Characters: It Can't Happen Here
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Doremus JessopA New England newspaper publisher with a strong sense of justice. He watches nervously as Windrip takes power, then resolves to quietly resist the regime.
- Actual Pacifist: He takes a dim view of war, although his feelings about armed resistance change over time. He also prefers to resist the Windrip regime through non-violent means.
- Arrested for Heroism: He is arrested and briefly detained for writing a scathing column criticizing the Windrip regime. Later, he is tortured and imprisoned at the Trianon camp for disseminating banned media.
- Be All My Sins Remembered: Doremus blames his own passivity (and that of others like him) for the ascendancy of totalitarianism in America. He expresses this sentiment in a scathing column criticizing Windrip."The tyranny of this dictatorship isn't primarily the fault of Big Business, nor of the demagogues who do their dirty work. It's the fault of Doremus Jessop! Of all the contientious, respectable, lazy-minded Doremus Jessops who have let the demagogues wriggle in, without fierce enough protest ... I can blame no Aras Dilley, no Shad Ledue, no Buzz Windrip, but only my own timid soul and drowsy mind. Forgive, O Lord!"
- Cool Old Guy
- Distressed Dude: When he is tortured and imprisoned at the Trianon camp. Lorinda arranges his escape.
- The Exile: After Lorinda helps him escape from Trianon, he flees to Canada and lives among other American exiles for a time.
- Guile Hero: He resists the Windrip regime by disseminating forbidden news media.
- Homeless Hero: At the end of the novel, Doremus returns to the U.S. to encourage dissenters. He has no permanent address and is constantly on the run to evade Corpos.
- Hope Bringer: To Lorinda. Also to the dissenters he secretly educates at the end of the novel.
- Intrepid Reporter
- Knight in Sour Armor
- Noble Fugitive: At the end of the novel.
- Pair the Smart Ones: He and Lorinda are both intelligent and socially conscious. Lorinda is much more his intellectual and spiritual equal than Emma.
- Politically Incorrect Hero: He's an intelligent man with strong convictions about social justice, resisting a totalitarian regime. He's also having an adulterous affair, finds his young grandson annoying, and experiences compassion fatigue after listening to too many tragic stories from fellow exiles in Canada. He's a noble character, but he's no saint.
- Scars Are Forever: His back is covered in crisscross scars from the whippings he received at Trianon.
- The Smart Guy
- Unlikely Hero: A sixty-something, middle-class newspaper man who resists the Windrip regime at considerable risk to himself and his family.
Emma JessopDoremus's spouse, a housewife.
- Apathetic Citizens: She never seems to grasp how destructive the Windrip regime truly is, being more concerned about mundane matters.
- Betty and Veronica: The Betty to Lorinda's Veronica. She's gentle, quiet, and practical. Doremus finds her presence comforting, thinking of Emma as his "bread" and Lorinda as his "wine."
- Skewed Priorities: She's more concerned about practical matters than oppression, much to Doremus' chagrin. Even when M.M.'s charge into her home and drag off Doremus, she's more upset by the mess the M.M.'s made than her husband's incarceration.
Cecilia "Sissy" JessopDoremus' youngest daughter and co-conspirator.
- Affectionate Nickname: Her real name is Cecilia, but everyone calls her Sissy.
- Daddy's Girl: She is very close to Doremus.
- Guile Hero: She pretends to befriend Shad and gathers important information in the process. She also takes part in the underground newspaper alongside her family.
- Na´ve Everygirl: She's brave and optimistic, but she has some very naive ideas about sex and about violence against women. As the novel progresses, she loses her naivety.
- Plucky Girl
- The Vamp: A nonsexual example. She pretends to befriend Shad so as to glean information from him.
Mary GreenhillDoremus' older daughter and co-conspirator.
- Ace Pilot: Galvanized by her husband's murder and her father's incarceration, she joins the Corpo Women's Flying Corps and trains as a bomber pilot. She is later assigned to escort District Commissioner Swan's plane to Washington. She crashes her plane into Swan's, killing Swan, his aides, and herself.
- Action Girl
- Determined Widow: She redoubles her resistance to the Windrip regime after it claims the life of her husband.
- Taking You with Me: She kills Swan by ramming her plane into his.
Mrs. CandyThe Jessop family housekeeper, a kindly older woman.
- Beware the Nice Ones: When M.M.s barge into the Jessops' home and terrorize the family, Mrs. Candy violently lunges at one of the M.Ms.
- Kindly Housekeeper
- Mama Bear: Do not touch any of the Jessops. She lunged at one of the M.M.s who stormed into the house looking for Doremus. Later, when Shad visited Sissy at the house, she hid with a knife in hand in case Shad tried to harm Sissy.
Windrip and Advisors
Berzelius "Buzz" WindripAn affable but shallow politician who mounts a populist presidential campaign. He and his administration set up a brutal totalitarian regime after he takes office.
- Affably Evil
- The Caligula: He becomes increasingly paranoid, even shooting at two of his own guards because he thought they were laughing at him.
- Corrupt Politician
- Deadly Decadent Court: His administration is characterized by ruthless internal politics and jostling for power. Doubly so near the end of the book, when Saranson sends him to exile in Europe, and Haik later assassinates Saranson.
- Glorious Leader
- Good Ol' Boy
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Subverted. He has a wife, but he doesn't like her and rarely sees her.
