Books with extremely unlikable protagonists

What are some popular books that feature a protagonist you route for and want to succeed, but can’t stand?

Some that come to mind:

Gone With the Wind- Scarlett is an extremely admirable heroine in terms of strength (of will and physical), work ethic, survival instinct, intelligence, etc., but absolutely despicable in her total selfishness and the way she uses other people (all three husbands, Mammy, her father, etc.) without regard for what it may cost them.

Confederacy of Dunces- Ignatius is perhaps the funniest character in American literature but also one of the least likable: lazy, pompous, egomaniacal, a pathological liar, completely unconcerned with the feelings of others, etc… Strangely, it only helps the book.

Maus/Maus II- Spiegelman’s father is one of the most miserable human beings ever depicted as the main character in a novel, graphic or otherwise. Even his son states that he personifies every negative stereotype of Jews (stingy, racist, selfish, callous, etc.), and his second-wife points out when some blame his personality on surviving Auschwitz that she and several of her friends also survived it and they aren’t like that.

The Shining- the protagonist is an alcholic self-indulgent author who has nearly destroyed his family.

Crime and Punishment Raskolnikov. Hate him. I’m always thinking “Dude, get a job!”

Thomas Covenant from Stephen Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant Series is a total prat. When I read the books I wanted to smack him upside the head. Repeatedly.

On the other hand, Harry Flashman from George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman Series is a liar, coward and a cad (to put it mildly), and yet somehow (probably because he’s honest about it) comes across as likeable.

Victor from Choke (Chuck Palahniuk)

I sympathize with your hardship Vic (Dead end job, mother with Alzheimer’s, etc.), but you, sir, are a pathetic scam artist! … And extremely unlikable!

Great book, however


Trevanian specializes in them:

Shibumi: Nicolai Hel is an retired international assassin, who divides his off-time between spelunking and wondering aloud why everyone else in the universe is stupider than he is. He keeps running into trouble, because it turns out he’s not quite as smart as he thinks he is.

The Eiger Sanction and The Loo Sanction: John Hemlock is a college professor by day, international assassin (beginning to see the pattern?) by every other day. Trevanian tries his best to make the character compelling, but when you get past all the I’m-too-smart-for-ordinary-societal-restrictions bullshit, what you’ve got is an arrogant sociopath with good taste in art.

Alex in Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange is #1.

I imagine that a lot of people would find Ayn Rand’s heroes to be quite insufferable- Roark & Dominique in THE FOUNTAINHEAD, and Galt, Dagny, Francisco & the whole bunch in ATLAS SHRUGGED.

Of course, Ayn would say that would only reflect of those people’s irrationalism & moral depravity! :smiley:

Oooh, I forgot The Summer of Katya. I don’t want to post too much about the book, in case someone would want to read it for whatever reason, but long story short? Katya’s a loon.

Maybe I was too old when I read it (18 or 19), but I hated Holden Caufield. I like the book and I love Salinger, but Holden was such a punk.

I never really warmed up to the title character in Arrowsmith. Martin was an impulsive, prima donna jerk who wanted what he wanted and screw everyone else’s feelings. I always thought the book should have been titled Gottleib.

Ghaah. Three of my top choices have already been tossed out–Thomas Covenant, Raskolnikov, and me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our–
I’d add in:

Othello, Othello
Interview With the Vampire, Lestat d’Lioncourt
1984, Winston Smith
Imajica (Clive Barker), John Furie Zacharias
The Stealer of Souls, et al., Elric of Melnibone

I can’t totally remember, but I am pretty sure I wanted Heathcliffe from Wuthering Heights to grow a pair or two every so often. I may be confusing him with Cathy or Hector, though.

Lolita Humbert Humbert, what is dislike about him is that I like him.

A second vote for Holden Caulfield. I couldn’t stand him. He was such an irritating character that I never managed to finish the book.

Another vote for Thomas Covenant. I was given a set of the first three books and spent so much time hoping the worthless git would get killed or badly maimed while slogging through the first one that I never bothered with the rest of the series.

Probably. Heathcliffe had a pair or five on him.

Filker Tom Smith likes to describe the “Thomas Covenant Model” of writing skiffy series:

Book One: Everything turns to shit.
Book Two: Everything is shit.
Book Three: We install plumbing.
Book Four: The plumbing backs up.
Book Five: The house overflows.
Book Six: We save the house, but the plumber drowns.
To be perfectly fair, the series is all about redemption, and I always get a little misty at the end of White Gold Wielder. But the fucker drives me nuts for six books until we get there.

A few steps down from the “A”-list books…anyone else ever read Turtledove’s Household Gods? I’m sure the heroine,
Nicole Gunther-Perrin, is like that on purpose, but still…yeeesch. Reading her was like chewing on a gravel chiclet.

A “]”! A “]”! My kingdom for a “]”! :smack:

It has been nearly forty years since I read Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge, but I can still remember how much I disliked the title character.

I haven’t read** American Psycho**, but in the movie, Patrick Bateman is really hard to like at all. From what I’ve read, the movie makes him a little more sympathic by dropping almost all of his racism(so now he’s just a shallow, canabalistic murderer and pervert(who tried to kill a kitten and did kill 40 other people)).

Though I don’t think you’re supposed to like him.

Dante in Clerks really starts to grate on you after a while, since he spends almost the entire movie whining.