Inspired by my recent What Should I Read Next? episode with Enneagram expert Ian Morgan Cron, today I’m combining two of my favorite things: reading and personality theory.
In that episode, Ian and I discussed the Enneagram types of our favorite fictional characters and real life authors. If you’re an Enneagram fan, you’re going to want to listen to that episode (and I’ve put a play button right here to make it easy). This companion post lists all the types—and our corresponding book, movie, and author picks—in one place for easy reference.
When you’re trying to pin down your Enneagram type, it’s helpful to see what the types look like in action—in real (or fictional) lives. Seeing which characters embody the various types helps you better understand the Enneagram and yourself.
It’s not easy to type fictional characters, because the text usually provides incomplete information. And it’s even harder to type actual humans, because no one can truly know your Enneagram type but you. But this list is a good beginning: these characters offer clues to the nature of our own lives.
For further exploration, Ian and I both wrote books all about personality: In my book Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, I discuss seven of my favorite personality frameworks, the difference they’ve made in my own life, and how you can put them to work in yours. Ian’s book The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery with his co-writer Suzanne Stabile is—you guessed it—all about the Enneagram.
The type descriptions below are adapted from my book Reading People.
Type 1 – “the Perfectionist”
Ones have high standards for themselves and others and a strong sense of right and wrong. Healthy Ones are conscientious, discerning, and strive to make things better in appropriate ways. Unhealthy ones are likely to be critical, resentful, inflexible, and repress their anger until they explode. Ones naturally seek to gain love by doing things perfectly.
Ones are abundant in fiction:
• Inspector Javert in Les Miserables exemplifies an unhealthy One—rigid, bound by law, driven to do things right, as opposed to doing the right thing.
• Colonel Brandon in Sense & Sensibility portrays a healthy One (who, unlike Javert, feels driven to do the right thing—although an argument could be made for Type Four).
• Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird is another healthy One: reliable, principled, and takes the moral high ground with humility.
Authors who exemplify One traits: George Bernard Shaw, Twyla Tharp, Henry David Thoreau, Noam Chomsky.
Type 2 – “the Helper”
Twos are caring and helpful, and inclined to gain love by being indispensable. It’s easy for women to mistype themselves as Twos because they’re socialized that way; mothers of young children are especially liable to make this mistake because helping their children is such a big part of their lives in this stage. Unhealthy Twos repress their own needs to tend to the needs of others, but at their best, Twos delight in appropriately caring for others and loving them unconditionally.
• Sam Gamgee of Lord of the Rings (who Ian says is arguably the real hero in that series): he believes in Frodo, supports him on his journey, props him up when necessary, and never loses hope in him.
• Scarlett O’Hara of Gone With the Wind portrays an unhealthy Two: coquettish, perpetually childish, and feels entitled to be loved.
Authors who exemplify Two traits: Betty Friedan, Eleanor Roosevelt, Dolly Parton.
Type 3 – “the Achiever”
Threes are ambitious, achievement-oriented types who put their energy into getting things done. They are competitive and image-conscious. Unhealthy Threes, driven by a strong need to be recognized, will take these qualities to the extreme. Healthy Threes can strive to perform well without tying their self-image to the results. Threes naturally seek to gain love by being successful.
Compulsive need to succeed/avoid failure/give appearance of success/chameleon
• Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby exemplifies an unhealthy Three, with his compulsive need to succeed, project a successful image, and avoid failure (or its appearance).
• The ruthless corporate raider Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street also embodies an unhealthy Three, with his credo “greed is good.”
Authors: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Truman Capote.
Type 4 – “the individualist”
Ian Cron calls this the most complicated number on the Enneagram. Fours often focus on what’s missing from their lives—or what they’re missing out on—instead of what they actually have now, in the present. They long to be seen as special and unique. At their best, Fours are idealistic, empathetic, and highly creative, but when unhealthy, they verge into self-pity and despondency and can’t stop longing for what they feel is missing.
Fours are abundant and obvious in fiction:
• In Sense and Sensibility, Marianne Dashwood is emotional and impulsive, finds it unbearable not to speak what she feels, and shows no moderation in her joy or sorrows.
• Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables also highlights the Four as a “tragic romantic,” who likes to soar up on the things of anticipation, knowing she’ll return to earth with a thud (a stark contrast to Marilla, who prefers “to walk steadily along.” Fans will recognize this line, which has “Four” written all over it: “In the end I suppose it was a tragic way to perish … for a mouse.”
• In Wuthering Heights, Catherine & Heathcliff’s relationship has Type Four dynamics. (Ian discusses this in The Road Back to You.)
So many authors are Fours, to whom the heart space comes naturally: Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Tennessee Williams, Maurice Sendak, Dostoevsky, Shusako Endo, David Foster Wallace (who may possibly be a Five).
Type 5 – “the Investigator”
More than any other type, Fives want to live in their minds, where they store up knowledge so they can competently face any challenge. They are brilliant analysts and intellectuals, driven to be independent and self-sufficient. At their best, they are perceptive and open-minded visionaries, brilliant trailblazers who seem to notice and understand everything and know what action to take in response. But when unhealthy, they wall themselves off from others entirely, sunk by feelings of inadequacy.
