Sherlock VS Moriarty


Moriarty is one of the most iconic and famous villains in the whole of literature. He is so iconic, that you do not even really need any background knowledge of Sherlock Holmes to know the character Professor James Moriarty. This man is just as smart and devious as Sherlock himself, if not even more so, because of the mean criminal streak that comes with this cunning and dastardly character that Holmes – being the hero – would not process. Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty are possibly two of the greatest enemies of all time, but like with Batman and The Joker, they are the yin and yang of each other, and must co-exist.

This is not where the similarities end either. Moriarty – much like The Joker – is evil and very egotistic, and wants to surpass his particular antithesis, even if it means nearly failing at their well prepared scheme. Both Sherlock and Moriarty have borderline mental conditions; one uses his for good however, and the other for evil. The motivation behind what Moriarty does to Sherlock seems to be a whole lot of bravado and a colossal game of one-up-man-ship. Sherlock displays signs of this also, but virtually always figures out Moriarty’s scheme and topples it to emerge the victorious hero. Sherlock is not without his own issues, however; he can act reckless and on occasion let bravado get the best of him, whereby he does not turn Moriarty over to the police or kill him when he has the chance.

Of course, like with many examples of exemplary literature, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books and been integrated into other more main stream media such as the cinema, with the Sherlock films starring Robert Downey Jr or the critical acclaimed BBC 1 drama series written by Stephen Moffat called Sherlock. Both forms of media paint a very different Moriarty to what the books have portrayed him as, but in doing so they have been crafty in creating some equally devilish version of this much loved villain. The movie version does not give a great deal of depth to the character unfortunately, however, he is portrayed fiendish and twisted like he should be. The reason for this lack of depth in my view is that Moriarty in this version has only been in the one film ‘Sherlock Holmes – A game of shadows’, so there has not been a whole lot of time to let us the audience to get a feel for the character. This is completely different on the television side of things where I feel that the character has been made Moffat’s own reinvention of this great character. This portrayal is very twisted and sick and you can tell by watching the character that there are a lot of personality defects and this guy comes off as plain creepy.

In the ‘Final Problem’, it all comes to an end for Sherlock and Moriarty when they both ‘die’ falling off a cliff, which I find is an ironic death because they are such genius’ yet it’s something uncontrolled like mother nature that kills them; such a brutal death for two such clever men must have seemed somewhat anti-climactic when this story was first published.

Iago: Shakespeare’s most sinister villain or simply a jealous lover scorned?

In William Shakespeare’s tragic play Othello the dramatic plotting and scheming of the character Iago proves how one man is simply able to manipulate the people around him and bringall the other characters to their downfall. Iago is seen to be the classic villain, working behind the back of his ‘friend’ and commander in order to gain personal benefits. However, these actions can be seen to be that of a jealous lover, seeking revenge in order to hurt the person that hurt him.

Being passed over for the position of lieutenant in the first act, Iago’s rage against a man he declares to love is seen to begin to become more sinister and that fuels his motivation to destroy Othello. With the belief that Othello slept with his wife, Iago’s rage has the motivation of sexuality within it, but this jealousy is not just being cuckolded by his commander but the fact his wife may have had the chance to be with the man that he desires. Iago is a complex sinister character, his rage and lack of emotion towards the end of the play brings together the conclusion that he has in fact been hurt on an emotional level, with the notion that if he cannot have Othello then no one else can.

Throughout the play, Iago is a character with a hidden hatred for women. The way in which he treats his wife Emilia and the way he has lack of sympathy for her death could stem from a jealous rage against the female gender as a whole. This hidden jealousy is seen to be directed to Othello’s wife Desdemona, the woman who is preventing Iago from being with Othello. The way in which Iago gains pleasure and happiness from not allowing Othello to enjoy his own marriage is seen to be jealousy of how his marriage is not as perfect as Othello’s, but the jealousy could be the homosexual passion he has towards his commander.

Act 3 scene 3 is where Iago starts to manipulate his commander into thinking his wife is being unfaithful. In Othello’s eyes Iago is a man who would not deceive him and that his trust isn’t even questioned. This scene is sometimes criticised to be similar to the vows made in a marriage ceremony ‘I am bound to thee for ever’, showing the bound that both men have to each other. ‘My Lord, you know I love you’ Expressing his love of Othello, Iago opens up to the man without the response he was looking for bringing the evidence to light that the love Iago feels isn’t simply that of friendship but that of something more.

