Books, stories, etc, where the author doesn't seem to like the protagonist?

I finished reading Robin Hobbs Fools Errand, and remembered how hard she was on the protagonist in the original Assassin trilogy. In the third book I just about put it down near the end since she seemed to get some sort of weird delight out of having even worse things happen to Fitz (the hero).

About the time that the women that was planning on marrying took up with the guy that was his mentor and was old enough to be his grandfather was about the time I thought it got a bit ridiculous in it’s punishment of Fitz.

So I was wondering if there’s been any other books (or movies) where it seemed that the author really had it in for the hero, deserved or not?

Well, in anything Tim Powers writes, his heros get thoroughly thrashed. I pretty much gave up on him after “The Stress of Her Regard”.

Mercedes Lackey, while not actually seeming to dislike her protagonists, seems to take an unseemly delight in making horrible things happen to them physically, mentally, emotionally, and magically. I’m all for that classic component of fiction, conflict, but the poor folk of Valdemar and environs seem to get tortured by fate and the villain on a regular basis.

Alistair Maclean likes to show his protagonists triumphing over adversity, and gives them lots of adversity for them to triumph over. The worst one I’ve read was The Satan Bug, whose hero is scarred and half-blinded from a poison gas attack, then has his foot run over by a tank … before the book even starts. It makes the dramatic conflicts so much more tense (IIRC, the penultimate battle has him facing a knife-wielding sadistic killer in hand-to-hand combat, while unarmed, injured, and balancing on a metal girder fifty feet above some railway tracks. In the dark, of course.)

Orson Scott Card does a great job of making his characters (some of them) seem ‘non-heroic’. They can be petty and jealous and short-sighted. I’ve actually been made uncomfortable reading his work in the past.

That’s part of what makes him good at what he does.

I think Bret Easton Ellis is pretty much the master of the despicable protagonist.

The author of the original Pinocchio, one C. Collodi, would seem to qualify.

I gotta agree, here, and was going to chime in about OSC myself. I’m reading Lost Boys right now and it seems that, while he may not hate them, he’s certainly not above giving his protagonists serious faults.

[The dad in particular in LB really annoys me. I don’t know if it’s how OSC wrote him or if he’d just annoy me anyway, but he does.]

John Fowles

I have not read all his work, but in almost all his stories I have read – The Magus, A Maggot, The Collector, The Ebony Tower, etc. – he doesn’t really seem to like the protagonists, who are usually the narrators. Daniel Martin is one of the few exceptions I can think of, and even then…

Another author terribly hard on his characters was Kingsley Amis.

I always got the impression that Jane Austen didn’t like Emma much. But y’know, that’s kinda the point.

gex gex:

Likewise, Theodore Dreiser with Sister Carrie. While Carrie does grow as a character throughout the novel, it’s a negative growth. She goes from a relatively innocent girl looking for a husband to a demanding shallow shrew who’s ruined at least one man.

Damn, I forgot how much that book depressed me…

The tales of Thomas Covenant.

Mercedes Lackey and Anne McCaffrey share a common plot device:

Male Protagonist: She must never find out how much I love her.
Female Protagonist: He must never find out how much I love him.
They find out.
In the meantime, there’s beaucoup teen angst, often being experienced by people way too old to be going through that kind of crap.

Vonnegut frequently makes his characters disgusting in one or more ways. E.g., “Breakfast of Champions” is all about the bad internal chemicals inside the characters which makes them all seem quite pathetic. Kilgore Trout is basically the only one that doesn’t come off too bad: externally disgusting but without much bad apparently going on inside. Note that Vonnegut appears in the book as narrator and minor character, so it applies to him as well. Events such as his mother’s suicide by Drano and being at Dresden when it was firebombed could explain why he doesn’t think highly of humans.

George R R Martin seems to take a gleeful delight in doing horrendous things to his characters (at least in his Game of Thrones series). I’d say there’s one character he doesn’t seem to hate…but he probably has something extra special in store for her.

Confederacy of the Dunces by John Kennedy O’Toole (?) - the protagonist is the most disgusting, arrogant, loser snob you’ve ever met in fiction. The author committed suicide - I think the book expresses his self-image.

Money by Martin Amis - I didn’t make it through this one. It seemed the author said “Why don’t I write a book about a completely unlikable character?” At least Confederacy of the Dunces was funny.

Oh no no! You just hit one of my hot buttons!:wink: Austen said about Emma (paraphrasing): “I’m afraid I’ve just written a character whom no one will like but me.” I love Emma, despite all her faults–she’s young and foolish but she has what it takes to grow up to be intelligent and thoughtful.

Anyway, Emma Bovary (literature’s other big Emma) from Madame Bovary is really detested by Flaubert–she has no redeeming qualities. It might not be her fault, but neither we nor the author are supposed to like her (IMHO, of course).

Well, yeah, I do recall reading that quote. And I actually like Emma somewhat, too, for the reasons you say.

Looks like Austen was wrong!

Meanwhile, I thoroughly despise Elizabeth Bennett, despite what everyone else seems to think.