- Horrible Judge of Character: His most trusted advisor, Lee Saranson, nearly assassinates him, then sends him into exile in France.
- Karma Houdini: Despite all the oppression and atrocities he brought about, he spends the rest of his life in peaceful exile in France.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: He's an exaggerated version of Huey Long.
- Puppet King: It's heavily implied that Saranson is really pulling the strings.
- Retired Monster: When he lives as an exile in France.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Thanks to the regime's propaganda.
Lee SaransonSecretary of State under President Windrip and the creator of much of the regime's policies and propaganda.
- All Gays Are Promiscuous
- Asshole Victim
- The Bard: He writes many of the propaganda songs used in Windrip's presidential campaign, and later his regime.
- Blond Guys Are Evil
- Bondage Is Bad: Later in the book, he lives with several handsome young Corpos and engages in BDSM with them.He was either angry with his young friends, and then he whipped them, or he was in a paroxysm of apology to them, and caressed their wounds.
- The Caligula: Upon seizing power from Windrip in a coup, he has lavish, debauched parties with handsome young men.
- Club Kid: The novel mentions that he visits a "handsome boys' club".
- Depraved Homosexual
- The Dragon: To Windrip.
- Even Evil Has Standards: He, Macgoblin, and Haik walk into Windrip's bedroom at night. Saranson raises a knife to stab Windrip, but Windrip begs for his life and reminds Saranson of kindnesses he did for him. Saranson cannot bring himself to kill Windrip, and exiles him instead.
- Karmic Death: After seizing power in a coup, Haik assassinates him and seizes power himself.
- Laser-Guided Karma
- The Man Behind the Man
- Meet the New Boss: Nothing really changes after he exiles Windrip and takes power.
- Revolving Door Revolution: He's assassinated shortly after taking power from his predecessor in a coup.
- The Starscream
Colonel Dewey HaikSecretary of War for the Windrip regime.
- Control Freak: After assassinating Saranson and rising to power, he kicks out army officers "who could not endure marching and going thirsty" and runs the nation "like a well-run plantation".
- Even Evil Has Standards: Haik seems to disapprove of greed. After his rise to power, he kicks out M.M. commissioners "who had garnered riches too easily and too obviously."
- He also disapproved of the brazen sensuality of Saranson's short-lived regime. He replaced his predecessor's orgies with tasteful White House parties hosted by his wife.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: After assassinating Saranson and taking power, his brutality drives many Americans into open rebellion against the regime.
- Reign of Terror: Things were bad under Windrip and Saranson, but life under Haik proves even worse. Most dissenters are killed rather than incarcerated.
- The Starscream: To Windrip, and later Saranson. MacGoblin even tries to warn Saranson that Haik is bad news."You want to watch that cuss Haik, Lee," said Macgoblin. "He's ambitious, he's a gorilla, and he's a pious Puritan, and that's a triple combination I'm scared of. The troops like him.''
Dr. Hector MacGoblinSecretary of Education and Propaganda for the Windrip regime.
- The Bard: He and Saranson co-write a few propaganda songs.
- The Exile: After Haik assassinates Saranson, he flees to Haiti and lives in the mountains.
- Going Native: After fleeing to Haiti.When last seen, he was living high up in the mountains of Haiti, wearing only a singlet, dirty white-drill trousers, grass sandals, and a long tan beard; very healthy and happy, occupying a one-room hut with a lovely native girl, practicing modern medicine and studying ancient voodoo.
- Karma Houdini
- Three Degrees Of Murder: He shoots two innocent men, Dr. Schmidt and Rabbi de Verez, in a drunken rage. The shooting is what galvanizes Doremus into publicly speaking out against the regime.
Oscar "Shad" LedueA bitter, lazy hired man employed by the Jessops to care for their grounds. He later joins the Minute Men and rises to power in their ranks.
- Asshole Victim
- Attempted Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: He gets a little too friendly with Sissy one night, but she flees in horror before he can sexually assault her.
- Black Shirt
- The Bully: As an M.M.
- Crusty Caretaker: He's kind of this while working for the Jessops.
- Dirty Business: The novel implies that he feels guilt over some of the unjust acts of the Corpos. After Mary's husband's death, he cannot make eye contact with Mary. Similarly, when testifying against Doremus, he looks down, his usual cockiness gone.
- From Nobody to Nightmare
- Jerk Jock
- Karmic Death: After he is imprisoned at the Trianon camp, his old victims vow revenge. Several of the prisoners set fire to his room, and Shad burns to death, screaming.
- Kill It with Fire
- Laser-Guided Karma
- Lower-Class Lout
- Smug Snake
- Villainous Crush: On Sissy. While initially unnerved by Shad's crush, Sissy uses it to her advantage, pretending to befriend Shad in order to get information.
Lorinda PikeThe manager of the Beulah Valley Tavern with a history of social activism. Doremus' closest friend, lover, and co-conspirator.
- Betty and Veronica: The Veronica to Emma's Betty. She's smart, outspoken, and activist-minded.
- Brainy Brunette
- Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: She and Doremus have been having an ongoing affair. Their relationship is a loving, passionate one between intellectual equals, and the novel encourages readers to approve of the affair.
- Hero of Another Story: The novel refers to the resistance activities she engages in behind the scenes.
- Pair the Smart Ones: With Doremus.
- Rescue Arc: When she arranges to have Doremus rescued from the Trianon camp and spirited away to Canada.
- The Smart Gal