Literature’s most despicable character

The other night I watched the 1944 movie, Gaslight. In a nutshell, it’s about a man who tries to drive his wife crazy by telling her that things she knows to be true are figments of her imagination. It’s set in Victorian London thus there’s plenty of fog and gas lamps and horse drawn buggies. All very shadowy and surreal.

Apparently no British murder mystery/thriller is complete without Dame May Whitty showing up at the end to exclaim “Well!”

Most of the action takes place in a mansion the wife has inherited after the unsolved murder of her famous aunt. Every time the husband goes out at night, his wife notices that the gas lamps flicker and she hears noises in the attic. The only other witness is a half deaf housekeeper until … (well I won’t ruin the ending but I guarantee, you’ll want to reach through the screen many times and strangle poor Charles Boyer, the actor who played the husband.)

Literature’s Most Despicable Character – the manipulative husband – boo, hiss.

So who was the author of Gaslight you might ask? I could have sworn it was Alfred Hitchcock but it was Patrick Hamilton, considered by many of his peers to be “a marvelous novelist who’s grossly neglected” (Doris Lessing). He died in 1962 after producing only a handful of novels. However, I checked and apparently there’s a fairly steady market for his work, particularly The Slaves of Solitude (1947). You just never know.

Meanwhile the blossoming continues toward the tip.

Leaving behind spend blossoms. So sad. But that’s life.

Anyway, now you know who I consider literature’s most despicable character. Who’s yours?

27 thoughts on “Literature’s most despicable character

  1. That was a great movie and it led to the term “gaslighting” — a form of psychological manipulation in which the abuser attempts to sow self-doubt and confusion in their victim’s mind — becoming a part of the lexicon.

  2. I’ve no real answer to this question. It seems like I should, but am coming up blank. Maybe some of the Bond villains? Those are based on novels, and seem awful to me. I’ll keep thinking…

  3. I recently saw that movie. I hadn’t seen it in decades. It the guy certainly is near the top of the list. I also recently watched Key Largo. Johnny Roco was pretty despicable, especially the way he treated his girlfriend. It doesn’t hurt (help) that he’s played by Edgar G. Robinson.

      1. Ah, got it. I forgot to mention who my most despicable character is. From a children’s book POV it is Mr Grimes from The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley. Adult books is more difficult, but I will do with Alec D’Urberville from Tess of the D’Urberville’s.

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