We all know that fictional characters are, by definition, not real. They may have been based on real people at some point, and they may be written with the utmost realism, but at the end of the day they are very fictional. The things that happen to them are not real things. So why do we feel so strongly that some characters deserve better?
It's only natural to become deeply attached to book characters. We live vicariously through them. We crush on book characters, we hate book characters, and we scream at book characters when they do stupid things (although as far as I can tell, this has very little impact on the choices that books characters make). And we get upset when our favorite characters don't get what they deserve.
After all, it's pretty brutal out there for a literary character. The good die young (and sometimes they die just to give the protagonist motivation to do things, which is rude). The bad get away with murder (literally). Characters end up with the wrong romantic partner, or they get way less attention from the author than other, less interesting characters. And as a reader, you just can't do anything about it.
But you can commiserate about your undeserving faves, at the very least. So here are some characters who deserved better than they got. (Major spoilers ahead!)
1. Cho Chang from the Harry Potter series
Yeah, yeah, a lot of characters from Harry Potter didn't deserve to die, we're all still devastated about Fred, etc. But I would like to stand up and defend poor Cho Chang. She's a kind, sensitive teenage girl, her boyfriend dies tragically, and Harry thinks that she cries too much?? Excuse you, Harry. Cho deserved much better treatment.
2. Bertha Mason from Jane Eyre
I love Jane from Jane Eyre. I like Rochester from Jane Eyre. But I think we can all agree that they're both horrible monsters (but mostly Rochester) when it comes to the treatment of Bertha (AKA, the secret attic wife). Bertha Mason was a beautiful, seemingly normal young woman from Jamaica when Rochester married her. Then her mental health deteriorated quickly. And so her loving husband, Rochester, imprisoned her in an attach. I know that mental health resources at the time weren't exactly stellar... but come on. Rochester definitely could have done better than attic prison.
3. Susan Pevensie from the Chronicles of Narnia series
In case you forget, the Narnia books end with all the kids dying in a train crash and going to a Narnia-themed heaven. Forever. All the kids except for Susan, that is. Susan is not deemed worthy of entering Narnia-Heaven. Her crime? Becoming interested in "nylons and lipsticks" and boys. So... because Susan went through puberty and enjoys traditionally feminine products she's damned to hell? And she has to deal with the trauma of losing her entire family in a train crash? Yikes.
4. Rue from The Hunger Games
If you're not still at least a little bit sad about Rue from The Hunger Games, then I don't know what to tell you. Little Rue, who was a CHILD and also VERY CUTE and KIND, didn't deserve to die. She especially didn't deserve to die in an arena-style reality television show run by the government. Shut it down.
5. Othello and Desdemona from Othello
Shakespeare is full of characters who don't deserve what they get. Romeo and Juliet definitely didn't deserve to die just for being young and touchy-feely. But Othello and Desdemona have an extra serving of "wow, they deserved so much better." They have a passionate, forbidden love that society disapproves of, plus one of them is manipulated into murdering the other one. That's what you get for following your heart, I guess?
6. Beth March from Little Women
Is Beth the most boring sister from Little Women? Yes, for sure. I mean, she's more boring than Meg. And who even remembers Meg!? But Beth is the nice one. She's not a brat like Amy, and she doesn't have a fun, rebellious spirit like Jo. She's just 100% nice and selfless. So of course she's the one who dies, thereby ruining everyone's childhoods worldwide.
7. The Baudelaire Orphans from A Series of Unfortunate Events
Here's a three-for-one, because few characters deserve more than the Baudelaire orphans. And few are treated worse. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny just want to invent, read, and bite things like normal children. Instead, they are subjected to kidnapping, abuse, poisoning, fire, unfounded murder accusations and more. A Series of Unfortunate Events was the book series that reminded children worldwide that life is not fair.
8. Gwen Stacy from Spider-Man
Comic book fans will know why Gwen Stacy's death is extra tragic. Not only was it the first major death in comics at the time, but Spider-man was kind of responsible for Gwen's death (he tried to catch her with web-goo after she was pushed off a bridge, but the sudden stop snapped her neck). But all that aside, Gwen was a nice person who didn't deserve to die just because her boyfriend was a fancy show-off superhero.
9. Charlotte the Spider from Charlotte's Web
In real life, we feel little to no remorse about stepping on spiders (or, at the very least, tossing them outside). But in Charlotte's Web, Charlotte's death is traumatic. Yeah, spiders don't live that long. But she was a mother! She never took credit for her art! She had so much to live for! You deserved better, Charlotte.
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