* AngstWhatAngst: Leonard Stecyk is a remarkably happy and upbeat child, considering that his mother is hospitalized, he once gets hit by a car, and that everyone despises him.
* HarsherInHindsight: [[DrivenToSuicide Suicide]] comes up a ''lot'', which is especially tragic [[AuthorExistenceFailure considering what happened]] to Creator/DavidFosterWallace.
* IronWoobie: Toni's backstory is horrifying, but she's easily the toughest and most dangerous of the main characters.
* MagnificentBastard: [[spoiler: Dr. Lehrl, though it may be the child in his office running the show.]]
** Claude, as implied by the events of the annual corporate picnic.
* MostAnnoyingSound: The IRS and US Air Force recruitment offices share the same storefront, and an orchestral version of ''The Wild Blue Yonder'' is constantly blaring in the background. The IRS recruiter is noticeably afflicted with spastic facial jerks and grimaces.
* NauseaFuel: David shows up again later in Wallace’s first ride out to the IRS Peoria facilities. By the time Wallace gets there, the whole left side of his suit is drenched in sweat.
* NightmareFuel: The death of [[spoiler: Chris's father. He gets his arm caught in the door of a Chicago subway train, and is dragged across the length of the station and through hordes of Christmas shoppers before getting dismembered.]]
* ParanoiaFuel: David Cusk's introductory chapter runs completely on this. He is extremely self-aware of his excessive sweating, and everything he does reflects his fear of it. He has to gain full control of his emotions, lest he suddenly panic and start sweating. He can't raise his hands to be excused from class, because that would draw attention. Nor can he sit in certain areas of the classroom, because someone might see him.
* TearJerker: Chris Fogle's relationship with his parents.
* UncannyValley: There is something very, very off about Shane Drinion. His [[SpockSpeak odd speech patterns]], [[TheStoic lack of emotions, facial reactions]], or [[DoesNotUnderstandSarcasm sense of humor]] make him seem inhuman. There's also the fact that [[spoiler: he can levitate if he concentrates hard enough on something, he keeps a perfect record of his conversations, and that he can't leave the room without Keith Sabusawa. None of it is explained.]]