The Catcher in the Rye The Catcher in the Rye question

Do you think it’s okay if people base whether they like a book or not on how much they like the characters?
Ben Ben (last edited Sep 19, 2012 10:40PM ) Sep 19, 2012 10:32PM
I understand that people will find it hard to like a book if they are feeling hate or dislike every time the main character is around, i get that with a few books but i don’t hate the book itself, what do you guys think?

I have discovered my favorite books are the ones where the main character is very believable. I may not have liked the character but if they are written in such a way that each emotion, adventure, hardship, thought, or action impacted me as a reader then I throughly enjoy the story as well. Although I agree with Darina's statement of the story being difficult to get through when you are stuck in the head of an annoying character. At the same time, an annoying character, one where you disagree with their every thought and scold them on their actions or even inform them of forseen doom can be believable and therefore worth investing time to see what happens.

It depends more on the writing style I think than anything else. The main character could also be very likeable and perfect, perahps so much so that they become fake or a "mary-sue" and therefore unbelievable. Whether you like a book or not because of the characters is a perfectly good reason, but if you look a little deeper into why you liked or disliked the character and relate it to the story, you might find it is the writing style and way the writing protrayed the character which lead you to like or dislike the book. As Zora mentioned; (although geared more towards analyzing literature rather than being entertained by it) the author is manipulating words to create an effect on the reader and your ability to think about the meaning or reason can also open opportunities to like (or even dislike) the book.

I don't believe liking a book has a huge connection with hate-able characters. I absolutely despise Holden and Humbert (Lolita), but I adore those books. I didn't like Katniss in The Hunger Games Trilogy, but I still enjoyed the series. Of course there are certain parts in The Hunger Games I enjoyed more, for example, I really liked Gale's character, so I enjoyed his parts more.
So, I suppose, if you hate the character, you can still enjoy the story, but if you do like a particular character, you'll enjoy it more.

I think I have enjoyed books with bad main characters, or let's say not so likeable main characters, like "Clockwork Orange" or "The Hunger Games" (I didn't particularly like Katniss). I think the problem comes, when you are stuck in the head of an annoying character the entire time. But that is a matter of writing style. The issue is not really with the main character but with the author's writing.

You can like or dislike a book for any reason

However, if you're in school, a teacher wants you to be analytical about various points of literature, and a crappy essay that says "I didn't like Holden" should get a F or D. Think: the author is a smart person, trying to create an effect, has manipulated words in order to cause that effect in a reader. How exactly did he do this? Your opinion of the character (who is just a bunch of black lines on a page, after all, not a person) doesn't matter at all. Your ability to think does.

deleted member Sep 27, 2012 10:44AM   0 votes
Characters are a huge part of the story, so usually about 40% of how I liked the book depends on the characters and character development. Also, if the female character in the story is a whiny wimp with no backbone whatsoever I tend to not like the story because lately all you see is whiny wimps these days (hence the rise of three and two star ratings in my books). If the characters seem to be too perfect than I don't like them (Peeta Mellark from the Hunger Games for instance) just because they are unrealistic ((view spoiler))
Also, characters can't be boring. If the hero is the classic handsome, strong, dashing, and flashy hero nobody is going to want to read that. You need your hero to have flaws, even though sometimes you want the perfect hero when you're writing a book, readers don't want that.
Now, characters with flaws. If characters have flaws in the book, by the end of it (or by the end of the last book in the series) the character should have changed for the better or for the worse. Most time we like to see them getting better.
Villains: Okay, villains always need to have a part of them that you can relate to or something that kind of makes you feel sorry for them when they lose (Loki from Avengers for example) and the hero needs to have a part of them that is flawed, as I said before.

I might have gone off topic a little up there so I apologise sincerely for that.

No justification is needed for why one likes a book.

