Roundtable: Which main character ruined their novel most?

The "Twilight" series were some of the best selling and most influential books of the 21st century. It's too bad the main character, Bella, was such a drag. (Elizabeth Knudson/Flickr)

Ugh, we’ve all read those books; the ones with decent storytelling and writing, but absolutely despicable or boring protagonists. Here are some of our picks for protagonists that have ruined otherwise respectable pieces of literature.

Edward Pankowski, Life editor: One of the first book reviews I ever wrote was on Dave Eggers’ “The Circle.” I wrote that the novel had the potential to be the next “1984” if it weren’t for the protagonist. Mae Holland, a millennial, serves as the vessel for telling a story about privacy and the rise of a technology-focused dictatorship, but she’s painful to read about after a while.

Mae is annoying and subservient, and towards the end of the novel she is downright idiotic. A valuable message about the threats to privacy in the information age is almost lost because the protagonist is a drone who’s not relatable. Mae Holland nearly ruins “The Circle,” and she obscures an important message about privacy in the digital age in the process.

Anokh Palakurthi associate Life editor: Don’t ask why I had to read “Twilight.” Just trust me when I say that I hate “self-insert” or vapid characters like Bella who fail to actually resonate with the reader.

What part of her personality is even remotely close to relatable? Is it her constant whining? Or how about her subservience and lack of a spine when it comes to standing up to an abusive lover? I get that Stephenie Meyers isn’t exactly looking to write the next “Anna Karenina” in her book series, but her protagonist is by far the most uninteresting part of her work, and unfortunately the most prominent subject outside of the whole Edward Cullen thing. It sounds like a joke, but I honestly think that “Twilight” wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for how forgettable Bella is, outside of her being boring and generally stupid. 

Helen Stec staff writer: In my opinion, the worst literary protagonist is Edna Pontillier from Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening.” Sure, Edna is a feminist icon, daring to put her own needs and desires ahead of the duties typically expected of American women at the end of the nineteenth century. However, to be blunt, Edna is just a terrible person. She’s a mediocre—some may even say awful and neglectful—mother, and she cheats on her husband who, though somewhat dull, isn’t a bad guy. Also, most of her dialogue is just mind-numbing. That, I really cannot forgive. Edna Pontillier kind of sucks.

Marlese Lessing Campus Correspondent: The “Maximum Ride” series used to be somewhat kind of enjoyable, with action, drama and interesting comedy, for about four books or so. Then James Patterson turned it over to his ghostwriter armies and made one of the protagonists, Fang, the equivalent of a whiny, emo, goth teenager who can do nothing better than flip back and forth in a love triangle between Max and Maya and complain about everything. He creates conflict in the Flock, causes Max to devolve into a vague Bella Swan clone, and generally acts like a stuck-up prick for the second half of the series. If there’s ever a character that ruined a series, it can be traced back to him.


Edward Pankowski is life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at edward.pankowski@uconn.edu.

Anokh Palakurthi is associate life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at anokh.palakurthi@uconn.edu. He tweets @DC_Anokh.

Helen Stec is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at helen.stec@uconn.edu.

Marlese Lessing is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at marlese.lessing@uconn.edu.