Shylock from The Merchant of Venice is something of a villainous woobie whether or not the writer intended it. And if the production is kind to him, Antonio gets his fair share of woobitude in the trial scene.
Ironically, the biggest exception is Covenant himself, due to his being a Flat Earth AtheistJerk Ass for 2 and 3/4th of the original trilogy, as well as crossing the Moral Event Horizon in the very first book by raping a village girl, after which it takes a long time for him to regain any reader sympathy (if he ever does, and in the opinion of most fans, he doesn't).
Berenice from the homonymous novel by Tessa Korber. Before the novel started, she suffered on a big, incredibly difficult trip to Babylon, only to be greeted by his brother Leonidas brutally scolding her. Then she gets sexually abused by Eumenes and Diocle, gets sent to Egypt where she must cope with two brash Amazons poking fun at her all the time, barely survives a battle against some rebels, gets sent to a city in Phoenicia and then towards an ice-cold fortress in Armenia, becomes Eumenes' sexual toy for a while, and then, while on her way back to Egypt with Diocle and Eumenes, her boat is raided by pirates.
There's also Faramir. His mother died when he was very young, and his father never quite got over it. Denethor also strongly preferred his brother Boromirto him, and went so far as to say, when Faramir asked him if Denethor would rather Faramir had died than his brother, "Yes. I wish that." This messed poor Faramir up so badly that he ended up going out on a suicide mission just to try and please his father. This only succeeds in sending the already horribly distraught Denethor crazy, as he crosses the Despair Event Horizon and tries to have both Faramir and himself burned alive, with Faramir only surviving because of Gandalf and Pippin coming to his rescue. But then, it all turns out all right for him. He ends up as the Prince of Ithilien and as Princess Éowyn's Second Love.
Elendil and his family and followers. For ages their people had come to take their good life for granted and were wanting more—then the King brings The Corrupter home as a captive. Now the culture is plunging headlong into evil—and then the very land the kingdom is on is destroyed as the whole structure of the universe is revised—and nine shiploads wash ashore.
Tar-Míriel. The rightful queen, her first cousin married her against her will, and then in the final ruin she tried and failed to ascend the hallows.
Thrór. Newly orphaned as a boy when his father's kingdom is seized by dragons, he builds a new kingdom where a distant forefather had set up an outpost. Then as an old dwarf, a dragon seizes this new kingdom. He's not right in the head when he attempts to visit his ancestral lands in another mountain range and is murdered.
His son Thráin gets driven to folly by the influence of his Ring, and winds up in Sauron's clutches. The Abhorred One inflicts such horrific torture on him that he cannot even remember his own name when Tharkûnnote as the Dwarves call Gandalf finds him.
Anyone who likes cats is already halfway to Woobiehood.
Cheery. Under that beard and helmet, she's a mass of need, and you love her for being so stoic about it all. I'd really hoped we'd see a happy storyline for her before Pterry stopped writing, but I doubt it will happen.
Also, Rincewind. His status as the Chew Toy is played for comedy, but you still really want to give him a hug and a potato set him down somewhere quiet to sort rocks or something.
Gaspode is up there too. All his backstory that we get in Men at Arms, The Fifth Elephant, Moving Pictures; I don't care if he's a smelly, mangy, infested, toothless mongrel, that dog's getting a sausage and a warm place to sleep.
"I mean, look at the start I had in life. Frone inna river inna sack. An actual sack. Dear little puppydog opens his eyes, look out in wonder at the world style of fing, he's in this sack."
There's also Night Watch where he's displaced in time, fighting a war he cannot win to protect men who, if they survive, will be living proof that he has no home to go back to, but he can't stop fighting because if he doesn't, he's not Sam Vimes.
Taken up to eleven with Nutt. So tortured, so hardworking, so incredibly messed up, it almost seems like Glenda's main purpose is to reassure the reader that, even if they can't reach into the book to hold his hand and feed him pie, there's someone already in there who will.