Joan Early Totally agree. Storyline, characters, writing style are all important. Together, they can create a masterpiece.
Oct 02, 2012 04:52PM · flag

Readers ought to like books based on what they get out of it. For that to happen they need to relate with something in the book. At least the author's writing style, if anything else fails. If there's nothing to relate, the book is a failure regardless of its characters.

I think the only time readers should dislike a book based on a character is when that character is a failed representation of themselves in their own biography.

I think how much people like the characters is a huge factor in how much people like the books. Similarly, i think the 'baddies' to an extent have to have the potential to be disliked or hated. Making an audience care about the characters, in my opinion, is a sign of how well the book is written. For avid readers, the ups and downs of the characters can take you though a whole spectrum of emotions which is half the fun of reading a book. If you don't care about the characters then why would you care what happens next?

In short if I don't care what happens next, I'm unlikely to pick up the book again.

Karla (last edited Dec 12, 2012 02:51PM ) Sep 26, 2012 04:54PM   0 votes
Characters are just one element that make up a story. Other aspects include plot, writing style, dialog and the author's message(s). It's certainly possible to like a story even if you don't like every component.

For example, in the movie Chicago, I found Roxie Hart (the main character) to be a complete twit, and frequently wanted to slap her for her poor decision making. Despite this, I enjoyed the movie for its artistry, metaphor, irony, etc.

Any reason for liking or disliking a book is a valid one, it's really all just a matter of personal taste. Personally, I'm a plot driven reader, so if the plot is good, I will like the book unless it's majorly flawed in some other way. If the plot is lacking, I probably won't like the book, particularly if I dislike the ending.

I totally agree that "being stuck in the head of an annoy character" would lessen the reader's overall enjoyment of the story. Maybe this is why I prefer third person to first person?

Of course, good characters do make a story more enjoyable. (And by "good" I mean endearing to the reader, not necessarily ethical or likeable to the other characters in the story.) If I happen to have a favorite character in a story, I find myself wanting to read or see more of them. There are certain stories I enjoy more because of the characters, but they aren't my only reason for liking those stories. And yes, I will pick up a book or go watch a movie just because I know it features one of my favorite charaters.

I like the book if I can relate to the character at least a little bit.

I think most of the time it is okay to base your personal opinion on whether you like the book when it comes to liking the characters. If there are too many characters that are too unpleasant to the reader for instance I think that could keep the reader from continuing the book. Then there is the problem when reading the book becomes a chore and may keep the reader from wanting to finish the book at all. I know at least one person who could not finish a book because the main characters were in her opinion unpleasant made her stop reading the book altogether. I think she probably feels it is a bad book.

I don't usually do that because I base the experience on other things (if the story consistently remains unclear, descriptive sentences are noticeably strange or distracting). I have had that happen with at least one book (Babylon Babies by Maurice Dantec). When those things, for example, kept me from enjoying the book, I tended to dislike it.
I don't think unpleasant characters or characters I did not like made me feel like the book itself was bad.

Leon (last edited Feb 11, 2013 04:08PM ) Feb 11, 2013 03:54PM   0 votes
I don't actually hate the character. I sort of feel sympathetic for him since he seems troubled and his problems are understandable, and in a book not everyone or everything is supposed to be completely likeable, otherwise it would be boring, and the character at least represents reality, but I found the phrases excessively repetitive at times. I know it's a little thing but it was actually the most annoying thing about Holden for me, his flaws at least made the book interesting but the phrases bored me; and sometimes the dialogue seemed a bit simplistic. Sometimes it seems not much effort or thought went into it. I think the book is over-rated.

I also don't really like teenagers who claim to identify with or over-worship Holden. To be honest when I was a teenager I was just as whiny and probably complained about stupider things than Holden, but it's not hard to spot the teenage angst in CITR. It's quite clear Holden represents a teenager, that though different and intellectual, is still just a kid and still has flaws and is troubled. So I think anyone who over-worships Holden misses the point of the book.

Characters are paramount in how much I like a book, but i don't have to like them. I have to find them interesting and believable. That can include anti-heros or a well-written villian (Iago comes to mind).