Many critics analyse Iago as being the most evil villain in all of Shakespeare’s work that his plotting and scheming is simply that of an animal jealous of how an outsider is able to get the things he wants. But this jealousy is that of a scorned lover, broken and hurt by the rejection of a man who doesn’t love him in return.

Does a Villain have to be a Character in literature?

A villain in literature’s main goal is to break and destroy the individual heroine or hero, in Margaret Atwood’ s novel The Handmaid’s Tale, this villain is in fact the society of Gilead. The structured regime and also the way women are considered objects leaves the female protagonist Jeanette fighting for her freedom. This novel brings the idea that a villain does not have to be a single person but in fact a whole society is able to become the enemy.

Throughout the novel there are striking similarities between Gilead and Nazi Germany, the way in which women are ushered into the training to be a handmaid shows the lack of consideration by the society. Also how simply if a woman does not fit into a particular criteria can be thrown away just like Germany, these similarities bring to light how things like this can happen in an everyday society. Questioning what control a government has on the people living in the society and how censorship is a tool to control people’s views.

The most villainous act in this novel is the way women are treated, ‘the small tattoo on my ankle. Four digits and an eye’ being branded like cattle, Atwood brings to light how this protagonist is simply a number and that she is in the villainous world of Gilead unable to escape. Jeanette is a strong protagonist seen in this society to be only good while she is fertile, the trials and tribulations she goes through in order to gain her freedom are similar to those of a heroine, sacrificing her love for a man in order to survive as an individual.

Gilead’s regime is based on that of the New Right ideology, how a man is able to dominate women in his life with the justification that it is God’s law and the way nature intended it to be. Atwood brings religion into her novel as a background answer for the way in which this society is built, ‘Blessed be the fruit…May the Lord open’ twisting religious quotes Atwood expresses how sometimes villainous acts can sometimes get justified by religion.

Atwood’s novel is not the stereotypical good versus evil text; however Jeanette is a woman who overcomes evil by escaping a regime enforced by the Gilead society. This society with its corruption and twisted ways is similar to that of any typical villain, thinking that it has justification for doing what it does. Gilead may not be a character but it has the same characteristics of a villain and therefore a villain does not have to be a single person, it can be a corrupt society.

Voldemort – A sociopathic-narcissist

Voldemort is an iconic villain in the Harry Potter fiction books, released originally as children’s books but have crossed into adult fiction. This has to be part way because of this antagonist, Voldemort, and of how sick and twisted he is. We the readers become aware of this almost immediately when we discover that he is a renowned killer; the most notable murder being that of the protagonist’s (Harry Potter) parents right in front of the boy’s eyes when he was a baby. He also tried to murder Harry Potter as well, but because of Harry’s mother this did not happen. Voldemort’s re-rise to power has been displayed throughout 7 books; the first time we ever actually see him he does not even have his own body, but is leeching life off another, Professor Quirell, and from this first appearance and seemingly humble beginning for the reader, we watch this character evolve into the most evil wizard of all time. The villain has such a huge influence, that he even leads his own cultish army – the ‘Death Eaters’ – who will do his bidding and whatever is asked of them.

The hardest thing to think about with this character is motivation because it is not explicit in the books. Some people might argue that he has no motivation, and is just a character for Harry to fight against. I feel, however, that if you look at the story, you can definitely find motivation. It is obvious to the reader that not only does he want to kill Harry Potter, but other wizards who do not want to follow his dark orders and are not ‘Death Eaters’, along with non-wizards (Muggles) too, denoting no discrimination. Voldemort himself had a terrible childhood, which could explain some of the sociopathic behaviour and the narcissism he seems to suffer from, for example he calls himself ‘Lord Voldemort’ which is self-inferred as he is not actually a lord. I briefly mentioned his cult like followers earlier: the ‘Death Eaters’. One major character, Draco Malfoy, joins the ranks of this cult and takes it upon himself to attempt to kill Dumbledore, the headmaster of ‘Hogwarts’. This shows that Voldemort will take anyone under his wing and his influence will cause someone as young as Draco to be driven to kill one of the most important wizards of all time. Bellatrix Lastrange, one of Voldemort’s longest running ‘Death Eaters’ also caused another major character’s parents’ to suffer an awful fate; so it could be said that Voldemort is like a type of propaganda machine for getting his ‘Death Eaters’ to do all his evil bidding. So Voldemort as a sociopath, narcissist, and a figure with as much power and fearful influence as propaganda is why I feel Voldemort does have motivation and is a truly iconic villain. All of his actions could plausibly be to please his own mental illnesses and possible issues of inner turmoil; you just have to look at the character as a whole in a wider context, not just judge based upon face value.

