Sunday, February 19, 2012

Literary Suspects

What would happen if you took descriptions of literary characters and ran them through law-enforcement composite sketch software? Hop on over to the Composites to find out. A few samples of their work below:

Edward Rochester, Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
Mr. Rochester, his foot supported by the cushion; he was looking at Adèle and the dog: the fire shone full on his face.  I knew my traveller with his broad and jetty eyebrows; his square forehead, made squarer by the horizontal sweep of his black hair.  I recognised his decisive nose, more remarkable for character than beauty; his full nostrils, denoting, I thought, choler; his grim mouth, chin, and jaw—yes, all three were very grim, and no mistake.  His shape, now divested of cloak, I perceived harmonised in squareness with his physiognomy…My master’s colourless, olive face, square, massive brow, broad and jetty eyebrows, deep eyes, strong features, firm, grim mouth.

Emma Bovary, Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
She was pale all over, white as a sheet; the skin of her nose was drawn at the nostrils, her eyes looked at you vaguely. After discovering three grey hairs on her temples, she talked much of her old age…Her eyelids seemed chiseled expressly for her long amorous looks in which the pupil disappeared, while a strong inspiration expanded her delicate nostrils and raised the fleshy corner of her lips, shaded in the light by a little black down.

The Misfit, “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” Flannery O’Connor
He was an older man than the other two. His hair was just beginning to gray and he wore silver-rimmed spectacles that gave him a scholarly look. He had a long creased face and didn’t have on any shirt or undershirt. He had on blue jeans that were too tight for him and was holding a black hat and a gun…“You don’t look a bit like you have common blood. I know you must come from nice people!”… When he smiled he showed a row of strong white teeth…Hunching his shoulders slightly…The Misfit’s eyes were red-rimmed and pale and defenseless-looking.

Humbert Humbert, Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
Gloomy good looks…Clean-cut jaw, muscular hand, deep sonorous voice…broad shoulder…I was, and still am, despite mes malheurs, an exceptionally handsome male; slow-moving, tall, with soft dark hair and a gloomy but all the more seductive cast of demeanor. Exceptional virility often reflects in the subject’s displayable features a sullen and congested something that pertains to what he has to conceal. And this was my case…But instead I am lanky, big-boned, wooly-chested Humbert Humbert, with thick black eyebrows…A cesspoolful of rotting monsters behind his slow boyish smile…aging ape eyes…Humbert’s face might twitch with neuralgia.

Sam Spade, The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett
Samuel Spade’s jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth. His nostrils curved back to make another, smaller, v. His yellow-grey eyes were horizontal. The V motif was picked up again by thickish brows rising outward from twin creases above a hooked nose, and his pale brown hair grew down—from high flat temples—in a point on his forehead. He looked rather pleasantly like a blond Satan.

Judge Holden, Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy
An enormous man dressed in an oilcloth slicker had entered the tent and removed his hat…He was bald as a stone and he had no trace of beard and he had no brows to his eyes nor lashes to them…He was close on to seven feet in height… His face was serene and strangely childlike…His hands were small.
Tess, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
She was a fine and handsome girl—not handsomer than some others, possibly—but her mobile peony mouth and large innocent eyes added eloquence to colour and shape… The pouted-up deep red mouth to which this syllable was native had hardly as yet settled into its definite shape, and her lower lip had a way of thrusting the middle of her top one upward, when they closed together after a word…Phases of her childhood lurked in her aspect still. As she walked along to-day, for all her bouncing handsome womanliness, you could sometimes see her twelfth year in her cheeks, or her ninth sparkling from her eyes…a thick cable of twisted dark hair hanging straight down her back to her waist.


  1. Ha! I have to say, that is NOT how I imagined Humbert Humbert.

    1. Agreed.

      And strangely enough, Edward Rochester is a dead ringer for the character of Anton Chigur in the movie version of No Country for Old Men.