sick & lovable
July 4, 2011 1:08 PM   Subscribe

In literature there is a character type: a sickly protagonist, with their habits detailed. Examples include Gustav von Aschenbach in Death in Venice, Leo Gursky in The History of Love, and Aunt Leonia in Proust. Can you help me fill out this list?

Can also include mental illness I suppose.
perhaps Helen Memel in Wetlands
posted by Jason and Laszlo to Writing & Language (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Notes From Underground, naturally. "I am a sick man, I am am a beer man, I am a boobs man..."

(My own translation)
posted by TheRedArmy at 1:11 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

"I, Claudius" comes to mind
posted by BobbyVan at 1:17 PM on July 4, 2011

Felix from the Odd Couple?
posted by bleep at 1:17 PM on July 4, 2011

Colin Craven in The Secret Garden.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:20 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Would Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment fit? He is a wretched, guilt-ridden, fevered fellow. (That reminds me, I should read that again.)
posted by Glinn at 1:21 PM on July 4, 2011

Oops, I missed the lovable part. O_o
posted by Glinn at 1:22 PM on July 4, 2011

Phillip Ammon in A Girl of the Limberlost, Beth in Little Women.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:23 PM on July 4, 2011

Oh, and just about every protag from Lurlene McDaniel's body of work.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:24 PM on July 4, 2011

Mr. Lockwood spends the majority of Wuthering Heights sick, if you can consider him the protagonist of the story. In truth, I suppose there isn't one in the entire book, but at least he's the first person narrator. First generation Catherine is sick in her own way as well, though I wouldn't call her a protagonist.
posted by litnerd at 1:35 PM on July 4, 2011

Ignatius J. Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces?
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:39 PM on July 4, 2011

Roderick and Madeline Usher from Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher would be crucial to this genre I imagine. Not sure they're that lovable though.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 1:39 PM on July 4, 2011

Des Esseintes in À rebours:

"Jean Des Esseintes is the last member of a powerful and once proud noble family. He has lived an extremely decadent life in Paris which has left him disgusted with human society. Without telling anyone, he absconds to a house in the countryside. He fills the house with his eclectic art collection (which notably consists of reprints of paintings of Gustave Moreau). Drawing from the theme of Gustave Flaubert's Bouvard and Pecuchet, Des Esseintes decides to spend the rest of his life in intellectual and aesthetic contemplation. Throughout his intellectual experiments, he recalls various debauched events and love affairs of his past in Paris. [...]

Eventually, his late nights and idiosyncratic diet take their toll on his health, requiring him to return to Paris or to forfeit his life. In the last lines of the book, he compares his return to human society to that of a nonbeliever trying to embrace religion."
posted by aquafortis at 1:47 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hans Castorp (and pretty much everyone else) in The Magic Mountain
posted by Mchelly at 2:18 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Camille Raquin in Thérèse Raquin.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 2:20 PM on July 4, 2011

He was not what I'd describe as loveable, but the habits and, of course, death of the title character are presented in great detail in Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich.

Does The Time Traveler's Wife work?

Love Story by Erich Segal?
posted by kbar1 at 2:27 PM on July 4, 2011

The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy.
posted by koinonia at 2:28 PM on July 4, 2011

Ralph Touchet in Portrait of a Lady.
posted by alms at 2:52 PM on July 4, 2011

Prince Myshkin in Dostoyevskiy's The Idiot.
posted by holterbarbour at 4:04 PM on July 4, 2011

Aymar Galliez from The Werewolf of Paris fits this.
posted by wayland at 6:21 PM on July 4, 2011

Bertie in Beaches.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:20 PM on July 4, 2011

Bruno from Bruno's Dream.
posted by Balna Watya at 9:54 PM on July 4, 2011

If mental illness counts, we get an excruciatingly detailed account of the habits of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. He's not lovable, but we're clearly supposed to sympathize with him as the protagonist.

If you want lovable, may I suggest Cameron from Ferris Bueller's Day Off? Everyone seems to think that this is a movie about Ferris, but I firmly believe that it's a movie about Cameron moving beyond his neuroses to reclaim a semblance of a normal life.
posted by decathecting at 9:54 PM on July 4, 2011

Joseph Sedley and Miss Crawley (Rawdon's aunt) in Vanity Fair.
posted by tracicle at 12:51 AM on July 5, 2011

Edmund in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader? Not so lovable I suppose.

Flaubert in Flaubert's Parrot, although I'm not sure he was described as sickly so much as odd.

And, in a similar vein, Banville's depiction of Johannes Kepler in Kepler fits the bill. A semi-fictional account of a real person. Complete hypochondriac.
posted by distorte at 3:51 AM on July 5, 2011

Thomas Covenant, in Stephen Donaldson's two"Unbeliever" trilogies. Covenant has leprosy.
posted by flutable at 5:39 AM on July 5, 2011

The younger of the Brothers Lionheart is a sickly narrator who predeceases his older brother. He is also adorable and the ending is heartrending. Children's book, my arse.
posted by dmt at 9:56 AM on July 5, 2011

There's a really interesting character in Her Fearful Symmetry who has OCD.
posted by kristi at 11:50 AM on July 5, 2011

Henry Chinaski in Post Office, Factotum, and Ham on Rye.
posted by Jagz-Mario at 10:14 PM on July 6, 2011

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