Top Ten Tuesday: Jerks In Literature

Top Ten Tuesday

TTT is by The Broke and the Bookish. Gotta say, I am having fun picking stuff from their list of past TTT topics!


Mostly I try to forget jerks as soon as possible. However, here are a few memorable awful people. I take jerks to mean a mundane level of evil or asocial behaviour. Real villains, the cackling, black-cape-cad types are another thing, in my opinion.

[Edit: I meant black-cape-clad. But cad is true too.]

I find it interesting that “jerk” is one of the relatively few common male-specific insults in the English language. “Jerk” can be leveled at a woman, but is much more likely to be directed at a man. Anyway. Here are the jerks:

Oh. Spoiler alert, obviously.

  1. Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. No list of jerks is complete without Mr Collins, who is pretty much the antithesis of everything women (or at least I) admire in males. Mr. Collins is condescending, conceited, foolish, blustering, falsely humble, “obsequious” (ch. 15), insensitive, fumbling, unforgiving, irritating… I will refrain from continuing on so unpleasant a subject as Mr. Collins’s character. I will also refrain from mentioning Mr. Wickham, who is likewise a jerk, and, unfortunately, adds to his jerkishness by being adept at concealing it. Mr. Collins’s nature is as an unpleasant stink; Mr. Wickham’s, an unpleasant slime.
  2. St. John Rivers from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. A cold-hearted, manipulative, calculating man, Mr. Rivers profanes not only love but the God whom he claims to serve. Happily, he meets his just deserts by dying after ten years in India. Hooray for the Indian climate! Would that he had proven less hardy and succumbed sooner.
  3. Cousin Ivo and Sir Egin from Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell. A wonderful book.
  4. Timos IX from Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones. Also Mervin Thurless (megalomaniac), Kornelius Punt (voyeur) and Tansy-Ann Fisk (has a wet blanket for a soul, and will make yours just the same). Of course the book has more nasties, but those ones go beyond jerk to certifiably insane and power-mad-psychopaths.


I like Janet’s description. I’m going with that.

  1. Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter: Man, what a jerk. I used to adore his character when I was reading the series but the more I think about the more I dislike him. Manipulative behaviour in parental figures/figures of authority is a horrid thing.
  2. Jace Whatshisface from The Mortal Instruments: Do not get me started on this guy. He may be tolerable by the last book, but that just means he stepped down from being super-annoying to being just annoying.
  3. Enzo Valenciano from The Young Elites: I know he’s presented as a love interest (as is Jace), but Enzo manages to be straight-up creepy without being a villain. It’s rather, uh, unique.
  4. Alan Ryves from The Demon’s Lexicon: Another Dumbledore-type figure. He’s a charming, kind, conman. He ends up using the people who love and trust him most and even though he does it for the “greater good”, it still makes him a jerk IMO.
  5. Ronan Lynch from The Raven Cycle: Possibly the only jerk character that doesn’t creep me out, despite being the one who’s most openly hostile? Hmm. I think I should mention Adam Parrish here, who is also a jerk but for different reasons …


Jerks eh? Hm… It’s hard to think of specifics, I always have a hard time. Top Ten Tuesday you are difficult! I’ve read too many books to pinpoint stuff! I’m terrible with names.

*ahem* I’m done ranting.

Let me think…

  1. Saruman from LOTR. Obviously, this guy is playing both sides for a long time. He plays minds games and undermines the good guys but in passive aggressive ways (well, until the battle at Helm’s Deep, but that’s besides the point!). He attacks poor hobbits, and when it comes down to it he is really quite spineless. He’s a jerk.
  2. Wickham from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice – who doesn’t hate this jerk? He woos young girls for their money and then scarpers off. Slimy, gross, sissy jerk.
  3. That awful racist guy from To Kill a Mockingbird, Bob Ewell. This guy hits kids, scares kids, lies under oath because he’s a racist piece of crap – and there is no guilt! I think, perhaps, he is more than a jerk, but I remember him right now and so he makes the list.
  4. Gale from The Hunger Games. I never liked this guy, and I think it’s because he’s a bit of a plot device. In fact, most jerks in fiction are plot devices but Gale feels very contrived and obviously not the hero for Katniss (particularly with the whole Mockingjay ending implications). Anyway, he’s a jerk, but is it really his fault?
  5. Prince Humperdink from both the movie and the book The Princess Bride. The duke character is a pure evil villain, but the prince, well, he’s just a jerk. He wants to marry this lowborn girl and have her murdered to start a war so that he, what, won’t be bored? Jerkwad.


