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Jerkass: Literature
  • Marco and David in the Animorphs series, though Marco's generally regarded as more likable about it.
  • In the Discworld series, the city guard of Ankh-Morpork tend to be this for reasons of intimidation and respect. Most of the Watch use psychologically brutal interrogation methods and tend to have a hit-or-miss approach to the whole "catching the right guy" thing, which is ironic since their commander, Sam Vimes, is known for being a strong proponent of judicial ideals, even if he is cynical as sin. They are arguably justified in their methods, given how outnumbered they are by the criminal element, and how entrenched into the city structure the said criminals are. However, the officers' sense of responsibility and respect for Vimes, coupled with their propensity for frightening retribution against those who have harmed their own, or committed high crimes, tend to manage crime with some measure of efficiency..
    • Interestingly, the books that center on the guard tend to downplay their jerkassery, since most of the people exposed to it are of the Asshole Victim variety or otherwise deserve it, and the watch members themselves are fairly charismatic and fun to read. In other books, however, it is usually the protagonist who comes afoul of the watch, in which case they come across as overly paranoid, unintelligent, and needlessly antagonistic. The dissonance between the books can be jarring, to say the least.
  • Caine from Michael Grant's Gone series in Plague. Drake all the time. Penny in Fear.
  • Roald Dahl's Matilda
    • Agatha Trunchbull.
    • Also, Harry Wormwood, whose used-car company sells cars -at outrageous prices - that only survive for a few miles. Because their engines are filled with sawdust. He deals in stolen parts, and uses a drill to turn the miles back on old cars. And then there's how he acts around Matilda.
  • Max and Moritz in Wilhelm Busch's Max and Moritz. Two unruly malicious boys who arrange pranks and practical jokes, and finally push their jerkassery too far.
  • Mr. Krupp (when not in Captain Underpants mode) and Melvin Sneedly from Captain Underpants.
  • Kristy's dad in The Baby-Sitters Club series is portrayed this way in the Forever Friends book where he remarries, and even moreso in The Movie. It's also hinted at in Claudia's Book, where she notes that as a little girl she seriously disliked Mr. Thomas.
  • Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, the father of The Brothers Karamazov, is a Jerkass through and through. He even tells his youngest son that he knows he is wicked and is openly wicked, but goes on to say that everyone is wicked, only he tells the truth about his nefariousness. He managed to drive two wives to premature deaths through sheer force of personality, almost completely abandoned his children shortly thereafter, indulged in prostitution in front of one wife and continued to after her death, and would borrow money from people all over and dine at others' expense, among other things. Before he is murdered, he planned to continue living this way for another twenty years or so. The judgmental reader couldn't really be sad to see him go, but the old bastard was rather hilarious. He somewhat resembled Peter Griffin of Family Guy fame for how outlandish and blunt he could be.
    • The lawyer in the book uses as his legal defense that murdering him cannot be treated as murdering someone's father, because he is not a father to his children.
  • In The Silmarillion, Thingol sends Beren to a fate he considers certain death.
  • Nynaeve al'Meara and especially Elayne Trakand from the Wheel of Time; they have all the negatives of Aes Sedai, (aloof, egotistical, and rude), and none of the positives (wisdom). They frequently get captured due to not having backup, and when they are saved they never thank anyone. The ultimate example is when they are captured by members of the Black Ajah, and are taken to the Stone of Tear, a fortress that has never been captured, and is only fated to be captured when the Dragon is reborn. Mat Cauthon learns this, he and Juilin Sandar go into the Stone of Tear, defeat several highly trained guards, duel a High Lord of Tear, and rescue them, and they respond by storming off. It's not until they are told to apologize by Elayne's best friend, Aviendha, and her Warder Birgitte that they do apologize. Then Elayne mocks Mat for being raped multiple times by a woman, after having first annulled her promise to treat him with respect when she thought that he was the criminal and not the victim.
    • The rest of the Aes Sedai seem to suffer from this; Elaida comes off as borderline insane, and by the Knife Of Dreams the Tower Aes Sedai have turned the White Tower into a war zone beause they are so egotistical. Cadsuane Melaidhrin actually uses being a Jerkass as a strategy by just being a complete jerk to everyone. She is such a jackass that everyone just does as she says so she will leave them alone.