Ender, in Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card: bullied his entire life for being a walking talking violation of the population control laws (even if he was born legally,) he ends up killing two other children in self defense while still only a child himself - because the adults who were supposedly protecting him were afraid giving him any sort of help would make him less useful. By the age of twelve, despite having any number of followers who would gladly walk through fire for him, he's isolated and alone, with no one he could call a friend. He went to war to protect his sister at the age of five. When he finally sees her again at about age 10, on a trip allowed by the IF specifically to remind him he has something to live for, he has this conversation:
Ender: And I remember that you were beautiful.
Val: Memory does play tricks on us.
Ender: No, you look the same. I just dont remember what beautiful means anymore.
At this point, you just wanna hug him and never let anything bad happen to him.
Bean, expanded on in the Ender's Sadow series, almost has him beat. Raising himself on the streets from infancy, he was "adopted" by an older girl named Poke after he helped her crew get protection and food. His reward is to see the protector he got for them kill her and throw her body in the river. He runs to the IF to escape this guy...only to find the kid has followed him there. He learns he has a brother...but they have to split up after the war for their own protection. The chaos that earth dissolves into after the buggers are destroyed. Discovers he is the product of genetic engineering that will kill him in his late teens to early twenties. starts to fall for Petra only to have her taken by the same damn psychopath that killed Poke. He rescues her and they attempt to have children together...only for the psycho to steal the embryos too. He ends the series flying off on a relativistic flight in the hopes that the time-stretching effect will mean by the time he gets back (if he gets back) his condition will be curable.
Many examples in A Song of Ice and Fire, due to how grim the series can be. The two Stark sisters, Jon Snow, Jorah Mormont, Sandor Clegane, Davos Seaworth, Tyrion Lannister, Brienne...
The entire Stark family are one big group of Woobies.
Ned Stark has lived through one hellish war, seen the deaths of both his parents and siblings, and is now forced to become the King's Hand, which basically means doing all his work for him. Additionally, he has a lot of Honor Before Reason tendencies which make him the Token Good Teammate in a Wretched Hive city, and eventually get him killed.
Arya Stark is a young pre-teen girl who has to live on the run, is kidnapped and Made a Slave for her enemies several times, loses nearly all the friends she makes, and has basically seen so much evil that she has a list of people she wants to kill.
Robb Stark has to take command of the northern army at fourteen, keep together a Dysfunction Junction of unpleasable lords, and find a way to rescue his sister Sansa from the Lannisters before she outlives her usefulness, all without once showing weakness. He finds a bit of happiness with his wife, Jeyne Westerling...only for Walder Frey to betray and massacre him and his entire army out of spite.
Bran Stark is a cute eight-year-old boy who looks up to his father and just wants to become a Knight in Shining Armor. After hearing something he really shouldn't have, he's nearly killed by being thrown out a window, is paralyzed from the waist down afterwards, has to run Winterfell while his big brother and parents go to war, and then is forced to hide in the wilderness while almost everyone he knows is slaughtered.
Most of the aforementioned are fairly decent human beings, but the Hound probably deserves special attention for his incredible ability to alternate between endearing and terrifying with alarming alacrity. Frequency of woobie-ness tends to increase with proximity to a certainStark.
This one's a minor side-character, but Lollys Stokeworth. The poor girl seems to have been designed by the gods to have misery heaped upon her.
Daenerys Targaryen. Nearly all her family is dead save a Jerkass big brother who sells her to a warlord as soon as she comes of age. Of course, she takes a level in badass soon afterword, but she still goes through a lot.
Theon Greyjoy, a frightened 10 year old child hostage.