Dr Faustus- A Man’s Worst Enemy


Christopher Marlowe died at 29, a very early age for such an impressive playwright. A contemporary of Shakespeare, he only managed to write four texts, three of which were published posthumously. Out of these, it is almost inarguable, that the most thought provoking, emotionally moving and popular was The Tragicall History of the Life and Death of Dr Faustus.

For those not familiar with the basic storyline, Faustus, a doctor of many disciplines sells his soul to the Devil for the use of the demon Mephostophilis for twenty four years. Despite initially having many visions of power and wealth once he signs the deal, Faustus wastes his gift, essentially becoming a travelling magician, impressing various courts with feats of illusion, all created by Mephostophilis. Eventually, despite repeated attempts to absolve himself of the deal, and become sided with God once again, Faustus is dragged to Hell, to face eternal torture and suffering. The text is a bleak one, with little in the way of redemption or salvation. Faustus’ torn clothes lie on the stage, as the curtains close, and the play ends.

Now, many readers of the text see Mephostophilis as the villain of the text. It is he who appears to Faustus when he considers selling his soul. It is also Mephostophilis who gives Faustus incentives to stay on the side of darkness, when his heart begins to stray toward the grace of God. However, I believe that Mephostophilis has a mere part to play in Faustus’ downfall. It is the Faustus himself that is the protagonist, but also the true antagonist in this play.

Faustus has multiple chances to save himself from damnation, but each time, he fails, fearing violence from various ‘hellish’ beings. Whenever Faustus considers repenting, an Angel and Devil appear, as essentially moral guides to help him decide. However, each time, it is the Devil that speaks first, and last. This seems to mean that Faustus has already made up his mind that he will stay on the path of evil. The Angel only seems to be there for the Devil to refute its arguments, a kind of ‘devil’s advocate’ (fairly ironic). Therefore, if Faustus was never really going to change his mind, from the very start of the play, we can consider him an evil character, damning himself to Hell, Satan only supplying the means to do it.

Another piece of evidence that points to Faustus being a villain is the marking that appears on his arm after he makes the pact with the Devil. The words ‘Homo Fuge’ appear, written like scars. The Latin for ‘fly man’, this seems to indicate that once the deal has been completed, Faustus’ flesh itself seems to indicate that his humanity has left him. He is no longer human. And if what we can assume about protagonists is correct, good characters are rarely without their humanity, their souls.

Of course, Faustus commits many sins during the play itself, torturing nobles who question his powers, and tricking men into buying horses made of hay. What I consider most damning is that he sleeps with a demon, who takes on the persona of Helen of Troy, whose face ‘launch’d a thousand ships/ And burnt the topless towers of Ilium’. The previous act, Faustus tells the German Emperor that to touch a demon would damn ones soul to Hell. Now, weak willed, he himself succumbs to the touch of the demon. Faustus damns himself to Hell with finality, God refusing to forgive one who cavorts with Satan’s spawn.

In conclusion, I believe it quite clear that even though Mephostophilis plays an important part in Faustus’ downfall, it is the man himself who is the real villain of the play. By committing many heinous sins, Faustus’ perpetual torture in Hell can only be blamed on Faustus, not any other character in the play.

Masculine Evil and Villainy in “The Bloody Chamber”


Angela Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber” features as the first of a collection of tales in a book of the same title. Each of the tales in this book has roots in one fairy tale or another and “The Bloody Chamber” takes its premise from Perrault’s French fairy tale “Bluebeard”. The villainous male in Carter’s rewrite, however, sports no blue beard (though he does have a beard); he is referred to as merely ‘the Marquis’ and is suggested to have been based upon the Marquis de Sade.