Appearance of aloofness, sometimes loners, profound need to know/understand/often about niche subjects
• Any type can be intelligent, but Fives live in their minds: Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes is exceptionally intelligent, knows it, and is proud of it. (Watson’s Loyalist Six makes an excellent foil to Holme’s Five.)
• P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves in Jeeves and Wooster is known for his aloof manner, wry sense of humor, and skill at disentangling Wooster from whatever muddle he’s gotten himself into. (Ian: “England is very much a five country.”)
• Casaubon in Middlemarch portrays an unhealthy Five: he’s a reclusive scholar who locks himself in his room to work on his great work, which his young bride Dorothea quickly discovers is a sham. He merely piddles, and it angers him.
• Kirsten Raymonde in Station Eleven embodies Five traits: she has a cool eye for assessing dangerous, quickly perceives the realities of any situation, and shows great independence in her actions and relationships. When unhealthy, she abandons relationships out of boredom. When healthy, her vision is powerful (note her tattoo: “Because survival is insufficient.”)
Fives make great novelists (while Fours are in the heart space, Fives brilliantly capture the head space): Agatha Christie, Ian McEwan, Stephen King, Arthur Conan Doyle, Emily Dickinson.
Type 6: “the Loyalist”
According to Richard Rohr, a full half of the population may be Sixes. Because they are prone to view the world as a dangerously unpredictable place and focus on what could go wrong, these cautious types crave security, and are thinkers and planners. At their best, Sixes are responsible, loyal, and trustworthy, but unhealthy Sixes disproportionately perceive the negatives in any situation and doubt themselves excessively.
• Bilbo Baggins in Lord of the Rings does NOT want to go on an adventure; he wants to drink tea and eat elevenses.
• Ian notes that C3PO in Star Wars is “the only robot who wrings his hands” (ha!), and is constantly proclaiming everyone is doomed.
When Sixes are healthy, they’re they’re wildly funny—and this is evident in the work of Six authors. In her memoirs, Anne Lamott leverage her self-awareness to write about the things that make us all anxious, amping up her observations just enough so they become absurd—and hilarious. David Sedaris (who could also be a Seven, or even an Eight) and Nora Ephron also do this well.
Type 7 – “the Enthusiast”
Sevens are gluttons for the good stuff of life, whether that’s interesting ideas or exciting experiences. They want to experience life to its fullest, so they throw themselves into everything they do, which is why this type is sometimes called the Enthusiast. While healthy Sevens do this in a positive fashion, unhealthy Sevens seek these experiences to numb their pain or distract themselves from the unpleasant aspects of life.
• Peter Pan doesn’t want to grow up, is all about the adventure, and rationalizes as an important defense mechanism. (This is especially evident when facing danger; he reframes in order to stay happy. For instance, “death will be the greatest adventure of all.”
• Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice is another unhealthy Seven familiar to many readers—her pursuit of pleasure lands herself and all her relations in heaps of trouble.
Authors: Oscar Wilde, Douglas Adams, Shauna Niequist.
Type 8 – “the Challenger”
Eights are powerful, dominating types who aren’t afraid to assert themselves; they downright fear being weak or powerless because they’re under someone else’s control. Healthy Eights can be effective crusaders for the causes they believe in, but left unchecked, this same underlying quality can make them aggressive and power-hungry.
Motivation: assert power and strength over the environment, deny weakness, blunt, aggressive energy, combative, dominant, unhealthy: mafia; unconcerned with keeping the peace, no editing, entertaining but intimidating, big personalities, take up a lot of room, fancy themselves as straight-shooters, direct, nose-to-nose types
• Jo March in Little Women chafes at social conventions, rebels at being limited because she’s female, and champions what she thinks is right.
Authors: Toni Morrison, Terry McMillan, Angie Thomas. Ian noted that You Think It, I’ll Say It, the new book from Curtis Sittenfeld, has a very “Eight” title.
Type 9 – “the Peacemakers”
Nines devote their energy to maintaining harmony, both internally and externally. At their best, Nines are true peacemakers, but unhealthy Nines would rather ignore conflict than deal with it. Nines automatically seek to gain love by blending in—substituting others’ needs and priorities for their own—instead of trusting they’ll be accepted and appreciated for who they are. Nines are perched at the top of the Enneagram because they can easily see all the types, and imagine what it would be like to be one.
• Jayber Crow in the Wendell Berry novel that bears his name, for the choices he makes late in the book. (It’s one of my favorites—read it!)
• Crossing to Safety is a very “Nine” novel—for the relationships the couples have, the reflectiveness of the story, and the small-scale conflict (as Ian says, “It’s about tea bags”).
• Dorothea in Middlemarch idealistic dreams lead her into trouble early in the novel. Her early unhealthy Nine-ness is evident in the way she fuses with her unloving husband’s life program, yet she slowly comes to perceive and take ownership of her own desires, as a healthy Nine should.
Novelists and songwriters are often Nines, because they have the uncanny gift of being able to see the world through anyone’s eyes, and can tell a story from any perspective. Authors: Jane Austen, Garrison Keillor
For further reading: My favorite personality books, concrete changes I’ve made because of MBTI and Enneagram insights, and what self-care looks like for me right now. And of course, my book Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything and The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile.
You may also enjoy: The perfect summer reading for every Myers-Briggs personality type.