|Elizabeth Taylor as Helen Burns|
Helen Burns is a secondary character in one of my favorite books, Jane Eyre, and she gets my vote for Killer Secondary Character.
If you haven't heard of Helen Burns, or if you are wondering if she was the one with the axe (that was Lizzie Borden), let me elucidate.
When Jane is a child her hateful relations (after bullying and mistreating her) ship her off to a girl's school for the Perpetually Neglected. Food is meagre, it's effing cold and discipline is the only subject most teachers excel at. Jane is a stubborn, independent, opinionated young girl. In other words, she's doing the girl thing all wrong. But her classmate Helen Burns is a paragon of femaleness. She is docile, she suffers in silence, she submits to unfair punishments with grace. She's a freaking saint. Did I mention she's also consumptive? She gets a whopper of a death scene, calmly accepting her doomed fate and urging Jane (who she's developed a fast friendship with) to do the same.
So why is this milksop my choice for killer secondary character? Because she IS the secondary character, not the star of the show, despite all her good behavior. The one the story is about, the one that you root for, the character that stays with you is the anti-feminine ideal. Plain, fractious, disagreeable and steadfast to her ideals, Jane Eyre is the hero of the story.
I love how beautifully painted Helen is, how Charlotte Bronte allows her to develop as a role model for Jane. She's tempting fruit. If Jane can be more like Helen, her life will be easier. If she just submits, follows Helen's lead, she can be as 'good' as Helen. Jane loves Helen, is drawn to her kindness and wants to protect her. But when Helen dies Jane doesn't become like her. She tames herself, finds a way to get along, but never submits, even at the end when she could so easily close her eyes to the crazy wife in the attic.
So, who's your favorite secondary character and why?
Check out some of the other blogs on the Killer Character Blogfest here: