  25. Philip Marlowe, The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler, 1939
  26. Kurtz, Heart of Darkness, , Joseph Conrad, 1902
  27. Stevens, The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro, 1989
  28. Cosimo Piovasco di Rondo, The Baron in the Trees, Italo Calvino,1957
  29. Winnie the Pooh, Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne, 1926
  30. Oskar Matzerath, The Tin Drum, Gunter Grass, 1959
  31. Hazel Motes, Wise Blood, Flannery O'Connor, 1952
  32. Alex Portnoy, Portnoy's Complaint, Philip Roth, 1969
  33. Binx Bolling, The Moviegoer, Walker Percy, 1961
  34. Sebastian Flyte, Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh, 1945
  35. Jeeves, My Man Jeeves, P. G. Wodehouse, 1919
  36. Eugene Henderson, Henderson the Rain King, Saul Bellow, 1959
  37. Marcel, Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust, 1913–1927
  38. Toad, The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, 1908
  39. The Cat in the Hat, The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss, 1955
  40. Peter Pan, The Little White Bird, J. M. Barrie, 1902
  41. Augustus McCrae, Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry, 1985
  42. Sam Spade, The Maltese Falcon, , Dashiell Hammett, 1930
  43. Judge Holden, Blood Meridian Cormac McCarthy, 1985
  44. Willie Stark, All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren, 1946
  45. Stephen Maturin, Master and Commander, Patrick O'Brian, 1969
  46. The Little Prince, The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, 1943
  47. Santiago, The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway, 1952
  48. Jean Brodie, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark, 1961
  49. The Whiskey Priest, The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene, 1940
  50. Neddy Merrill, The Swimmer, John Cheever, 1964
  51. Sula Peace, Sula, Toni Morrison, 1973
  52. Meursault, The Stranger, Albert Camus, 1942
  53. Jake Barnes, The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway, 1926
  54. Phoebe Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger, 1951
  55. Janie Crawford, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston,1937
  56. Antonia Shimerda, My Antonia, Willa Cather, 1918
  57. Grendel, Grendel, John Gardner, 1971
  58. Gulley Jimson, The Horse's Mouth, Joyce Cary, 1944
  59. Big Brother, 1984, George Orwell, 1949
  60. Tom Ripley, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith, 1955
  61. Seymour Glass, Nine Stories, J. D. Salinger, 1953
  62. Dean Moriarty, On the Road, Jack Kerouac, 1957
  63. Charlotte, Charlotte's Web, E. B. White, 1952
  64. T. S. Garp, The World According to Garp, John Irving, 1978
  65. Nick and Nora Charles, The Thin Man, Dashiell Hammett, 1934
  66. James Bond, Casino Royale, Ian Fleming, 1953
  67. Mr. Bridge, Mrs. Bridge, Evan S. Connell, 1959
  68. Geoffrey Firmin, Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry, 1947
  69. Benjy, The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner, 1929
  70. Charles Kinbote, Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov, 1962
  71. Mary Katherine Blackwood, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson, 1962
  72. Charles Ryder, Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh, 1945
  73. Claudine, Claudine at School, Colette, 1900
  74. Florentino Ariza, Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1985
  75. George Follansbee Babbitt, Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis, 1922
  76. Christopher Tietjens, Parade's End, Ford Madox Ford, 1924–28
  77. Frankie Addams, The Member of the Wedding, Carson McCullers, 1946
  78. The Dog of Tears, Blindness, Jose Saramago, 1995
  79. Tarzan, Tarzan of the Apes, Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1914
  80. Nathan Zuckerman, My Life As a Man, Philip Roth, 1979
  81. Arthur “Boo” Radley,To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960
  82. Henry Chinaski, Post Office, Charles Bukowski, 1971
  83. Joseph K., The Trial, Franz Kafka, 1925
  84. Yuri Zhivago, Dr. Zhivago, EBoris Pasternak, 1957
  85. Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J. K. Rowling, 1998
  86. Hana, The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje, 1992
  87. Margaret Schlegel, Howards End, E. M. Forster, 1910
  88. Jim Dixon, Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis, 1954
  89. Maurice Bendrix, The End of the Affair, Graham Greene, 1951
  90. Lennie Small, Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck, 1937
  91. Mr. Biswas, A House for Mr. Biswas, V. S. Naipaul, 1961
  92. Alden Pyle, The Quiet American, Graham Greene, 1955
  93. Kimball “Kim” O'Hara, Kim, Rudyard Kipling, 1901
  94. Newland Archer, The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton, 1920
  95. Clyde Griffiths, An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser, 1925
  96. Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne, 1926
  97. Quentin Compson, The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner, 1929
  98. Charlie Marlow, Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, 1902
  99. Celie, The Color Purple, Alice Walker, 1982
  100. Augie March, The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow 1953
Source: Book Magazine, March/April 2002.

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