Hateful Rich Characters Who Would Make Trump Proud

In this Trumpian time of many rich people acting even greedier than usual, there’s some solace in reading novels that depict wealthy characters as unsympathetically as they often deserve.

Heck, too many get rich partly through ruthlessness and selfishness, while those who inherit a fortune (like America’s despicable White House occupant) are frequently spoiled and entitled — with little compassion for people forced to struggle economically. There are exceptions, of course; some of the ultra-monied are decent human beings.

To top things off, a large percentage of America’s rich support tax cuts they don’t need — cuts that reduce funding for social services many of the non-rich do need.

You’ll find unadmirable characters with lots of loot in many novels — including the last two I’ve been reading. Elizabeth Berg’s excellent young-adult book Joy School features a supporting character named Taylor who makes tons of money as a teen model yet she shoplifts clothes and skips out of restaurants without paying the bill. Taylor — a “friend” of the novel’s likable protagonist Katie, who’s trying to adapt to a new town she and her problematic father moved to after the mother dies — thinks the proceeds of petty crime are her due. Which reminds me of how Trump and his administration’s other corrupt multimillionaires use our hard-earned tax money for golf expeditions, first-class plane travel, fancy office furniture, and more.

Then there’s Jennifer Ryan’s terrific novel The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, which I’m currently in the middle of reading. Set in World War II England, the book in its early pages introduces “upper-class tyrant” Brigadier Winthrop — a nasty womanizer, scary husband, and bad father loathed by everyone in the village of Chilbury, where he lives in a huge house. After losing his one male heir to the war, he actually offers to pay a woman to steal a baby boy and substitute it for his future newborn if his pregnant wife gives birth to a girl.

Other wealthy jerks include the ensemble of white-collar thugs who run the shady law firm in John Grisham’s thriller The Firm.

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre has the rich and oh-so-pious Mr. Brocklehurst, who skimps so drastically on his Lowood institution that the girls who live there are freezing, practically starving, and in a number of cases dying. (Pictured with this blog post are a young Jane and the hypocritically evil Mr. B.)

In George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, the stubborn, hot-tempered, mill-owning dad Mr. Tulliver is not totally bad but certainly not very sympathetic. For one thing, he treats his unlikable son Tom much better than his nicer, smarter daughter Maggie.

The ambitious, social-climbing Undine Spragg doesn’t start out rich in Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country, but she becomes monied through multiple marriages — and remains as not-nice as ever.

There’s also the ruthless, politically ambitious Richard Griffen — the older husband of narrator/protagonist Iris in Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin.

Trump would be proud to have all of the above characters in his cabinet.

I’ve obviously named just a few characters. Who are some of the despicable rich people you remember most in fiction?

My 2017 literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece is here.

69 thoughts on “Hateful Rich Characters Who Would Make Trump Proud

  1. James Steerforth in Dickens’ “David Copperfield” was written as rich, handsome, and charming, a natural leader, but also snobbish and amoral with a cruel streak. He is probably one of the most three dimensional of Dickens’ villains.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Some of the unsympathetic or villainous wealthy characters I have read about in novels include the Marquis St. Evremonde “A Tale of Two Cities”, Svidrigailov “Crime and Punishment”, Alec d’Urberville “Tess of the d’Urbervilles”, Gilbert Osmond “The Portrait of a Lady”, and Tom Buchanan “The Great Gatsby”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, robertawrites235681907! Very true that there are many decent/compassionate ultra-wealthy people amid the mean/selfish ones. Lady Diana is a GREAT example, as are “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling (who has donated huge amounts of money), rock star Bruce Springsteen, and the late actor Paul Newman, to name a few.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Corporate Life! Great mention! Yes, Bertie Wooster was relatively harmless — and kind of clueless, with the valet Jeeves being the brains of the household. P.G. Wodehouse’s stories and novels starring those two characters are absolutely hilarious!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I will offer my second UIC (Ultimate in Category) to this week’s blog, my first being the devil in Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger”, when the topic was new folk in town.

