Sometimes, we look to our friends to be better people. Since you probably just rang in the New Year watching all of your friends sing badly and injure themselves while intoxicated, maybe you’re looking for a role model who’s a little more respectable. Here’s a list of ten literary characters who can inspire us to be better people in the year 2019—as long as we emulate only their positive qualities. (Katniss Everdeen did kill dozens of people.)
1. Atticus Finch
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A more inspirational lawyer than most actual lawyers, Harper Lee‘s beloved character Atticus Finch is a role model in the poor Southern town of Maycomb during the Great Depression. He’s empathetic, forgiving, respectful, an excellent parent… and he puts everything on the line to defend a black man in court in the 1930s, even when the racists in town don’t understand why. His rigid commitment to what’s right has served as an inspiration for many practicing lawyers, and his commitment to his beliefs is particularly relevant in times of division, violence, and injustice. (Yes, we’re ignoring the fact that he becomes a crotchety old racist in Go Set a Watchman—as are all of the parents who named their kids after him.)
2. Hermione Granger
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Listen-Harry might be brave and bold, but he’s no Ravenclaw. We all know Hermione is smart and loyal, constantly staying all night in the library to get the goods for her friends. And we would never forget how socially aware she can be, standing up for the rights of house elves and shutting down slurs left and right. But you might’ve forgotten how she deals with snitches and bitches: when Cho Chang’s friend leaks the details of Dumbledore’s Army, Hermoine finds out it was her via the sign-up sheet’s enchanted paper. Anyone who betrays the trust of the group will have the word SNEAK appear across their face in boils—which honestly would leave a pretty gross scar. This 2019, let’s all learn from Hermione not to mess around.
3. Nancy Drew
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Some people never land their dream jobs. Some people do it when they’re sixteen years old. Nancy Drew is big time goals for a number of reasons, not the least of which the fact that she’s a female detective originally from the 1930s—not a time big on respecting girls or children. She also graduated high school at the age of sixteen, meaning she must have remained pretty focused despite catching criminals. She also had more hobbies than books written about her, which is pretty impressive given her multi-decade run. Nancy is hardly the only genius detective out there, but she’s never been accused of blazing it 24/7 (Shaggy from Scooby Doo) or injecting cocaine (Sherlock Holmes).
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So maybe Eloise is just a wildly overprivileged six-year-old who roller-skates down the hallways of the Plaza Hotel. Eloise is at once extremely wealthy and a child, meaning she doesn’t have to pay for anything and has no responsibilities. While it’s unlikely we’ll shirk off all debt in the year 2019 and eat solely hotel room service, there’s nothing wrong with childlike enthusiasm in adult circumstances. (But there is something wrong with pouring champagne down mail chutes.)
5. Lady Macbeth
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2019 should definitely not be the year you kill someone. (2018 also should not have been the year you killed someone, though we’d understand if you considered it.) But this is a year for going after your dreams will all the wrath of this Shakespearean heroine. Want a better job? Get one! Want a healthier relationship? You go! Want the King of Scotland dead? You know what to do.
6. Jay Gatsby
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Maybe he does end up dead in a swimming pool. But listen—have you ever wanted something so badly you moved across the country, changed your name, broke the law, and became a mysterious billionaire celebrity to almost get it? This year, go after your goals with all the obsession and straight-up panache of Jay Gatsby. Just do your best not to be an accomplice to a hit-and-run.
7. Samwise Gamgee
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Following a year of political unpleasantness (and likely entering another year of political unpleasantness), let’s all take inspiration from a loyal friend who has never done anything wrong. If Lord of the Rings‘ Samwise Gamgee can become the only person to ever willingly give up the Ring, you can probably, like, eat a salad every now and then.
8. Janie Crawford
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Zora Neale Hurston‘s Their Eyes Were Watching God details the life story of Janie Crawford, who escapes abusive and unsatisfying relationships to find love, respect, freedom, and financial independence. (Goals!) Janie Crawford rejects her role as the trophy wife of a violent husband to run far away with a kindhearted drifter. (Oh, and when her abusive husband dies, she gets all his money.) Enduring onslaughts of both nature and man, Janie survives a hurricane to become a stronger person and returns to her hometown in possession of a fascinating, well-lived life. While it would be best not to almost drown, be put on trial for murder, and have multiple of your loved ones die this 2019, we can (probably) become better versions of ourselves without the terrible bits.
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In Alice Walker‘s The Color Purple, Sofia defies gender roles and existing power struggles with her physical and mental strength. Is your goal for 2019 to work out? Maybe you’ll get so jacked you can punch abusers. Sofia’s physical strength allows her to take over as the head of the household, performing labor traditionally reserved for men, and negate her husband’s attempts at physical control. Not only can Sofia defy those in her life who want to hurt her, but she can also leave them. It’s never too early in the year to cut toxic people from your life—just don’t get arrested while doing it.
10. Katniss Everdeen
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If you’ve ever wanted to change the world, then guess what? Real life is a dystopia, and what you do in your day-to-day existence is probably exactly what you’d do as a fictional character. If you’d rather be a hero, try considering the ways in which you can better the world without killing dozens of children.