  • In later volumes of Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series, after he became a rabid objectivist, he had a tendency to write his views into his books in the most blatant way possible; by having his "good" characters stop the story for pages and pages at a time, so that they can speechify to those around them (and thus, the reader), expounding upon Goodkind's views in a ham-fisted fashion that left no doubt in anyone's minds that this was just Goodkind preaching at us. Anyone who was shown disagreeing with this was portrayed not only as wrong, but irredeemably evil, and those nay-sayers who were important to the plot would ultimately prove themselves to be rapists and child molesters. This had the undesired but very present effect of making it seem like all of Goodkind's "heroes" were total jerkasses, unable to accept any viewpoint but their own. After all, this is the series that had its hero kick a little girl in the face with such force that she went into a coma and her healers weren't sure if she would ever wake up!
  • If it's written by Jack Vance, regardless of if it's Fantasy or Science Fiction, there's a high probability that there will be at least one amoral narcissistic callous Jerkass. Or several. In some of his stories (Dying Earth for example), it's hard to find a character who isn't.
    • The first Dying Earth novel had a few people, largely protagonists, who were halfway decent human beings. The second through third don't have any, and the fourth has Rhialto the Marvellous, who occasionally shifts over to Magnificent Bastard or Jerk with a Heart of Gold territory. Occasionally.
  • The unnamed Seeker, main antagonist of Stephenie Meyer's The Host, is like this. Especially notable in that, in a species that is biologically predisposed to being Messiah, she still manages an attitude that would make House cringe. Her freed host turns out to be even worse.
  • Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights, a tyrannical, joyless creep who systematically sets out to destroy the lives of practically every single person he knows in the aid of some nebulous plan of vengeance for having been separated from his soul-mate, Catherine Earnshaw - whom he never really seemed to get along with, either, come to think of it. Amazingly, despite this, only one person in the entire novel seems to consider just moving away from the miserable bastard's Yorkshire stomping grounds to be a valid option - and that one person dies a short while later. Oh, and if he can't actually torment his enemies (because they're, you know, dead), he's quite happy to visit his wrath on their undeserving children instead. The main reason that no one moves is because that's actually their turf; Heathcliff is technically the interloper, and most of the novel is Heathcliff conniving to swindle his enemies' homes and possessions away from them.
  • Harry Potter
    • Severus Snape. On the general scope, he gives obscenely unfair advantage to his own student house (Slytherin) at every single opportunity while ignoring their transgressions while simultaneously jumping at any chance to punish students of other houses. More particularly, he makes it his business to hound Harry at every point due to leftover scorn for his father and bullies the clumsy and timid Neville so badly that Snape becomes Neville’s worst fear.
    • James Potter and Sirius Black were notorious bullies in their earlier school years, especially against Snape, which is in turn responsible for part of his scorn against Harry. This went into serious Dude, Not Funny! territory when Sirius slipped Snape some info that would lead him to a wild, uncontrollable and violent werewolf that would have killed him had James not heard of it and made him turn back. Bonus points for the fact that the Werewolf was their friend Remus Lupin, who would have been deathly horrified to find out he murdered someone while transformed. They managed to grow out of their meaner sides in the later years, especially as former serial-rulebreaker James turned enough of a leaf to become Hogwarts Head Boy in his last year.
    • Draco Malfoy is the poster-child of Jerkassery in the series. A spoiled, rich brat who picks on anyone who he considers a "mudblood", even to the point of wishing them dead in Chamber of Secrets, and more often than not escaping repercussions due to his father's influence, Snape's favouritism, or simply not getting caught. At least until the start of Half Blood Prince when he turns into a Jerkass Woobie almost overnight.
    • Stereotypical Jerk Jock Cormac McLaggan, the substitute Keeper from the Sixth book. How bad is he? In the only match he played in, his team lost 320-60, mostly thanks to believing himself to be the captain and, while showing one of the team's beaters how to hit a Bludger, in the middle of a game, he mishits the Bludger and gives Harry a skull fracture, knocking him out. Sadly, he never gets any onscreen retribution.
    • Hufflepuff Quidditch player Zacharias Smith. In his first appearance in book 5, while interested in Dumbledore's Army, is shown almost immediately to be an ass to Harry and his friends for no justified reason. In Book 6, he takes over commentary for the Gryffindor vs. Slytherin match, where he proceeds to insult Harry's team at every given opportunity. Naturally, nobody feels sorry for him when he gets attacked by members of the Weasley family in these two books. Oh, and in the final book, he flees Hogwarts before the final battle.
    • While generally depicted as Plucky Comic Relief, the twins Fred and George can play some pretty sadistic pranks, including force-feeding a lizard firecrackers and shoving someone into a toilet for weeks on end. It's even revealed in the Defictionalized book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them that they once beat an old pet Ron had to death for fun. To be fair, they were most likely kids at the time of that last one. Kids are pretty messed up. They probably fit much closer to the category of Jerk with a Heart of Gold - at least as they get into their teens. A lot of their more jerk-ish behavior seems to have happened pre-Book 1.

