Our Favorite Fictional Misfits

Black sheep

While the rest of the world was on royal baby watch, some of us were waiting on the naming of an equally important Brit: the lucky actor or actress who will play the 12th incarnation of the Doctor in long-running TV show Doctor Who. In honor of the, er, new arrival (It’s a boy!), and to celebrate everyone’s favorite Time Lord, a character who is literally the last of his kind, here’s a list of some of my other favorite fictional misfits.

Ignatius J. Reilly (A Confederacy of Dunces). An oversized, wildly eccentric hothouse flower, Ignatius isn’t fit to live in this world. He refuses to ditch his highly comforting, hideous hunting hat, requires an extensive daily dose of Dr. Nut soda, and considers himself a tormented genius in a world of idiots. When his search for gainful employment leads to one disaster too many, he finds that even his long-suffering mother is ready to throw him in the coop.

Harriet (Harriet the Spy). Harriet’s an outsider by choice, too busy recording her neighbors’ eccentricities and misdeeds to actually try engaging with them. Until she loses her spy notebook, and become public enemy number one among the people she’s been snooping on. Will she learn to play nice, or will the Spy Catcher Club bring her down?

Harry Potter (Harry Potter). Though Potter fits right in with the magical world he joins at age 11, the earliest years of his life were spent swimming in his cousin Dudley’s castoff clothes, hidden under lock and key in a dusty cupboard. Rowling doesn’t give us much of a look at Harry’s time in Muggle school, but how good could an underfed, bespectacled kid in need of a haircut have had it?

Holden Caulfield (Catcher in the Rye). Holden’s the classic literary misfit, trapped in a world of phonies he can’t stand. He’s a boarding school student who keeps getting kicked out, a rich Upper East Sider who hates rich Upper East Siders, and an almost-grownup who feels happiest when hanging with his kid sister.

Pip (Great Expectations). Pip grew up poor but well-loved by Joe, his scary sister’s softhearted husband. Then, by the hand of a mysterious benefactor, he’s abruptly catapulted into the world of high society. He never really fits in, but discovers too late that he’s no longer able to appreciate his life back home. Poor Pip was cursed with just enough wealth to make him too good for Joe’s blacksmith’s life, but not quite enough to give him many other options.

Harold (Harold and Maude). In this weird and wonderful black comedy, Harold is a confused young man whose hobbies include attending strangers’ funerals and faking his own suicide to terrorize his indomitable mother. He refuses to connect with anyone (including the unfortunate women his mom sets him up with), until he meets Maude, a life-loving 79-year-old. Despite the age difference, and against the wishes of an extremely disturbed priest, they fall in love. I don’t want to reveal what happens next, but I recommend watching this movie with a Snuggy-sized Kleenex.

Mary Lennox (The Secret Garden). Unwanted by her rich parents, then left with nobody when they die of cholera, Mary is sent from her birthplace of India to live on the English moors with an uncle she’s never met. She’s a nasty piece of work, with no desire to fit in or make friends, but her eventual discovery of a hidden garden on her uncle’s estate starts to soften her up—as does meeting the cousin she never knew she had.

The freaks AND the geeks (Freaks and Geeks). From a Rush-obsessed wannabe drummer freak to a Dallas-obsessed Dungeons and Dragons–loving geek, this show offers loads of misfits for you to love. It’s also one of the funniest, realest portrayals of high school I’ve ever seen.

Who’s your favorite misfit in fiction?

  • LesYeuxHiboux

    Excuse me, Boo Radley? How did he not make this list.

    Or hell, Atticus Finch.

  • Anthony Budka

    Huckleberry Finn; Michael Pemulis; Yossarian; Humbert Humbert

  • KnittyErin

    Oh, I love Harriet the Spy and totally agree with her inclusion on this list. Also for the kids, how about Willy Wonka? Also, I second Huck Finn.

  • jennifer martinez

    Hercule Poirot, of course!

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