Whenever I hear the word “rebel”, the opening riff of David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel leaps into my mind. It’s pretty much a Pavlovian response. Fortunately, it’s a great track so it’s nowhere nearly as annoying as the way in which the theme tunes to Mini-Falaise’s favourite CBeebies programmes lodge themselves in my head. Anyway, enough rambling and back to business……
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday from the Broke and the Bookish wants us to come up with a list of our top rebels in literature. It would be easy enough to come up with a list of people who stood up for their beliefs or who espoused an unpopular point of view in the face of mass opposition but I think the true “rebel” is one who opposes or fights established authority and not just majority opinion. It’s a narrow definition but, as far as I am concerned, it’s one that fits my understanding of the word best. So, here we go.
1. Winston Smith. Despite his ultimate capitulation – because everyone ends up loving Big Brother - Winston is one of literature’s true rebels and 1984 remains one of th great dystopian novels.
2. Romeo and Juliet. They defied their families and parents to be together. Romeo and Juliet were rebels for love.
3. V from V for Vendetta. I am slightly ambivalent about V, the anti-hero of Alan Moore’s classic graphic novel. There’s no question that he is a rebel, causing chaos at the heart of the fascist government of a dystopian Great Britain but I can’t help feeling that his true motivation is revenge for what was done to him and the other prisoners at the Larkhill camp rather than a true desire to restore freedom and democracy, which lowers him slightly in my estimation. It’s a great story anyway and he does wear some cool gear.
4. Asterix the
Gaul. “All of Gaul is divided into three parts. No, four — for one small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the Roman invaders.” Maybe I should have included the whole of the village and maybe they aren’t really rebels, only wanting to be left alone in peace, but I think he merits a place here.
5. Sauron. The chief villain of the Lord of the Rings was not always thus. Originally a Maia (a kind of minor immortal spirit and kin to the Valar), Sauron was ultimately corrupted and turned to evil and to war against the Valar, the original offspring of Eru (Tolkien’s God analogue) and, along with the Maiar, Ainu. Tolkien wrote of "the absolute Satanic rebellion and evil of Morgoth and his satellite Sauron.”
6. Steerpike from the Gormenghast Trilogy. This is quite a topical one for me as I am currently participating in the Gormenghast Readalong but Steerpike is a quintessential rebel, laying waste to the fossilised traditions and customs of
. Gormenghast Castle
7. Guy Montag. I wasn’t anywhere near as enamoured of Fahrenheit 451 as many other bloggers but I can’t deny that Guy Montag is a bona fide rebel.
8. Prometheus. When Zeus withholds the secret of fire from Man, Prometheus rebels against the tyranny of the gods and steals the secret back to give to mankind. For the Romantic poets such as Shelley and Byron, Prometheus was the ultimate rebel.
9. Psmith. Pricker of pomposity, Psmith (with a silent “P”) is P.G. Wodehouse’s brilliant non-conformist and genial rebel against all forms of authority. Less well-known than Jeeves and
or Lord Emsworth, Psmith is well worth getting to know. Wooster
10. Princess Leia. I know this is a bit of a cheat but there are many Star Wars novels as well as the films and she is the Head of the Rebel Alliance. How could she not be here!