      They deliberately dropped a magical candy in front of Dudley Dursley, knowing the muggle has problems with over-eating just to see what would happen. It was Two-Ton Tongue Taffy; Mr. Weasley had to fix it. Wizarding law is supposed to protect muggles from that kind of magical prank (in fact, it's a direct violation of the department their father belongs to, and it's one of the few moments where Arthur scolds the twins.) They also test their joke products on First Years (11 year old kids, some of whom are muggle-born and had little experience with magic beforehand), sneak into the Hogwarts kitchen to get snacks (then lie about how hard it was to steal the treats, even though the House elves willingly give away food if someone asks), and center most of their other 'pranks' on Percy Weasley. Said pranks include stealing and enchanted Percy's Head Boy badge, bewitching snowballs to attack him, trying to lock Percy into a pyramid in Egypt (only stopped because their mother caught them in time), and sending dung to Percy's office after he gets a job in the Ministry. (All of this happens before Percy decides he would rather stick with the Ministry than believe in Dumbledore like the rest of his family. Once Percy severs ties, they continue to insult him and throw mashed parsnips at him during the one family dinner Percy attends in a 2 1/2 year period. Yet Percy is the only one who apologizes for being a prat.)
    • Dudley Dursley is the very first jerkass introduced in the series, although he and his parents pale in comparison to most of the others introduced later on. Malfoy essentially does everything he does but better (or worse, rather), and Dudley’s Butt Monkey ensures he repeatedly gets what’s coming. Shockingly, Dudley eventually manages to realize what an ass he’s being most of his life and tries to make peace with Harry in the last book.
      • Dudley's parents, especially his father Vernon.
    • He probably gets overlooked for being such a relatively minor character, but Blaise Zabini (after he finally appears) turns out to be a real asshole.
    • Cornelius Fudge is first presented as something of a Reasonable Authority Figure, but by Book 5, he's in full-blown jerkass mode.
    • Conversely, Dolores Umbridge probably wouldn't make this list because calling her a Jerk Ass would be like calling the sun lukewarm.
    • Pansy Parkinson is also one. It seems that she's there just to be a bitch. Oh, and she agrees to hand Harry over to Voldemort when he attacks Hogwarts.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia:
    • Eustace Clarence Scrubb in the first part of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
    • Edmund Pevensie is a jerkass in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, especially to his younger sister, Lucy.
  • Walt Comeau of Richard Russo's novel Empire Falls is a grade-A Jerkass.
  • God in Armageddon: The Salvation War. First off, even though he closed the gates of Heaven 1000 years ago, the reason that He threw ALL of humanity on Earth to Satan NOW is He's pissed that humans have started questioning His teachings and that they're not all constantly singing his praises. He even has a Chorus in Heaven which is forced to constantly sing his praises. He actually gets pissed when, after throwing them ALL to Satan, the Catholic Church excommunicates him and denounces him as an usurper of a one true God. When the reason that he flipped off humanity was that they were questioning his teachings in the first place, you'd think he would see that one coming.
    • Karl Rove is also depicted as being quite a jerkass, commenting after the destruction of Detroit that Detroit was a Democratic stronghold in the state and maybe the Republicans would win the state easily in the next election.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the Vogons make up a collective example of this. The entire race seems to consist soley of jerkasses.
    • Zaphod Beeblebrox, mainly because he is so self-absorbed it's amazing his ego doesn't implode and form a black hole.
      • Actually, he's a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. Both literally and in the context of the trope itself, just with a huge focus on the "jerk" part.
  • In Daniel Suarez's Daemon, Loki certainly qualifies. He's also doubtlessly the coolest character in the book, especially after he gets his cyborg makeover in the second one.
  • Matthew Luzon in the second Petaybee book is extraordinarily intelligent, though the main characters wouldn't like to admit it, and manipulates the Petaybeans with such skill that one can't understand why he doesn't end up winning.
  • Everybody in Diary of a Wimpy Kid has their moments (it's what makes it a Black Comedy), but Roderick... well, let's just say that if his body is found in a ditch somewhere, it's not hard to figure who the prime suspect will be.
  • In Shanna Swendson's Enchanted, Inc., on a girls' night out, they go to kiss frogs. Katie is warned this is not the way to catch Prince Charming, because they were "frogged" for a reason.
  • Tales of the Frog Princess gives us the Tall, Dark and Snarky Prince Garrid. At first.
