One's cultural experiences are often as vivid as one's 'real' life. I can remember seeing the Death Star explode, the seats in the theater (Swagath in Bangalore) creaking, popcorn and Thums-up. I can remember wiping away a tear when Oy, the billy-bumbler is killed when fighting Mordred Deschain in The Dark Tower. Musical memories resonate through one when a chord of a familiar song plays on the radio - "Fever" reminds one of a desolate night when one realized the fragility of young romance, You Look Wonderful Tonight has a celebratory tinge of a new year's dawn.
Some characters become part of our lives while we experience their virtual lives, and live on after their fictive universe is snuffed, or they themselves are. Here's my subjective list of my favorite dead (fictional) characters:
- Captain Ahab from Moby-Dick: Although I'd personally identify more with Ishmael than the idealistic Captain Ahab, he survives the fatal chase, and thence must be considered immortal in the fictiverse of the novel. Captain Ahab, on the other hand, has a glorious and 'clear spirit', and an engulfing end that is in line with his life's mission to be at one with the whale and the sea. "Some men die at ebb tide; some at low water; some at the full of the flood; — and I feel now like a billow that's all one crested comb, Starbuck. I am old; — shake hands with me, man."
- Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker: From Ahab's rigidity of character to Anakin's vacillation and need to find identity might be a galactic leap, yet there is much in common between them - Lord Vader's senseless cruelty even after losing the object of his original quest can be contrasted with Ahab's determination to persevere after an unattainable goal. They differ in one significant aspect - Vader is redeemed before his end, and steps back from the brink of the abyss. I can watch the series end to end a gazillion times before I die, and probably will.
- Kenny from South Park: "But Kenny dies all the time!" - South Park has, for all it's sophomoric humor, succeeded in going places and exploring facets of society that more genteel cultural creations shy away from. Kenny's ritualistic death may seem senseless, but is often the catharsis for deriving the true moral of the story, whether it is the Schiavo-like near-death of Best Friends Forever or the post-9/11 "Osama Bin Laden Has Farty Pants" which expressed the traditional requiem somewhat differently as "Oh Allah!, Koshtand Keyvan o!"
- Neo, or Thomas Anderson: The Christ of programmers, the avenging angel who rescues the world from the machines, Neo is an archetypal hero; in his final act, he obtains the trade-off that those who achieve awareness shall be free of The Matrix.
- Sherlock Holmes: The Master presents a special problem to the Holmesian aficionado. His death is never explicitly stated, thus, in the fictiverse, he lives on forever. At the same time, the Final Problem saw his apparent demise, and he was never quite the same after, and may indeed have been a different person. His personality, from his analytical, modus ponens approach to problem-solving, to his fastidiousness have made him a memorable person, and to me, a critical role model.
I made every disposition of my property before leaving England and handed it to my brother Mycroft. Pray give my greetings to Mrs. Watson, and believe me to be, my dear fellow
Minor exegesis: numerous characters are resurrected by the force of the narrative - Kenny, Superman, Mr Spock... one shall refrain from choosing other characters that are undead in this manner.