Being normal is simply for the unimaginative. In literature, as in life, it’s the weirdos that shake things up and make you love them. (Insert your favorite Jennifer Lawrence GIF here.) Whether they’re bobbing along on their own dreamlike ocean or hot on the trail of utter nonsense, the dotty-as-you-please characters are the ones who can make chapters fly by.
So long live the freaks, geeks, crackpots, and batty old misfits. Here are a few of our favorite literary oddballs:
In the course of the Harry Potter series, Luna Lovegood, that delightful loon, transforms from comedic relief to quirky heroine faster than you can say “Crumple-Horned Snorkacks.” When she dons her Spectrespecs, it might seem as if she’s infested with fuzzy-braining wrackspurts, but the girl has great Quidditch commentary (the cloud was interestingly shaped!), and without her, Harry might still be stumbling about looking for that diadem. Basically, she’s the coolest girl at Hogwarts—oh, look, a Blibbering Humdinger!
Isn’t it nice when the help follows your orders to a “T”? Amelia Bedelia sure does. She’ll draw the curtains, if you provide the pencil. She’ll dust the sofa, if that’s really what you want. And her creativity in changing the towels is unparalleled. Undoubtedly, everyone’s favorite literal-minded maid was picked on in school as the simpleton, especially that one time she glued herself to her seat (teacher’s orders!). But Amelia’s joie de vivre amps up our collective affection for the idiom, all the while preparing us for a life of incredibly specific corporate memos.
May we all be so indulged when we are as eccentrically old and mentally infirm as the man of La Mancha. If imagination is power, Don Quixote is the king of the world, and his Dulcinea, clueless as she is, is queen. While a spoof and a goof, Don Quixote could never be described as anything less than amiable and, yes, chivalrous. He invented tilting at windmills, and his quixotic quest formed the blueprint of the oddball buddy road trip novel. Bow down, Sancho Panzas of the world.
Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire
Is there anything not odd (or unfortunate) about Lemony Snicket’s Baudelaire orphans? “Surchmi,” as little Sunny would say. Each child in A Series of Unfortunate Events has an offbeat personality: Sunny, a wee babe, has an unbelievable internal monologue and a gift for concise communication well above her age level. Violet Baudelaire, 14, has a knack for inventing useful, life-saving contraptions out of socks, hammocks, flotsam, and jetsam when most kids her age would be at home frittering their lives away on AIM or The Oregon Trail (well, that’s what they did when I was 14). As for Klaus, he’s an awkwardly intelligent bookworm after our own hearts, and he rocked a bowtie before it was mainstream. It’s hip to be squarely in the weird.
Normality bores the world’s only consulting detective and its favorite highly functioning sociopath. As does eating, which in and of itself should cement Sherlock’s place on any list of oddballs. There’s also his two hobbies: catching thieves, killers, and rapscallions based on shoe scrapings, and vexing Dr. John Watson with perplexing deductions, mildly unintentional compli-sults, and, you know, cocaine. Who runs the world? Socially aloof geeks.
It would be understandable to assume that zombies, those great flesh-eating metaphors for herd mentality, consumerism, and all bad things, would be identical. This is not always so, as Warm Bodies illustrates. Here you have a thinking man’s zombie—or at least one who does, in fact, think. R thinks so much that he feels, feels enough to fall in love with a live broad. If ever there was someone who didn’t quite fit in, it’s the zombie who makes sly herpes jokes and groans Sinatra. Awwwww.
It says it right there in the title, doesn’t it? These children are peculiar, and wonderfully so. In a narrative that had to have been partially inspired by Scooby Doo and the Ghoul School, author Ransom Riggs introduces a parade of kids with odd talents: Emma’s pyrotechnic control, Millard’s invisibility, Bronwyn’s super strength. Of course, Miss Peregrine herself is a dotty bird—literal meaning here, folks. And she runs a school for the creepy, kooky, and spooky, which makes it infinitely better than the public system.
Two heads, three arms, seven years of honors as Worst Dressed Sentient Being in the Known Universe. In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Zaphod has the highly id charismatic of a toddler after downing an entire bottle of Nyquil (also known as a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster). He is so odd, and simultaneously clever and stupid, that he might as well have been dreamed up in a late-night hash session during the making of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Because he’s up to here with cool, okay?
Who’s your favorite fictional oddball?