Tobias in Animorphs. He starts the series out as a skinny, blond-haired loser Jake saves from bullies... and Jake is the closest thing he has to a friend, despite the fact Jake thinks he's weird. His parents are dead, his only two relatives fight over which one of them HAS to have him. He then gets trapped as a hawk by the end of the first book. The worst part is that he honestly feels his new situation is an improvement. Stuck fighting an alien invasion involving thousands of conspirators with only four human kids while trapped in the body of a redtailed hawk and fighting the instincts of the hawk to retain his own humanity is a step UP for him. Then, he falls in love with the strongest, most confident member of the team, who helps him get through the times when Woobiedom seems a bit too much, and she dies. He's notably very cynical, at best, in the epilogue.
Patrick O'Brian's Stephen Maturin. At the beginning of the Aubrey-Maturin series, he's already been through disillusionment with the world, along with the death of all his friends and the girl he loved. He goes on to get his heart broken again, gets tortured by the French, struggles with opium addiction, duels a man over a woman, during which he accidentally kills him, gets nearly fatally wounded, and insists, as repentance, on removing the bullet from his ribs himself without anesthetic, and is generally scorned for being Catholic and illegitimate. And that's just the first three books. Out of Twenty.
Jace Wayland from Mortal Instruments is a woobie because he was abused as a child and believed for some time that he watched his father die matters only become worse when he finds out that his father did not die but abandoned him and is actually a famous villain in his world, Valentine which means he is siblings with the girl he loves. Because of some mistakes in genealogy, he believed that his mother abandoned him and thought that he was a monster. Later he finds out that he has demon blood in him which would mean he was a monster, though this proves to not be true. Also, he is betrayed by a friend Hodge and handed over to the villain. He was arrested for insulting the Inquisitor, was kicked out of his house and left with no where to go and arrested by the Inquisitor again, who planned to trade him to Valentine for some powerful Shadowhunter relics, and because almost everyone assumed that he had joined the evil side. He is also killed by the man who raised him, though Clary brought him back to life.
However, despite all this Jace gets a happy ending, as of City of Glass, because Clary brought him back to life and because it turned out that he was not really the brother of Clary (the girl he loved) and that he did not have demon blood in him. Also, he is accepted back into him home.
Also from Mortal Instruments is Alec Lightwood. He's gay and the member of a race of people who... aren't exactly accepting of it. As a result, he's too afraid to come out to his parents. Not only that, he's in love with Jace, who will never love him the same way, and is so hung up on this that he doesn't even notice when a certain warlock does. This latter fact made me feel sorry for Magnus as well. Luckily, things work out for them in the end. Or not as of City of Lost Souls.
Ilyusha from The Brothers Karamazov: the son of a poor shipping captain who is beset upon by the protagonist's older brother and humiliated throughout the town. All he wants to do is restore his father's honor. He does this by biting the protagonist in a fit of passion, but we later learn he's not so bad (and not rabid). This is exacerbated later on when he dies from an incurable disease and then his father, the previously-mentioned shipping captain, goes insane from grief at the boy's funeral in a scene so horribly depressing it could drive jaded misanthropes to tears. Thus Dostoevsky kills off one Woobie and makes a Woobie out of the father. Poor bastard.
In The Idiot, there's Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin, the titular idiot, an ill boy - he has epilepsy - and the only genuinely nice character in the book. People he encounters either fleece him, make fun of him, or feel sorry for him. Dodgy creditors steal his money, Rogozhin tries to stab him, a libellous article is published about him in a local paper, he's forced to choose between two very temperamental women, one of whom ends up dead, and to top it all off, he collapses into insanity and is sent back to Switzerland.
Almost every character in House of Leaves. The Navidson family, two of the three explorers that go into the house (excluding Holloway Roberts), Johnny Truant, and so on. The reader needs a good hug after reading this.
Honor Harrington was often described as such on the Author's on personal boards. Rape, boyfriend murdered to simply get to her, eye plucked out, missing limbs (and in a world with the ability to regrow 'em she's one of the few rejects them), assassination attacks that use brainwashed friends to do it, has her telepathically bonded pet horribly injured as torture, her feudal subject's children getting blown up as revenge, and the meda making up a love affair with her married boss whose wife is considered a living saint. It was going to get even worse, but the Author was talked out of it by fans.