I don't necessarily hate an entire book because of the main character alone but there are cases where the main character is definitely a factor. How can I enjoy a story told through the eyes of a character I thoroughly dislike? I don't enjoy a story told by a real person I don't like and the same goes for characters. In some cases a story can be pardoned if it's so dang good that the main character is just a minor annoyance. I find that rarely happens - but then again, I am a fan of character driven works.

This is a great question, and I like the plethora of answers too.

I think more than "like" personally it is about believing him/her (as many have mentioned) and context. I have read many books where I wouldn't befriend the main character necessarily, but I still enjoyed that book as a whole. I think each such element is about driving the plot, and if the character does that successfully then it will work.

People can do whatever they want, but for me, liking or identifying with a character has little to do with my interest in a book if it's well written. In fact, I enjoy learning about different cultures through reading.

I have a dislike for many villains, but it's their villainy that makes them important to the story. I dislike them but I like the book.

Character develop is part of a plot or story line. There are some characters that are so lovable you can't forget them and some so horrible it could turn your opinion of the story. Some stories characters are even integral to the story itself and may not be separated.

I don't think so, I really don't like Holden but this is probably my favorite book.
Take for example George Costanza. The guy is hideous, is hateful and a total jerk and despise that the show is perfect. So no, I don't believe people should like a book based on their characters.

kit (last edited Sep 28, 2012 06:19PM ) Sep 28, 2012 06:17PM   0 votes
I think that "liking" and "disliking" a character have two different meanings. Disliking a character may mean that you think their traits are controversial or that they are a bad person. I think that this gives a good basis for enjoying a book, because you're actively opinionated about something the character is doing.

On the other hand, if you dislike a character because of the author's poor construction of them (too perfect, too predictable, underdeveloped...) I think this is a good reason to dislike a book, for it shows that the author itself isn't very good in the writing aspect.

However, I think a character that makes you cringe but is not unrealistic is a sign of a very well-written book.

Hmm ... It 's hard to like a book without at least enjoying the characters. Likeable ones definitely help! Even if you loathe the character much depends on how entertaining and insightful the story is- Good dialogue is the key. However no one can tell you what to base your likes on but... you :)

deleted member Feb 06, 2013 01:06PM   0 votes
Who knows?

Nobody is allowed to hate that book. Period.

Of course. It's important for the reader to connect to the story. If they don't like the character, it will make it hard to care about the plot. However, I hope those readers stick with the book for at least 100 pages. I have read a few books where I didn't care for a main character, only later to discover that was the author's intent. The character later made a great transformation. It wasn't "A Christmas Carol", but that would be a good example.

Rick (last edited Sep 25, 2012 06:10PM ) Sep 19, 2012 11:17PM   0 votes
Justification may not be needed but it's certainly an exercise in critical thinking and recall to be able to talk about what you did or did not like about a book.

For my part I don't understand why "main character" equals "book", where if you like the main character you like the book and if you hate the main character you hate the book. It's a degree of separation that - it seems to me based on personal observation mind you - the average reader doesn't distinguish. To the average reader the character is the story, instead of the character being a part of the greater collage that makes a story.

deleted user Well said. Nice to see some sane people around these parts.
Oct 02, 2012 07:42AM · flag

Definitely that's okay - what is a book without characters? A good plot does not make up for flat, one-dimensional characters...but well developed and interesting characters can make up for a less than stellar plot.

It depends on your level of hate, whether or not it ruins the entire book for a reader. I detest Holden in Catcher in the Rye, I mean really detest him. This ruins the whole book for me even though it is well written and I love the historical content. Most the time, it won't ruin a book because I can look around a disliked character to the other good aspects of the book. Catcher in the Rye, however, not so much.

In my opinion, to enjoy a book the characters must be well developed , believeable and consitant in their character traits, even if the character is fundamentaly repulsive. I love charecters who are flawed, and who show the complexity of the human consience. For example, I love Irvine Welsh who is incredibly good at getting inside the minds of phsycos. Oh, and the enjoyment factor goes to the top of the scale if a book is very darkly comic.

