The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Following my first Top 5 Villains post, here are another five fictional antagonists - from misguided youths who think they are in the right, to hardened crooks who are rotten to the core.
5. Count Dracula
(Dracula by Bram Stoker)
First encountered by Jonathan Harker in his Carpathian castle, the Count is introduced to us as an elderly European aristocrat. One doomed voyage of the Demeter later, he re-emerges in Victorian England as a seductive killer. Written against the backdrop of the fin-de-siecle, a period known for body horror, numerous diseases and a fear of invasion from the East, the figure of Dracula becomes an embodiment of these concerns: an alien, rapacious force which seeks to corrupt and transform from within.
4. Edward Hyde
(Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson)
The aggressive, bestial alter ego of Dr Henry Jekyll, Hyde thinks nothing of trampling children and generally wreaking havoc on an unsuspecting city. This tale is a moral one, of course - much like Frankenstein's monster, Edward Hyde's persona was unlocked through Jekyll's well-meaning research into human nature. What makes Mr Hyde so genuinely threatening is the novel's assertion that a version of him resides in each and every one of us.
3. Tom Ripley
(The Ripley novels by Patricia Highsmith)
As the protagonist and puppeteer of numerous twisted escapades, Tom Ripley is at heart a chameleon. Ingenious when it comes to attaining his goals and literally getting away with murder, he is both terrifying in his ruthlessness and inspiring in his intelligence.
2. Alec D'Urberville
(Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy)
From the very first moment we meet Alec, we are yelling at Tess to get the hell away from him. His arrogantly handsome face and obscenely red lips foreshadow a seduction - or, in this case, a rape. Not only does Alec destroy poor Tess's virtue, but he also has the gall to reappear later in her life, a "changed man". Already a pariah, Tess has no choice but to become Alec's companion. It is the cruel fate doled out in Hardy's universe that the raped woman is executed for finally taking control of her own life - although I am sure every reader feels a grim satisfaction when Alec finally meets his end.
1. It's A Tie!
Amir & Briony
(The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini & Atonement by Ian McEwan)
These impressive and moving literary novels would have you believe that Amir and Briony are the protagonists of their respective stories, when in fact they are the catalyst for almost every bad thing that happens. Amir is too much of a coward to come to the aid of his friend during their childhood, the after-effects of which are devestating. Similarly, Briony's colourful imagination taints her perception when she sees the growing attraction between her sister Cecilia and Robbie, leading her to tell a destructive lie. In their defense, Amir and Briony spend the rest of their lives trying to make up for their actions, but one can't help but get the feeling that all would have ended well if they'd just done the right thing to start with. In an alternate fictional universe, I can see these two hitting it off.