A few of the posts on this blog have dealt with ‘questionable’ villains: those characters who may act atrociously whilst eliciting a reader’s sympathy or understanding; I felt nothing ‘questionable’ as to the Marquis’ status as villain. In true fairy tale manner, the villain of this tale is rooted firmly on the side of evil. It would surely be difficult to feel sympathy for a man who luxuriates within the opulent yet perversely decorated walls of a castle filled with violently sadistic pornography; a man with a private chamber filled with his own grandly presented collection of torture instruments and flesh. This Castle, for me, acquired the sense of being extension of the Marquis himself, so that even when he had left the unnamed heroine of the tale alone there for the night, still he seemed to surround her on every side. The torture chamber, his ‘enfer’, his hell, became the realised projection of his most depraved and destructive sexual desires. The heroine had hoped to ‘find a little of his soul’ in this room as she turned the key; she was granted her wish.

And yet, on top of all this, what makes the Marquis potentially even more horrifying, and certainly more disturbing as a character, is the caricatural yet tangible form Carter gives him, the strikingly vivid and resonant qualities he retains within the mysticism of this genre. “The Bloody Chamber” is a tale painted with rich and vibrant imagery, with a heavy focus on both sensory and sensual detail. The heroine and narrator, whilst newly the Marquis’ bride, and still somewhat naive as to her husband’s true nature, describes, “his white, heavy flesh that had too much in common with the armfuls of arum lilies that filled my bedroom […] undertakers’ lilies […] The lilies I always associate with him; that are white. And stain you.” The imagery of his ‘white, heavy flesh’ creates a strong sense of his physical presence and bearing; an unpleasant one; a blank imposing and unreadable carnal mass. The link between the Marquis and the imagery of the lilies is something that is repeated throughout the tale. The direct referral to ‘undertakers’ lilies’ makes explicit the association being drawn between the Marquis and death. That the lilies are ‘white’, like his flesh, again suggests a blank facade, a mask; that they ‘stain’ suggests his ability to irrevocably affect, to leave the heroine to some degree marked by him, with the loss of her virginity and her exposure to the perversity of his world.

The Marquis, the villainous wealthy noble, seducing women to be his wives only to defile and torture them in his private chamber of horrors, becomes the caricatured embodiment of the potential for masculine cruelty and perversity within heterosexual relationships (though it should not be ignored that the heroine discovers a similar potential lying dormant within herself). For the villain of this tale, there is more than “a striking resemblance between the act of love and the ministrations of a torturer”; for him the two combine, are one and the same.

The Joker



There will be spoilers in this Blog, just warning you!


The Joker – you might scoff as you see that I have included in him a blog about literary villains. But scoff not. I will explain why The Joker has as much right as Heathcliff or Moriarty to be included in this blog. The Graphic novel or comic is still or should be a part of the literary canon, well not all comics, but Batman especially has some amazing comics/graphic novels. The stories are fantastically diverse and the character development is brilliant, I would even argue better than some of the classics. Because of the length of the books themselves they are very easy to read rather than wading through a so called classic that is like 800 hundred pages whereby 20 of them is just about setting one scene; you get straight into the action. Yes, some implied knowledge of the characters is required, but who does not know who Batman or arguably the most famous villain of all time next to Darth Vader: The Joker.

The Joker is the villain I am going to explore because you can never truly know him or the way his mind works just through reading. Yes, he is mental, but is he really mental or is he a genius? I would argue that as mad as he is, he is also clever. This guy is also seriously twisted, going as far in what is probably Batman’s greatest graphic novel ‘The Killing Joke’. For example, he paralyses Barbara Gordon by shooting her in the base of the spine before stripping her and taking photos of her naked body on a Polaroid camera. The Joker then captures Commissioner Gordon himself and once again strips him and locks him a cage. Before I carry on, I think the stripping is a way of causing humiliation whilst torture additionally takes place. But to add horror to the already disturbing situation, The Joker gives Gordon the photos of his naked daughter – Barbara. This is the true evil and madness of The Joker, he is so very sick but also a genius; it is the perfect way to completely destroy Gordon’s psyche.