Sarah Monette's Kyle Murchison Booth. Raised by openly hostile foster parents after his father died of a curse and his mother committed suicide, subjected to relentless bullying at school, accidentally caused the death of his best friend, on whom he had a terrific unrequited crush, during a ritual to bring said friend's awful wife back from the dead... and all that's just the impetus for everything that happens to him afterwards.
Sam from The Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries. He's one of the few people who treated Sookie kindly from the start, has an open crush on her, and is a supernatural (a shifter) whose natural resistance to Sookie's telepathy would seem to make him a good match for Sookie (who blamed her lack of sexual experience not not wanting to take a man to bed and be privy to every one of his thoughts during). He's been there for her time and time again (as a friend and bodyguard). Sookie knows all this, but keeps him firmly in the friend zone. The way she takes Sam for granted and her flimsy excuses for it make up approximately 75% of the fandom hatred towards her and the sympathy towards him.
True Blood seems to be following suit with its treatment of Sam, who gets yelled at by Sookie and Tara on a regular basis now, it seems, for doing nothing.
The Inheritance Cycle has an accidental woobie in Murtagh: he's abused as a child, his mother abandons him to ensure a better life for her other son, he gets beaten up by an Urgal at some point, his mentor dies helping him escape from Galbatorix, he's imprisoned by the rebellion, kidnapped, tortured, magically enslaved, and everyone up to and including the author vilifies him for it. The hero tells him the rebellion should have let him rot in a cell, for chrissakes.
And what about poor Sloan? The author wants to convince us that he's some kind of Smug Snake when everything he did was to protect his own daughter Katrina, like every good father should. He gets tortured and permanently blinded by the enemy, and states upright that he doesn't care whether he won't get his sight back, to him the fact that Katrina is safe is enough. And how does Eragon, Designated Hero extraordinaire, repay him? In one of the most revolting examples of Moral Dissonance ever, he magically condemns him to never see his daughter again, doing the exact same thing Galbatorix did to Murtagh. So now violating a person's mind is okay if the hero does it and it's not okay if the villain does it?
Elva might not be the character you'd think about like that given her nasty personality, but think of what made her that way. She got Blessed with Suck to shield people from harm, thus magically being robbed of childhood. All the time, she feels forced to help others and resisting the urge causes her physical pain. And then Eragon is not willing to fix it, because her "blessing" is useful... And what's worse is that the author treats it like she was wrong to do so.
And then there's Thorn. Magically aged-up, but only in body and magic skills, with the mind of a child, brainwashed and forced to fight. And the poor thing gets treated like a villain.
The Vorkosiverse. This is probably due to the author's stated writing policy of trying to think up the worst thing that can happen to a character, and then doing it.
Aral - His mother and brothers are murdered before his eyes by the crazy emperor's goons when he's eleven. His father never forgives him for being the one to survive. He discovers that his beloved wife is having affairs with two other men. She kills herself with his own weapon by burning her face off...or possibly his father did it. Komarrans who have surrendered to him are massacred after he gave his word they would be spared and he kills the man who ordered it, thus both getting a terrible reputation, and a massive demotion. He gets dragged into the most nightmarish political assassination in Barrayaran history, which is really saying something, and tormented by his nominal commanders in the process. Completely spent, he returns to Barrayar and tries to kill himself with drink...where as soon as he's vaguely functional he is expected to take on the responsibilities of regent. He and his (second) wife are attacked with a military poison gas while she is pregnant, and the antidote causes enormous damage to the foetus. The foetus in transferred to a uterine replicator, almost killing his wife, and leading to him almost being disowned by his father for trying to save it. Then a civil war starts, and the replicator is taken by the enemy. Then his wife disappears in the middle of said war. But she comes back with a head in a bag.