    UIC Dracula is Bram Stoker’s ancient count and feudal master of an equally ancient estate in the wilds of Transylvania, who holds nearby ethnics in cursed thrall, and most relevant to the week’s theme, is a confirmed vampire who eventually removes himself to fresher hunting grounds via a Russian freighter and the purchase of English real estate. The Count has arranged fifty boxes of his native soil to be distributed throughout properties he has purchased, so he will always have a place to sleep after a long night amongst the red-blooded, but is eventually found out for the fiend he is, escapes England and is finally killed after a chase involving Gypsies and knives.

    Sure, he killed Mina’s pal Lucy, drove Renfield deeper off the deep end, nearly converted Mina to his life of undeath, but really, it’s his wealth that sticks in one’s craw– after all, he had enough gelt stashed that he could afford fifty estates in London! And he hadn’t done a damn thing for it in hundreds of years…talk about a social parasite!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Count Dracula is a terrific addition to this topic, jhNY! A number of the rich are figuratively bloodsuckers, so why not a literal bloodsucker? 🙂

      I seem to also remember a hateful rich vampire or three in Anne Rice’s novels.

      The wording of your three paragraphs was bloody good reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Greetings from Lake Arrowhead in the Poconos. I will respond to your column once my internet connection is installed in a few days. I can’t type very well on these new-fangled gadgets that they are called “smart” though every time I try to type Irish Heep, they switch it to Irish, as you can see!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Kat Lib! Great that you finally moved! Hope everything goes well the next few days — including getting your Internet connection.

      LOL! I know you’re trying to write the Dickens character Uriah Heep. 🙂 Definitely not the pleasantest of fellows…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know her pain. i got the new model with a Frankie Lane spellcheck app. Now every time I write ‘wind’, it autocorrects and replaces the word with ‘Maria’.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi to all, I now have internet access with a local cable dealer, and am mostly done with the super huge cable companies that are just as rich and greedy as Trump. I’m keeping my cell phone number and email address with Verizon, which makes my life so much easier.

        So, I’m sitting at the desk in my master bedroom that has a picture window which has a vista of a portion of the lake, the spillway and the beginning of the babbling brook it flows into along the back of my property. I’m just so enthralled by it!

        I’ve been watching the news when I can, and it appears to me that Trump is getting more unhinged by the day. I don’t have much to add what others have posted, but I’ll check back in later…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yay for your new Internet access, Kat Lib! And I agree it’s better to use local companies whenever possible.

          Also wonderful that you’re finally, as a resident, enjoying your great window view! Nicely described. 🙂

          Trump seems to have various levels of unhinged. There’s basic unhinged, very unhinged, extremely unhinged, and downright bonkers. And he’s SO mean. As I mentioned in my local column, he makes Lord Voldemort seem like Mister Rogers…


          • I’m back at my desk now and it’s a “beautiful sunshiny-day.” The sun is shining on the water coming over the spillway and it looks like a row of diamonds flowing from the lake. Lovely!

            I still don’t have anyone else to offer on your column. I fear that there are so many people mired in the current administration that I’m on overload when it comes to current events and those who are perpetuating criminal acts or covering up for those folks whenever possible. When faced by that, it’s hard for me to focus on literary characters, though there have been undoubtedly a lot of them, noted by many of the commenters here!

            Liked by 2 people

            • What a terrific view you have, Kat Lib!

              Yes, the Trump administration is overwhelming. So much evil and corruption it’s almost impossible to concentrate on just some of the awfulness.

              Reading fiction, even fiction with in likable characters, is a needed escape for me. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

            • Dave, I wanted to start a new thread if possible, to thank you so much for giving me the link to the Louise Penny column. It was fascinating to read, though I think I knew some of this before. One of my sister’s friends took that tour of Quebec City mentioned in the article. It also turns out that my best friend, who is also named Louise, is a huge fan as well. It’s been fascinating watching Penny grow as an author from her first early novels to her later ones. And I adore her main characters, from the ones in the Surete, most notably Gamache (and his wife), as well as the inhabitants of Three Pines, especially the foul-mouthed poet who has a duck for a pet. I also noted that the dog appearing in the photo looks a lot like my Lilyan, except her dog has a lot longer fur than mine!

              Liked by 1 person

              • You’re very welcome, Kat Lib! Louise Penny does seem to have lived an interesting, not-easy life — with novel-writing success coming on the late side. I’ve only read one of her Gamache mysteries, but was very impressed.

                Yesterday was a Quebec sort of day — I went to a minor-league baseball game on the Montclair State University campus last night, and the opposing team was from…Quebec.

