Most of the time, the untimely death of a book character isn’t cause for celebration — from Tom Robinson and Lennie Smalls to Augustus Waters and Fred Weasley, the death of a beloved fictional character may not be quite as tragic as a real-life loss, but if you’ve read, loved, and lost then there are still stages of grief to go through: shock, indignation, disbelief, heartbreak, and angry tweeting J.K. Rowling at every opportunity you get. It’s OK, we’ve all been there (well, except for all that angry tweeting at my gal J.K.)
But then there are those other, more rare character deaths in literature… the kind that you, as a reader, aren’t so very heartbroken about. There are, dare I say, a number of satisfying character deaths in books. These are the deaths that you always saw coming, and those that serve as fictional poetic justice; there are the deaths that deepen a character’s narrative arc, or those that finally do away with an irredeemable bully, David-and-Goliath-style. And yeah, they’re fictional, so it’s alright to cheer a little (or at least feel moderately relieved) when, ding dong, that witch is finally dead.
Here are 8 of the most satisfying character deaths in literature.
1. Bob Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird
In my opinion, Bob Ewell’s death in To Kill a Mockingbird is perhaps the single most satisfying character death in the history of fiction. He wanted to beat and rape his daughter, racially profile his neighbor, and lie about it all (under oath, no less) and still walk away with his dignity. And while he got away with the first three offenses, Atticus Finch ensured society knew the truth about Bob Ewell’s character, even if the court system didn’t recognize it. Then, if he hadn't already ruined enough lives, Ewell goes after the Finch children with a knife. Justice was definitely served when he fell on his own murder weapon. *Wink wink.
2. Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The most satisfying part of Bellatrix Lestrange’s death wasn’t that she was a Death Eater, nor that it served justice for her torture of sweet Neville Longbottom’s parents, and murder of Sirius Black and Nymphadora Tonks. It wasn’t even because she killed Dobby — although, you know, if there was ever a good reason… But no, the most satisfying element of Bellatrix Lestrange’s death in the Second Wizarding War is that it was at the hands of Molly Weasley, who finally got the opportunity to show everyone what a badass witch she had been all along.
3. Pap Finn in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Huckleberry Finn did not luck out in the father department, that’s for sure. Pap Finn was truly an awful character — violent and abusive, demanding money from Huck, then kidnapping him, locking him in a cabin, regularly beating him, and once almost stabbing him to death in a nighttime, rage-filled dream state. Nobody was sorry to see him go — although how exactly that was still remains something of a mystery.
4. Gregor Samsa in The Metamorphosis
Poor Gregor. Although he is the most human — ironically — of all the characters in The Metamorphosis , and although he did manage to embrace his insect self and actually find momentary joy in life as a cockroach, the guy was still a cockroach. Plus, he had a wife who wasn’t terribly interested in being a lifelong caretaker to him (and based on personal experiences cockroaches can, in fact, live forever.) But we really couldn’t expect that from Gregor, who quietly took his own life via starvation, and quite literally withered away to dust.
5. Professor Severus Snape in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Sure, Professor Snape gave Harry Potter and his BFFs hell during his tenure at Hogwarts, and we weren’t always sure we could trust him — but I wasn’t exactly rooting for him to die either. Honestly, when Severus Snape was killed, I was rather devastated. After all, his last breath admission of unrequited love was truly heartbreaking, and demonstrated the complex and nuanced character readers hadn’t always given Snape enough credit for. But sad as it was, Professor Snape’s death was also oddly satisfying, as though now such a miserable figure could finally be at peace.
6. Doctor Moreau in The Island of Doctor Moreau
Doctor Moreau is another fictional character to whom I say: good riddance. On par with (or even worse than) Doctor Victor Frankenstein, Moreau tortures, vivisects, and reconstructs human/animal hybrid creatures that live their lives in pain and confusion. He was arrogant and abusive, and my only regret is that in his death he took the puma down with him.
7. Myrtle Wilson in The Great Gatsby
Myrtle Wilson’s death by automobile wasn’t exactly a fictional demise I was rooting for either — and quite frankly, even though she was nothing but a clingy, manipulative, dramatic pain-in-the-butt throughout the entire novel, she certainly didn’t deserve to die so very gruesomely. But honestly, I just wanted Myrtle out of the picture. If death was the only way F. Scott Fitzgerald could envision her departure from the text, so be it.
8. Martin Vanger in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
As a teenager, Martin Vanger witnessed his father serially raping and murdering women — so yeah, that kind of thing is going to seriously mess a kid up. But then he starts participating in the violence, and for decades he kidnaps, tortures, and kills women in his own basement. There are some characters who are just so evil they need to be done away with, and Martin Vanger was definitely one of them.
Image: Warner Bros.