Of course, with any superhero-genre literature the hero saves the day. Although Batman knows he should kill The Joker, he cannot bring himself to do it however. Like in the case of Sherlock and Moriarty, they need their rivalry to exist; they are Ying and Yang of each other. This could be said to be demonstrated in the way that Batman wears all Black and The Joker has bleached white skin caused by an accident that caused him to go mad. His motivation seems to imply that, much like his sociopathic / psychopathic brain, he wants the world around him to be in chaos; by causing destruction it must sooth him to see the world and its inhabitants in a similar state to his own being. All of the Batman villains seem to have a mental illness and through some of the villains this is portrayed very well, especially through The Joker, who seems like he might legitimately have ever mental illness.

Defining the Villain in The Outsider

“Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know.” This dispassionate utterance, the opening line of Camus’ The Outsider, immediately captures the cool impassiveness that is Meursault.  Meursault’s indifference to the world and to others in it, is what marks him as an ‘outsider’ in society, and is ultimately what leads to his condemnation as a soulless criminal. He has committed murder, incontestably; firing five shots into the chest of an Arab, in broad daylight, can leave no one in doubt of this fact. However, it is his lack of remorse, and perhaps more significantly, his lack of grief over the death of his mother, that has a far greater influence in his sentence. To put it another way, Meursault is sentenced to death because he refuses to exhibit the emotional reactions that society expects of him. In the afterword to the novel, Camus highlights this point, declaring that, “the hero of the book is condemned because he doesn’t play the game.” I certainly agree with the premise here, and yet something struck me as misplaced when I read this sentence: hero?

While I undeniably found Meursault questionable as a villain, the idea of him as a hero seemed to me, to put it mildly, a bit of a stretch. He killed a man at close range and with no remorse, he exhibited no concern for the woman being beaten by his “mate”, he felt no “disgust” towards Salamano’s abusive treatment of his dog, and he didn’t cry at his mother’s funeral. Surely these are no less than the deeds of a bona fide, black-hat-wearing villain? Okay, not quite, when we take the whole picture into account, but a hero?

In the same afterword, Camus describes Meursault as someone who “refuses to lie”, someone with “the passion for absolute and for truth”. While this may, at first sound rather honourable, the defiant actions of a lone man who refuses to bend to society’s warped and imposed demands, in practice, and certainly within this novel, the effect was something quite different. Ordinarily when we think of concepts such as ‘truth’ and ‘honesty’, we may do so with highly moral connotations in mind. Yet, for Meursault, ‘truth’ holds no such connotation; it seems merely to be his default position, almost as if within the chronic apathy of his mind, he just can’t see the point in lying.

When recounting interactions between himself and his girlfriend, Meursault states, “she asked me if I loved her. I told her that it didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t think so.” The straightforward bluntness of this answer demonstrates not only Meursault’s strict and unfrivolous adherence to the truth, but his innate lack of empathy; if he is aware of the emotional effect this statement may have on his girlfriend, then it would apparently seem he just doesn’t care. That Meursault felt it ‘didn’t mean anything’, suggests his indifference towards the idea of love and reflects his somewhat nihilistic and benign attitude towards the value of human experience, towards life in general.

Meursault certainly doesn’t speak his truths from any moral high ground, yet neither does he seem to be acting with immoral intent when his truths are hurtful. It seems most accurate to describe Meurasult’s viewpoint as ‘amoral’, and this is perhaps why his status as a hero, or as a villain, becomes so difficult to define. He is neither black nor white, and a person who dwells in the gray waste land of indifference is arguably unworthy of either praise or condemnation for any of their actions towards other beings. But then, I’d venture he wouldn’t really care what anyone thinks anyway.

Heathcliff- The Villain of Wuthering Heights 


Another post on this blog has suggested that the character of Heathcliff in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights should not be considered the villain of the novel. He is just a confused man, enraptured by passion. I entirely disagree, to the point where this blog post is a rebuttal of the previous one.

Wuthering Heights is not a novel full of likeable characters by any means. I found it impossible to feel any sympathy for anyone as the story progressed. However, there was one character who I thought, if anyone, was the villain of the piece, the ‘dark skinned gypsy’ Heathcliff.

