I've been reading about people; their behavior, personality, accent. We are continually changing, continually improving ourselves. There is so much about us that we control, but how are influences involved?
Our parents have a role in influencing us, and our families and the places we are from. Our friends give us feedback and our teachers help us to learn new information. Our character is built around the things we learn from the world around us, but it is also influenced these days by media, particularly books.
As a first glance, this doesn't seem so bad. Having the inspiration of different authors with different points of view is great! We have a better understanding of others if we can accept their views and learn their ways. If a character is clever, hard working, kind, this can be a good influence on young people. This is generally the reason parents read bedtime stories with their children.
I recently read a story to my little cousins called 'Grunter: The Story Of A Pig With Attitude' and it was about a malicious, selfish and overbearing pig who was not popular with the other animals on the farm. In fact, they hated him so much that on his birthday they blew him into outer space with a stick of TNT! These sorts of books are very good for teaching small children the difference between good traits and bad traits, particularly since no child wants to explode on their birthday.
However, it is more difficult to find the bad traits in non-children's fiction. The boundaries aren't quite as clear in adult fiction, and to emulate some characters would be downright dangerous. For example, to follow the interests of a certain Christian Grey or the tyrannical President Snow of the Capitol would make for a difficult life in our society. Even valiant Robin Hood is a hazardous influence. He's become a symbol of modern justice, a snub to the ruling class and a celebration of independence and fair play, but he is still a liar and a thief.
Fictional characters out of novels and folktales can also be troubling. The vast popularity of the Frankenstein story may well have triggered scientific horrors such as human experiments and mutations within concentration camps and prisons. However, it also may have inspired such medical advances as organ transplants, cardiac defibrillation and reattachment of severed limbs, saving millions of lives.
In short, I feel that we our to each make our own decisions. With each novel I read I take in the character with a pinch of salt. If the author is not perfect, then how can his characters be? It is impossible not to be influenced by the goings on around us, but at the same time we should try to find the good rather than the bad in each aspect we build of ourselves.