BooksOpinion

Top 5 Best Supporting Characters in Literature

Belinda Huang ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

What makes a good supporting character? Is it, well, supporting the main character in all their endeavors? Or is it being just as interesting and complex and essential to the story as the protagonist? These five supporting characters cover a range of “support,”from best friends to villains, all the while being awesome in their own right.

5. The Mad Hatter: Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

Mia Wasikowska as Alice and Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland. Photo Credit: Film Frames/Disney.
Mia Wasikowska as Alice and Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland. Photo Credit: Film Frames/Disney.

Through the eyes of Alice, the young protagonist, readers meet the Hatter at his daily tea party. This is one of the most quotable sections of a very quotable book. With such gems as “Why is a raven like a writing desk?”understanding the Mad Hatter is an exercise in futility. All the same, his nonsensical ramblings and capriciousness is infectious, so it’s little surprise that the Hatter is one of the most complex characters in the various film and TV interpretations of Alice in Wonderland– what else could one expect from a character who allegedly murdered Time, and has lived in a perpetual tea-time since?

4. Mercutio: Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

Harold Perrineau as Mercutio in Romeo + Juliet. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.
Harold Perrineau as Mercutio in Romeo + Juliet. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

Despite being a supporting character in the play, Mercutio has one of the best monologues in the Shakespeare world – Queen Mab! His clever wordplay and remarkable wit is unmistakable, as is his cavalier attitude towards love and his insistence on making fun of everyone. However, besides his wit and grace, Mercutio’s untimely death ensures the reader will love him forever, even as he places a curse on both the Montagues and Capulets for their folly. Mercutio is a supporting character with a big mouth and a mercurial nature, both of which get him and his friends into trouble on more than one occasion, with dramatic results.

3. Milady de Winter: The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas

Milla Jovovich as Milady de Winter in The Three Musketeers. Photo Credit: Rolf Konow/New Legacy Film.
Milla Jovovich as Milady de Winter in The Three Musketeers. Photo Credit: Rolf Konow/New Legacy Film.

Milady is a fantastic villain – beautiful, calculating, and at least partly insane, her actions go as far to drive the plot as any of the musketeers. Despite a suitably sad backstory, she is never excused for all the havoc she wreaks across two nations in the name of revenge, including separating lovers and assassinating the Duke of Buckingham. Her ultimate downfall, in which the musketeers make her face her crimes and pay for them in the only way she can – death – is both chilling and fascinating. Even at the end, her charisma breaks through the page to make sure the reader pays attention to the passing of an incredibly complex woman, even as the reader sighs in relief along with the Musketeers, safe in the knowledge that she can never do anyone harm again.

2. THE ENTIRE CHARACTER LIST: The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Sean Astin and Elijah Wood in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Photo Credit: New Line Cinema.
Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee and Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Photo Credit: New Line Cinema.

Ok, that may have been hyperbole. But in a world this complex and detailed, its inhabitants are inevitably as varied and interesting as their names. The entire Fellowship is character gold – the distrust turned friendship between Legolas the elf and Gimli the dwarf; the food-savvy and ever-loyal hobbits, Pippin and Merry; and the honorable but fallible man, Boromir. In fact, there are so many important supporting characters to Frodo’s journey that it is impossible to choose – while Gandalf, a temperamental but wise wizard, is his mentor and adviser, Samwise Gamgee is Frodo’s lionheart, supporting him both physically and emotionally in their perilous quest and far exceeding his job description as a gardener. The variety of their races, desires, and personalities creates a cast of complex supporting characters that are memorable long after putting down the books. In the end, it is only through their combined forces that Frodo Baggins can accomplish his task, and so it is as a collective that their role as supporting characters can be judged.

1. Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger: Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling

Rupert Grint and Emma Watson in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley and Emma Watson as Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.

Ahh, the two best best-friend supporting characters that Harry could ever have. Their own chemistry aside, these two have stuck it out through enough danger per book on Harry’s behalf that they deserve this spot on the list. Besides being his best friends and supporters in the fight against Voldemort, Ron and Hermione also serve as interesting foils to Harry’s character throughout the series. For example, Ron’s family being poor supplied some of the most understated but interesting moments between the two boys, adding a layer of discomfort and complexity to their dynamic that enriched their relationship. Meanwhile, Hermione goes from being difficult to get along with to being the person who tells Harry when he’s gone wrong with his friends and love interests. It is because of these smaller but still important aspects of their characters that Ron and Hermione are great supporting characters – they don’t just support, they challenge as well, and sometimes that’s just what a main character needs.

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