Er…. I agree with Steph. This is haarrrrrd. But I shall rally.

  1. Mrs. Umbridge from Harry Potter.
    It’s not that she’s not evil because she most certainly definitely is but her level of evilness is one that’s like a gnat in your brain. Bzzzzzzing away and I wanted to choke her so many times during my reading that I just…yeah.
  2. The boyfriend in Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson. Oh my gosh, he was the jerkiest jerk in all of jerkdom. I can’t give much away because I’d spoil the book and I want people to read it but ugh. He wins all the awards for Worst Boyfriend Ever. All of them.
  3. The ghost groom in The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. He was creepy and refused to understand how a little thing like death could stand in the way of the fulfillment of his lust. *shudder*
  4. Mrs. Dell from Copper Magic by Julia Mary Gibson. Her racist ways turned my stomach.
  5. Flora’s mother in Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. I will not forgive her actions towards Ulysses any time soon though the book may have. Nope.

17 responses to “Top Ten Tuesday: Jerks In Literature

  1. I don’t really think of Dumbledore as a jerk, he was trying to right a wrong he thinks he created. It must have been hard for him to care about Harry and know he was sentencing him to death. I think if he could have done it without Harry’s help he would of, he did true but circumstances made sure he couldn’t. Nice post :)

  2. Where is Scarlet O’Hara on this list? She manipulates people to get what she wants. She married Charles Hamilton to get back at Ashley. Stole her second husband from her sister to save Tara. Was unfaithful to her third husband.

  3. Umbridge, Saruman, and Wickham are definitely jerks. Mr. Collins and Gale? Really? One is socially inept and the other had a bad case of the wrong place at the wrong time. Back to Umbridge…it frustrated me that she never got what she deserved. Voldy dies an embarassing death at the hands of our hero, even Bellatrix has a delicious death by Mrs. Weasley, but Umbridge? She just gets to walk away.

    • I agree that Umbridge deserves a lot worse than she gets. In my books, she’s a straight-up villain as much as Voldemort and Bellatrix. Malicious, sadistic monsters, all three. (*shudder* Mad-Eye’s eye in her office door.)
      Mr. Collins is socially inept, but his flaws go deeper than surface-level awkwardness. He walks into the Bennets’ house, decides he gets to choose which girl to marry, picks the prettiest, is told ‘hands off’, picks the next prettiest, is an asinine creep, and doesn’t listen when she repeatedly tells him no. He, like Wickham, is completely self-centred and self-serving. Plus, he’s annoying as all get-out. :)

      • Umbridge is the worst kind of villain; a bureaucrat zealously pursuing their duties, no matter how odious, because doing what they are told is right and proper regardless of any external morality.

        • I think you’re too kind to Umbridge. I don’t think she’s a zealous bureaucrat (*cough*Percy Weasley*cough*), I think she uses the bureaucratic system to gain power for herself. Look at the ease with which she soars in the Ministry when Voldemort took over. She’s not a Death Eater because she lacks devotion to Voldy and the pureblood ideology; she’s worse. Umbridge sees a way to power and pursues it ruthlessly. She just happens to see the system as a tool that can be used to further her ends, rather than an impediment. It’s not that she pursues her duties, it’s that she invents them to gain control over other people. She uses Fudge, then Scrimgeour, and is perfectly comfortable under Voldemort because they were willing to give her absolute authority over other people. If Voldy had been offed by someone, she would have joined the victor so long as doing so meant she retained (legitimate) authority.

  4. Jace Whathisface… excellent description. Honestly, he changes his surname so much he’s just Jace Idontbelongtoanyfamily. Although families are apparently very important among the nephilim. Anyway, I kind of like the idea of character like him but I don’t particularly like him. I must say he’s funny. He got hell load of sass. But that’s with his worthwhile characters. I get the impression although he does not try to show it, he is much to clingy and vulnerable. He is probably the most vulnerable of them all and still believes he’s God’s Gift to Earth. Sometimes I have the feeling he’s just in the series for comic relief. I find Simon much worse though.

    • Ha! Thanks for the lovely comment! Oh, Jace Whathisface. Or, as Magnus puts it, Trace Wayland. I was only poking fun at his melodramatic identity crisis (crises?)– he’s a Herondale through and through. See, I like all the developments he makes … but for me, they are not as compelling as Simon’s. I guess we’ll just have to disagree there. As for his snark, I dislike that his snark hurts people whereas snark by people like Magnus Bane raises awareness and is intelligently done. I guess Jace has a lot of growing up to do … and I’m not as patient a reader as I’d like to be. ^_^

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s