If anything, it is Heathcliff’s actions which make him a completely reprehensible character. From attempting to strangle dogs, to imprisoning young Cathy and Nellie at the Heights, very few things that Heathcliff does are what can be considered good.
How is it possible to empathise with a character that digs up the rotting corpse of their adoptive sister and possible lover? Of course, therein lies the whole incestuous element to the story. Despite being essentially brother and sister, it is heavily implied that the two engage in a sexual relationship behind Edgar Linton’s back, his son looking suspiciously like Heathcliff. And indeed in the second half of the novel, Heathcliff becomes obsessed with the idea of owning both Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights, which involves marrying his son and Cathy’s daughter, who are blood cousins, their other parents being siblings. How can someone believe that Heathcliff is not the villain in this text, the man who forces an incestuous relationship upon his son and niece?

It is not just his actions that make Heathcliff a despicable person. Brontë seems to despise him too or at least uses language in the text to create that image. Some seem to consider him a misdirected Romeo, but he is described as a ‘monster’, ‘Satan’s imp’ and it is even asked ‘Is he a man?’ which seems to question his true humanity due to the heinous acts he commits. Even after death, Heathcliff’s malignant aura takes a while to vanish, the ‘stunted firs’ and ‘sharp thorns’ eventually being replaced by flowers, growing on the side of the Heights. This seems to confirm that Heathcliff’s awful actions were not learnt from elsewhere, but were a part of him, something which made the earth he stood on a colder and more forbidding place.

In conclusion, it should be very difficult for someone to actually feel any real sympathy towards Heathcliff. Despite his ‘soul’ mate leaving him for another, his actions before and after this tragedy do not win himself any favours whatsoever. He certainly isn’t a stereotypical villain, but I would argue against him being simply a man mistreated and misunderstood.


Villainy and Society in American Psycho

Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho is perhaps renown for its brutal and gruesome discourse. Patrick Bateman is the psychopathic, or schizophrenic protagonist who narrates to us his life working on Wall Street during the financial boom of the 80’s.

Bateman is a violent schizophrenic sociopath who sadistically murders friends, prostitutes and lovers in the most horrific ways possible. His acts of villainy truly disgust us, (I remember having to stop reading it because I felt rather nauseous) but he embodies something that we all recognise – he embodies the greed and ego of the modern day consumer- something we all can perhaps empathise with. He embodies the need to spend money and the need to be successful in a Capitalist Consumerist society.

Ellis constantly reminds us of Patrick’s obsession with materialism and success through using obsessive listing of his designer belongings, ‘I’m wearing a double-breasted suit, a silk shirt with woven stripes, a patterned silk tie and leather slip-ons, all by Gianni Versace,’ which occurs every time Patrick changes clothes or notices what somebody else is wearing (which, as you would imagine, is rather often). This almost incessant attention to detail not only pinpoints Patrick’s mental illness, but the materialist weakness of judging others by their possessions, ergo their financial situation.

Ellis also uses listing when Patrick is committing murder, ‘I take out the axe that I stashed in the shower, pop two five-milligram Valium, washing them down with a tumbler full of Plax, and then I move into the foyer, where I put on a cheap raincoat I picked up at Brooks Brothers…’ Linking ferocious murder and consumerism through use of the same stylistic technique parallels the ideas of brutality and greed. Is Materialist greed as vulgar as murder? Is there perhaps something rather psychotic about the need to spend money for an ego boost?

Is Patrick a villain? Even though he is incredibly affluent, the majority of people from all social classes spend money on things they don’t perhaps need in order to be appreciated by other people, for example, many young people may own an iPhone rather than a brand of phone that is cheaper and not so popular. Why? Because, in a materialist society there is a need to be seen as affluent, or more affluent than you actually are. Patrick embodies this very common personality trait, one perhaps of greed. Is he a villain, then? Or is there something villainous within us all, within this need for the material?

If you consider serial murder to be ethically wrong then yes, in a pragmatic sense Patrick is a villain.  However at the end of the novel we are introduced to the mind-boggling twist that brings ambiguity to the entire plot. We are left wondering if Patrick ever committed any of the acts at all, or if society overlooks such acts of villainy to maintain equilibrium so that we can all go about with our lovely lives and buy more stuff. Either way, Ellis’s satire of modern Capitalist consumerist society is comedic (black comedy to say the least) but powerful. It forces us to look critically at society, and inevitably, ourselves.