  • The Catcher in the Rye: Holden Caulfield is a lazy prick, who never blames himself for anything, never gives any consideration to anyone but Phoebe (which could put him on Jerk with a Heart of Gold territory), acts like every adult but him is an asshole, goes to movies just to call them bad, the list goes on.
  • Smokey in The Talisman is an all too realistic incredible asshole. He and the town of Oatley are just inherently wrong somehow.
  • Most of the fantastic denizens of Alice in Wonderland are unusually obnoxious creatures that threaten to harm or kill Alice with little to no reason.
    • Even Alice can be an asshole sometimes. There is a part where she steals a slate pencil from somebody because she didn't like the squeaking sound it was making. In court. And he was a member of the jury, taking notes on the case.
  • Lyschko in Krabat. Even the miller (their evil wizard master) claims he doesn't like him. Also, some soldiers who visit the mill (when the master is absent) and demand that the boys become their servants.
  • Sachar, who badmouthes his master Oblomov and steals from him, if only small amounts. Even worse is Tarantyev, who essentially blackmails Oblomov. After Oblomov dies, Sachar is heartbroken and shows that he was a Jerk with a Heart of Gold all along.
  • In Death series: Some of the murderers behave as this. Some of the people Eve Dallas meets from the FBI and other police divisions will make you want to punch them in the face. Eve Dallas herself acts like this a lot, but then again, she is Surrounded by Idiots at times.
  • Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: A number of the villains are certainly this. Mitch Riley in the book Hide And Seek stands out as a particular example, due to him being racist, sexist, likely misogynistic, and it is stated quite clearly that nobody likes this guy. Even the good guys have gone into Jerkass behaviour a time or two.
  • Although the Chalet School is one of the more pleasant fictional schools, it still has its fair share of bullies, usually girls who are jealous of whoever the titular new girl is (such as Mary Woodley and Barbara Chester), but special mention goes to Thekla von Stift for her extreme snobbery and habit of alienating the other girls, and trying to get Joyce Linton expelled; Betty Wynne-Davies, for being willing to give away a chart containing military secrets to a Nazi spy, just because the owner of said chart trapped her fingers and answered her back; and Jack Lambert, for bullying Jane Carew for the simple crime of replacing her in Len's dormitory, although she at least gets better. To a lesser extent, there's Grizel Cochrane - although she is more of a Jerkass Woobie due to her uncaring parents - and Margot Maynard, though Margot at least recognises how screwed up she is and tries to change.
  • Warrior Cats: Introducing Spiderleg, ThunderClan's resident jerk!
  • Kalak from Trapped on Draconica is rude, insenstive, and downright mean. This is a Jerkass Façade to compensate for inner toughness. He's actually an Adorkable self-depricating Momma's Boy.
  • A minor character in Galaxy of Fear: The Doomsday Ship. In line for an Escape Pod he saw two children trying to get ahead of him, so he grabbed them, left the line with them, and locked them in a closet with the full knowledge that when the ship was destroyed, they'd go with it. It wasn't destroyed, but he couldn't have known that.
  • Erian from The Fallen Moon series certainly counts. He's a racist bastard (quite literally) who threatens enslave the main character Arenadd's parents, does it anyway once he finally gives in, calls Arenadd evil for being a northerner, acts like an ass to his sister, and, even when he dies, insults his niece in front of the ghost of her mother, and tells said niece to kill Arenadd, who she doesn't know is her father. To make things even worse, he knows that Arenadd is her father.
  • In Firebird, everyone in Ilya's family, with the exception of Ilya himself.
  • The gamebook Sail with Pirates: Jim Teal, an obnoxious teenage seaman, who bullies the protagonist who has the misfortune to be his crewmate. Later on, it's revealed that the time travelling protagonist earned his emnity in the past—through either refusing to fall for Teal's swindle, or calling Teal out after falling for his fraud.
  • Will from Infernal Devices. He very occasionally strays into Jerk with a Heart of Gold territory, but he really isn't. However, Will does shift into Jerkass Façade territory after the discovery that he literally kills everyone he loves.
    • Until it turns out that he doesn't. He's still distant, though, but that's just his personality.
      • Gabriel Lightwood, and probably his older brother, who can make the former look sweeter than gingerbread.
      • It's possible that his brother used to be this, but in Clockwork Prince, it appears he got better while he was in Spain.
  • Nick from The Leonard Regime is regularly shouting at his own friends and arguing about everything. The warden from the Los Angeles DERSO Correctional Facility also possesses a jerkass personality.
  • Zanna from The Last Dragon Chronicles at times.
  • Henry isn't the worst example in The Underland Chronicles, but he makes fun of both Gregor and the cockroaches, particularly the latter.

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