Did you know?  Check our Rare Books Page

Literature's Unluckiest Characters

By Kristin Masters. Jul 13, 2012. 3:14 AM.

Topics: Literature

Today is Friday the 13th, a day long help to be inauspicious. The superstition began with a fear of the number 13 and is ages old; even the ancient Babylonian Code of Hammurabi (1700 BC) omits 13 in its list of numbered laws.However, we can thank a book for the association with Friday.

The connection originated in 1907, when Boston stockbroker Thomas Lawson published Friday the Thirteenth. The book was quite successful and was turned into a silent film in 1916. For years after, Friday the 13th was considered an unlucky day for stock market trading.In literature, it seems, luck knows no days or numbers; some characters are chronically unlucky!

Last Friday the 13th, Huffington Post published a list of literature's unluckiest characters. We'd propose a few others for the list:

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

  • Pi: After suffering a traumatic shipwreck and realizing his entire family has drowned, the eponymous hero of Yann Martel's Life of Pi finds himself trapped in a lifeboat with a ferocious tiger. (Did we mention being stuck in a lifeboat with a tiger?!)
  • Porphyria: Imagine traipsing across the moor in a storm to see your lover, only to be strangled with your own hair. Such is the fate of the poor girl in Robert Browning's dramatic monologue “Porphyria's Lover.”
  • Rose of Sharon: When John Steinbeck wrote Grapes of Wrath, he portrayed the tribulations and disappointments of the Great Depression with great poignancy. Newly married, newly pregnant Rose of Sharon loses everything, including her baby, and learns all-too-difficult lessons very young.
  • Moses: No, not the Biblical Moses, but the protagonist of Herzog by Saul Bellow. Though Moses doesn't face any single catastrophe, he does struggle with those everyday ills that make him seem predisposed to bad luck.
  • Jay Gatsby: So much effort, and even The Great Gatsbyhimself still doesn't get the girl. Though some have trouble feeling sympathy for Gatsby, it's tough not to identify with his feelings—and his willingness to go to any lengths for love.
Which other characters would you add to the list?

Kristin Masters
Master Content Brain. You think it, she writes it, no good thought remains unposted. Sprinkles pixie dust on Google+, newsletters, blog, facebook, twitter and just about everything else.


comments powered by Disqus


    About this blog

    How can I identify a first edition? Where do I learn about caring for books? How should I start collecting? Hear from librarians about amazing collections, learn about historic bindings or printing techniques, get to know other collectors. Whether you are just starting or looking for expert advice, chances are, you'll find something of interest on blogis librorum.

    Get blog notifications per email:

    Download the James Bond Dossier

    Recent Posts

    Book Glossary
    Get your free Guide to Book Care

    Blog Archive

    > see older posts
    A Guide to Historic Libraries Part I