I think I like a book better if there is at least one character that is likable. But I also enjoy seeing evil characters get what they deserve.

People have different reasons for liking or not liking a book. Some people like a book for its plot; others enjoy the descriptive writing.

I enjoy believable characters in a book whether they are likable or despicable.

I really have to have some connection to the characters in a book before I can truly say that I like a book. I recently read, The Orchardist, which was highly recommended and I didn't enjoy it. The characters had no real connection to each other and therefore I felt no connection to them. I finished it and will not recommend it.
I personally did not like the character of Gail in the Hunger Games but did like Katness and especially Peeta.

Well, I believe a book can be great without any good characters.
I also believe that you cannot hate a lousily plotted or horribly worded book in which you miraculously still love the characters.

People will (dis)like a book ... or anything else ... for a number of reasons.

For myself, I enjoy a book if it engages me in some way--the writing style, my commitment to the characters, the setting, the general "topic" or genre.

The only reading that I don't enjoy--therefore don't finish--is writing that leaves me feeling unchanged after reading it.

I don't know - if the characters piss me off, then I don't tend to enjoy the book. this is different from them being "bad" characters - evil, arrogance, douchebaggery can be enjoyable (see the post about George Costanza) It's when the characters are whiny, preachy, self-righteous in a non-enjoyable way - if the author can't make me see beyond that, if the story has not sufficiently engaged me, then the characters can put me off a story for sure.

I believe the villian must have a part that we can relate to, no matter what. We can see ourselves reflected in their ugliness. I don't have to want to share a table with the character in order to like the character. There, have been plenty of characters that might not be someone I would invite home to dinner. However, there must be a part of the character that is redeemable. or at least a hope that the character will become better in the end. The hope does not need to be fulfilled but if there is no hope than most likely the character will bore us in the end. The one rule of building cool characters is never be predictable or boring.

It's more than okay to like a work of literature without liking a single character in it. Not all characters are meant to be liked. If you feel strongly enough to hate Holden, assuming you're using the word hate/dislike correctly, then the author is at least making you feel something about the character. Feeling anything for a person who does not exist in the real world is an extraordinary feat.

There are any number of reasons I may dislike a book, and characters can definitely be one of them. I like character driven stories, so whether or not I might like a character as a person, characters that are flat or poorly written are high of my list of what can make me dislike a book.

For me, the best books are the ones where I am the character. What I mean is the books where I connect so much with the characters that I become them for a period of time. This allows me to learn about myself by observing myself from the outside.

I don't think people base whether they like a book on anything - they just like it or don't like it. It's not somethign you sit around and find a basis for, it's just a reaction. You can't really blame someone for liking or disliking a book instinctively, unless you're making a moral criticism ("I didn't like the book because the main character isn't a psychopath" < probably look askance at this person), or you're criticising their obliviousness (that is, their reaction to X part of the book is unimpeachable, but it's fair to criticise them for not even being aware of Y part of the book - if someone doesn't realise something is satire, for instance).

But then there's another thing, which is how good or bad the book is, and how good or bad you think it is. This is different from whether you like it, and here I think it is wrong to base this opinion on whether you like the characters. If an author sets out to write a book about a horrible person, you can hate the character, but that doesn't make it a bad book. It may, however, make it an unlikeable book.

Whether you like a book or not is dependent upon the effect the book has upon you. If you are bored by the characters and the story you will not like it. If you have a strong response to the characters, it doesn't matter whether that response is negative or positive, you are engaged in the story.

I believe that the eye can be emotional or analytical. Depends on the person. Personally, after reading so many books over the years I've learned toseparate myself from a plots characters and simply enjoy the journey an author set up for me. For me reading is a vacation in Fantasia, my personal tastes have nothing to do with all there is to discover there!

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