The most famous or loved characters in books usually are the protagonists. However, a fascinating book wouldn’t be the same without captivating supporting characters. They have a significant role when it comes to add depth to the story and even to the protagonists. Being a supporting character doesn’t mean being secondary to the protagonist or less important. In fact, they usually help us to better understand the main characters.
When I first decided to write about this topic, I thought it would be quite easy to choose my favourite supporting characters. But I was quite wrong for a couple of reasons. First, it isn’t always easy to establish if a character has a main or a supporting role. And second, too many characters sprang to mind. Nevertheless, I managed to select six among the myriad of possibilities.
Levin – Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
The main story in Anna Karenina centres around Anna and Vronsky, so I consider Levin to be a supporting character. However, I could read an entire book just about him. He’s one of the most enthralling characters in my opinion, because it’s mainly through him that we get to know more about Russian society and politics, and his internal struggle to adjust to having a family (and it not being perfect) is rather thought-provoking.
Petyr Baelish – A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
One of the strongest points of the A Song of Ice and Fire series is the array of characters, who are usually quite complex, even the ones who can be considered as the heroes. So, there are a number of supporting characters who I could have chosen from the books as my favourites. Taking into consideration that I see characters like Arya Stark, Cersei and Tyrion Lannister as main characters, Petyr Baelish was the first one that I thought of. He is one of the most cunning characters in the series, he manages to be manipulative in subtle ways, leading people to do what he wants without them realising.
Henry Tilney – Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Although Henry Tilney is the love interest of Catherine Morland, the heroine of this novel, I cannot consider him as a main character, since he is absent from the story for a long time. Nevertheless, he is my favourite character from the book, thanks to his cleverly sarcastic comments. I just wish we had the chance to know him better.
João da Ega – Os Maias by Eça de Queirós
João da Ega is the best friend of Carlos da Maia, one of the protagonists of this Portuguese classic. He represents the revolutionary attitudes of the 19th century and is an apologist of the realist and naturalist movements. However, he is a romantic at heart. His contradictions make him an intricate character.
Miranda Carroll – Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Miranda is another character who I wanted to know more about than what was actually revealed. At first I thought she was going to be present for the entirety of the novel, but that isn’t the case. She is an artist and creates her own graphic novel. She has to deal, at first, with an abusive boyfriend and, after marrying Arthur Leander, a famous actor, with feeling out of place in Hollywood. She becomes, nevertheless, quite a confident woman.
Severus Snape – Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Although Dumbledore has a special place in my heart, I believe Snape is a much more intricate character, which is something I appreciate. I started by loathing him, but ended up being really fond of him. He is an extremely layered and mysterious character, despite we only realising that almost near the end of the series.
These are just some of my favourite supporting characters. Do you have any? Tell me in the comments!