Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Characters who have/had an Existential Crisis

The Broke and the Bookish hold a weekly meme.  Every Tuesday(!) you write a top ten list(!) on their given topic.  This week it is Top Ten Characters who ____.  For my list I have chosen 'who have/had an existential crisis.  By this I mean coming to terms with feelings, beliefs, situations etc. that makes life look bleak and leaves them feeling empty.  I'm ignoring the philosophical form by Sartre etc. and I'm also including various stages (e.g. beginning, middle, resolution).

So, here is my list.  Do you have any additions for this list? What did you choose for the Top Ten Characters who ____?

Cause: jobs, pressures of modern life.
1. Death from The Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett
Death is trapped in a job he isn't that keen on and he doesn't really know what he wants from life.  A surprisingly common situation.

2. Veronika from Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho 
Obviously, Veronika decides to die and this is the story of what follows after her failed suicide attempt (also a very good film; I think this is far better than The Alchemist too).

Cause: love
3.  Heathcliffe from Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
All Heathcliff wanted was to be loved and when he couldn't have this the pain consumed him.

4. Jude Fawley from Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
Jude struggles to find a place for love between his naïvety and the rigid confines of society.

5. Humbert Humbert from Lolita
This may be controversial but I feel sorry for Humbert.  I feel as though he is desperately trying to relive his dreams through Lolita and his actions are motivated by a deep sadness and a transference of feelings.

Cause: loneliness
6. Stephen Gordon from The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall 
Gordon is pushed out of society because of her sexuality and has to come to terms with this rejection whilst trying to find love.

7. Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Charlie suffers a lot of pain from loneliness and an unresolved trauma, but I think he is well on his way to a far happier life.

Cause: poverty
8. Christine from The Post-Office Girl by Stefan Zweig
Christine is plucked from an emotionally bleak and poverty-stricken existence and lives an extravagant life for a few weeks, but she struggles to return back to her previous lifestyle.

Cause: death and evil
9. Alyosha and Ivan Karamazov from The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
This for me is probably the most poignant case; an examination of how do deal with all the evil in world.

10. Billy Pilgrim from Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.
How he coped with all the death and destruction of WWII; what I liked was possibly the suggestion that we can't make any sense of it, all we can just say is "So it goes" and so it goes, the end of the list.


  1. Good to see Death, Heathcliff, and Charlie getting some attention. Great list!

    Check out my TTT.

    1. Thank you. Who would have thought they would have similarities! Love your time travelling choice too. :-)

  2. I have been thinking about this post for days. It is so well written and many thanks for a clear explination of an ' existential crisis' ! I think my character would be Lord Jim ( J. Conrad). Jim made a mistake that affected the rest of his life. Jim says: "I may have jumped ( ship) but I don't run away" ( trial procedures). He shows how failure can destroy someone. His conflict is to find out if the failure can also redeem him.

    1. Thank you! Yes, the whole concept of 'existential crisis' was the main thing that I struggled with as everyone seems to have a different definition! I haven't read Lord Jim yet but it sounds like one of those inspiring novels of how people deal with bad events in a positive way. I love books like that because they can challenge your thinking :-)


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