Comment of the Day: Sokrates as Mary Sue: "I don’t think every wish-fulfillment character is a Mary Sue...:
...I think it’s limited to an adolescent character who finds her/himself in a strange and challenging situation, where he/she conquers all adversity and is the object of adoration by all around her.
Horatio Hornblower, for example, is no Mary Sue. He’s poor, skinny, moderately ugly, oddly named, cripplingly shy, lonely, tone-deaf and without rhythm (at a time when dancing was a crucial social skill), prone to seasickness (!), and plagued to the point of agony by class insecurity. But he’s got a physical courage that is a sort of fatalism, mathematical ability (he’s superb at navigation and at cards), strong logical reasoning, and a modesty born of self-doubt that saves him from the tyrannical sadism then common among naval officers.
I suppose nerdy boys might find HH to be a wish-fulfillment character in the sense that he is a man with the flaws of a nerdy boy who eventually succeeds brilliantly. But no one would want to be Horatio Hornblower if they had a choice.
Unlike, say, John Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. You could administer a revealing psychological test by asking, who you would rather be, Aubrey or Maturin?