Dickens' super-bad guys

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2012, 12:00am

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'I like villains because they have a plan, no matter how twisted. They're motivated'

Russell Crowe - film actor

We all love a villain, even though we're not supposed to. Villains are important to a story, even though they are seldom victorious at the end of a tale. Often they are more interesting than the good guy. Where would Harry Potter be without Lord Voldemort, his arch enemy? There'd be no story.

Voldemort may be the most famous fictional villain of recent times, but some of the most evil and memorable fictional villains were created by Victorian novelist Charles Dickens.

The 200th anniversary of the author's birth was celebrated on February 7. Let's meet his villains.

Fagin

... is the evil gang leader from Oliver Twist.

Fagin is always referred to by just his surname. He is an evil old man who trains young boys to be thieves and pickpockets. Over the years, he has made criminals out of hundreds of children who have fallen into his clutches.

Fagin is ruthless and doesn't care about the boys in his gang. He beats any boy who does not follow his instructions, and isn't concerned when one of his charges is caught by the police. Fagin is a thoroughly nasty piece of work.

Wackford Squeers

... is the demon headmaster from Nicholas Nickleby.

When young Nicholas Nickleby gets a job as assistant to a headmaster called Wackford Squeers at a school called Dotheboys Hall, we know that things are not going to be pleasant. Squeers is a very violent man with only one eye. He runs his school like a prison. He and his monstrous wife whip and beat their students and half-starve them to death.

Squeers, in fact, is running a scam. He takes in unwanted, illegitimate, crippled or deformed children for large sums of money. Squeers is hideous both in appearance and character.

Bill Sikes

... is the vicious murderer from Oliver Twist.

There is nothing even remotely positive about Bill Sikes. Thief, murderer, torturer of animals and abuser of children, Sikes makes some villains in modern fiction look like pussycats. Sikes is physically a brute, and he uses bullying tactics to get his way with both adults and children.

He is stupid, strong and has no respect for human life. He uses violence against any living thing that gets in his way. You certainly wouldn't want to meet Sikes in a dark alley.

Uriah Heep

... is the creepy clerk from David Copperfield.

Uriah Heep is an interesting villain because his villainy is underhand and subtle. He has set out to ruin the boss of the company where he is a humble clerk. Heep is a tall, skeletal figure with a sneering smile and eyes that look as if they have no eyelids.

Heep has worked for businessman Mr Wickfield since he was 11 years old, and the whole time he has been plotting to ruin his boss and gain control of his business. Greed is Heep's motivation. He wants what Mr Wickfield has, and he will do anything to get it. Heep makes your skin crawl.

Villainy quiz

Which of these statements are true and which are false?

1 Fagin is the chief villain in the Harry Potter stories.

2 Villains usually are successful at the end of the story.

3 The novelist Charles Dickens was good at creating villains.

4 Wackford Squeers runs a boarding school in Nicholas Nickleby.

5 Uriah Heep uses violence to get what he wants.

6 Bill Sikes is one of the most violent villains in all fiction.

7 Fagin is a young pickpocket in Oliver Twist.

8 Voldemort is a Victorian villain.

Answers:

1. f, 2. f, 3. t, 4. t, 5. f, 6. t, 7. f, 8. f