                Liked by 1 person

                • I’ve had a desire to visit Quebec ever since reading my first Louise Penny novel. Which is what authors probably always hope for. Bill and I spent this morning going to Perkins for breakfast and Walmart for shopping. Neither was a good idea on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, especially a rainy one, but there aren’t many choices up here. There are some mom-and-pop places here but few and far between. It seemed like the entire Pocono community was out and about this morning, so we were very happy to get back home. I’ve spent most of today trying to find places to put all my books, not an easy matter, but every time I can throw a cardboard box out onto the garage to be taken for recycling, it’s an immense satisfaction to me!

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Yes, when authors make readers want to visit a book’s setting, the writers have done a wonderful job!

                    I’ve been to Quebec City once and Montreal three times, but never visited the rural or small-town parts of the province. Did see the countryside while traveling between Montreal and Quebec City by train or bus (I’m forgetting which — it was a long time ago).

                    Unpacking and finding places to put things — not enviable tasks. Emptying a box — very satisfying indeed!

                    A shame your area doesn’t have lots of mom-and-pop stores — and sorry your neck of the woods was so busy this morning. Seems like half my town has went away for the holiday weekend.

                    Liked by 1 person

  5. Gouri in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Low Land. After her Husband was murdered when Gouri was pregnant, she travelled to America where her brother in law lived. Her daughter Bela was born, instead of loving the baby , Gouri abandoned Bela and went on to pursue her ambition and never looked back.
    Subash raised Bella’s as his own .
    Bela became a fine, powerful independent woman until one fine day Gourt showed up,at her doorstep.
    That encounter was the best part of the book.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I haven’t read the book but I understand the memorable movie ‘101 Dalmations’ was based on a book by Dodie Smith. The wealthy Cruella De Vil was so evil she would have even drowned her Persian cat if it hadn’t been so valuable. That is some mean!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Jane Austen has some rich characters who are not so much despicable as ridiculous —although some are pretty despicable. Henry Dashwood inherits his father’s estate and then turns his sisters and stepmother out, with vague promises to help them that somehow always morph into complaints about how poor he is.

    And then there are the characters of Dostoevsky.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Michele! Dickens is well-represented in today’s comments. 🙂

      Miss Havisham is definitely a bitter, eccentric character. And I agree that it’s hard to find anyone more despicable than Trump. He’s truly a disgusting person.


  8. Although I didn’t read them when they came out, shouldn’t we mention two books by the recently deceased Tom Wolfe, “Bonfire of the Vanities” and “A Man in Full”? Tell me if I’ve got that wrong, Dave.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Bill! I’m sure you’re not wrong, but I’ve never read either of those two Tom Wolfe books. (Though I’m sure the books’ jackets were as dapper as the author’s.)


  9. I was about to leave a response to your question, Dave — and then realized I’d misread it: I thought you were asking for names of people who became despicably rich writing fiction. Esp. despicable fiction… I’ll have to give my answer some more thought!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Second attempt:

    Charles Dickens loved to rake the rich over the coals in his novels. The most famous example, of course, is Ebenezer Scrooge, whose remark that the poor may as well die and ‘decrease the surplus population’ says about all you need to know about his upper 1% and satisfied with it attitude. Another Dickens character who is a soul brother to Scrooge is Mr. Podsnap, who appears intermittently throughout ‘Our Mutual Friend’. Podsnap goes even farther than Scrooge in refusing to even devote any thoughts to the existence of the poor. He simply does not admit it and finds the topic tiresome.

    On the other hand, there’s John Jarndyce in ‘Bleak House’. Yes, he is wealthy, but he willingly takes guardianship of the three children mentioned as beneficiaries in the Jarndyce will. He becomes an apologist for the history of insensitivity of his family, in a sense atoning for their sins.

    I’ve thought of Dickens and his attitude toward the poor and the workhouses a lot during this current Trump regime. Although hypocritical and insensitive to his own family, he took a much kinder view toward humanity in general that encompasses a more enlightened view than many in the current administration.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, whatcathyreadnext! A great villain with a great villain name!

      Dickens definitely created many memorably hateful characters — some redeemed (as in Scrooge) and some not (as in Bill Sikes of “Oliver Twist”).


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