In my last post, I asked the English professors at Northwestern what they thought about themselves as introverts and what drew them to literature. In realizing, after I surveyed my professors, that many people who are drawn to literature are introverts, I wanted to look at literary characters introverts relate to. Here is a list of five wonderful book characters that are introverted, yet magnetic (even magical) on the page:
While the imaginative orphan who captures most of our attention in this book is very much an extrovert, the brother and sister who adopt her are more introverted. Most of the community views Matthew and Marilla as strange. Their home is away from the road, far from other people; Matthew rarely talks to people, going out of his way to avoid interacting with women, and neither Matthew nor Marilla ever marry. When the orphan, Anne, comes into their lives, both Matthew and Marilla have different responses that are classic of introverts. At first, Marilla tries to stifle how much Anne talks because it is too much for her to handle, while Matthew appreciates having the talkative Anne by his side so he doesn’t have to talk as much. Although these characters are the odd pair in the community, outcasts almost, they become, along with Anne, the center of readers’ affections, not to mention two of the series’ best loved characters.
I relate more to Matthew than Marilla—appreciating people who talk more because it means I don’t have to—but I also can be like Marilla—getting annoyed when people talk to much because it is too overwhelming.
Mr. Darcy is a classic example of an introvert in literature—an introvert every reader adores. At the beginning of the story he seems cold and rude and the reader is not expected to like him. However, later in the story, it is revealed that he doesn’t talk to people he doesn’t know and isn’t overly nice to them because it is hard for him to interact with those he has never met before. The reader begins to love him as they recognize how thoughtful and kind he really is and how much he loves the main character, Elizabeth Bennet.
I can relate to Mr. Darcy and his struggle around new people. I am very awkward around strangers and probably often come off as rude, but really I just am shy and have a hard time interacting with people I don’t know.
This genius detective is not shy like Mr. Darcy, but he is very introverted. Sherlock Holmes spends a lot of time in silence, thinking. He is energized by solitude. He also prefers the company of one close friend—Dr. John Watson—to the company of many people. In the BBC adaptation of Conan Doyle’s stories, Sherlock tells John, “Alone protects me,” to which John replies, “No. Friends protect people.” Sherlock prefers to be alone, but he also has a good friend who recognizes when he has spent too much time alone and when he needs people. John is the type of friend that all introverts need. And it’s the friendship between Watson and Holmes that—along with the puzzling mysteries and elementary deductions—keep people coming back to this sleuthing pair.
Sherlock Holmes is a bit more extreme than I generally tend to be, but there are times that I feel like it is safer to be alone than to be around people and I would rather stay in solitude than be with friends. It’s always good to be reminded that sometimes it is important to go out and actually be social.
This might be a surprising one if you know Puddleglum, and while I never initially thought Puddleglum was an introvert, here’s why I have decided he is: when C.S. Lewis describes the marshes, where Puddleglum lives, he writes that the wigwams are “all at a good distance from one another; for Marsh-wiggles are people who like privacy.” Marsh-wiggles like to be alone, like introverts. Also, when Puddleglum introduces himself to Jill and Eustace, he says, “Puddleglum’s my name. But it doesn’t matter if you forget it. I can always tell you again.” It is such an introvert thing to assume people will forget your name and to be completely okay with that. I have often said that I am going to start introducing myself that way because it’s how I always feel when I meet new people. Also, every time Puddleglum and the kids meet someone on their journey, Puddleglum assumes they are enemies. He takes a while to warm up to new people; he does not warm up to the giants, for instance, until he is hilariously drunk. It is a lot easier to understand Puddleglum when you look at him as an introverted character.
This is one that most people have not heard of. The Door Within is the first book in a young adult fantasy series with the same title. Aidan Thomas is the main character—a high school freshman who goes to another world, becomes a knight, and fights evil. But before his exciting adventure, Aidan was a loner. The other kids at school thought he was weird because he sat by himself and drew pictures. This is the first book I read in which I connected to a character as a fellow introvert. This book made me realize that I am not alone in preferring to sit in solitude with my imagination—creating something—to being around people.
These are just a few of the many introverted characters in literature. They are all well-loved and they are all people that I can relate to and that help me to realize I’m not as different as I think I am. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you can always find characters to relate to, who make you feel like you’re not so alone. Maybe Lewis was thinking especially of introverts when he said, “We read to know we are not alone.”
Which character on this list is your favorite? Who are some other introverted characters that you love? Which fictional character do you most relate to? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!