Cordelia - She is captured by the Barrayarans. The first time her ensign is shot with a nerve disruptor in front of her, but that's about the worst of it. The second time she's nearly raped, saved by a complete psycho, whom she then has to try to keep under control, for her own protection and Aral's getting herself injured in the first time. When she gets home she's Mind Raped by her own side because they refuse to believe in the idea of good Barayarrans, and she has to flee for her sanity. Then the gas attack. Then being put on a horse (of which she's terrified) with a five year old emperor and told to keep him alive. Then finding out her son's been captured. Then Kareen's death right when they seemed to have won. Miles growing up to be a soldier, one of her worst fears; "Barrayar eats it's children." She still supports him though. Her son dying on her, just when she's trying to adjust to having a whole new (and seriously screwed up) son...and then her husband has a non-fatal heart attack in the middle of all this. For the record, Miles gets better.)
Miles may be the hardest to see as a woobie, mostly because he never wastes time on the rough stuff. However he does qualify in The Mountains of Mourning, during his depression when Illyan fires him, and when his big plans for Ekaterin blow up in his face. And then you have the last book...you can just feel his heart tearing at the words "Count Vorkosigan, Sir?"
Mark - Created, indoctrinated, manipulated, crippled, tortured, all so Galen can have his revenge against Aral. Brought up with clone children destined to be killed so someone else can live forever...and outlives them. Royally screws up trying to bring down said cloning industry and gets Miles killed. Gets captured and tortured again, to the point that his mind fractures outright.
Ekaterin - Married young to an twisted incompetent bastard ("One of those subtle feral parasites who have you asking yourself "Am I crazy? Am I crazy?") He turns out to have a crippling genetic disease he didn't tell her about until her son was born, with the same condition. finally decides to divorce him, only to have him killed by terrorists Just starts to recover and build a life of her own when she finds out Miles has been manipulating her...but she still finds it in herself to forgive him.
Ivan - Seems to be the butt of all of Miles's escapades.
Gregor - Becomes emperor at five years old, and grows up with all the pressure that implies hanging over his head. His mother is killed in the civil war, so he has to preside over two funerals for close family in the same two months...at five. Just before his majority he finds out his father was a sadistic killer who had to be destroyed for the good of the empire and now gets to worry about turning out the same. The first person his own age he plans to put into "his" government blows it. Then the man who really raised him dies, admittedly perfectly naturally and after a long life, but it's still heart wrenching. Especially when he chooses himself as one of the pallbearers.
"That man has carried me since I was five years old. My turn."
Duv Galeni - Komarran whose family died and their fortune lost during the Komarr Revolt. Joins the Barrayaran military anyway. Kidnapped by his not-really-dead father, Ser Galen. Watches Mark (who was raised by Galen for the subsitution plot) kill Galen. A few years later, falls in love with Laisa, but she thinks he's just a friend, and after she and Gregor get engaged, he's the first one they call with the news. Then after he actually finds love with Delia, he gets framed for murder and treason and publicly arrested at one of the Emperor's parties. (And last and probably least, he finds out that he's likely to wind up with Mark as a brother-in-law.)
Margot from Ray Bradbury's short story, "All Summer in a Day". On Venus, the sun only comes out for two hours in a seven-year period. Since moving from Earth, she really misses the sun. A bunch of jealous children lock her in a closet, causing her to miss period of time that the sun is out. There is one glimmer of hope, though: in the following year, she might return to Earth.
Stephen King seems to collect Woobies. There's John Coffey of The Green Mile, Henry from Dreamcatcher, Paul Sheldon in Misery...and all his characters are pushed through as much as possible, which is not helping.
In Military Science-Fiction, while Honor Harrington is a strong contender, but not an outright Woobie (she's simply too badass for that), and Lois McMaster Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan just couldn't catch a break, the crown of the genre's Woobiesness goes to Sinklar Fist from Michael Gear's series Forbidden Borders. An orphan supposedly due to his parent being the executed terrorists and constantly bullied for that? Check. Military genius risen through ranks in a strongly class society and derided as a plebe and upstart? Check. A pawn in powergames of his nation's elite? Check. Cartwright Curse? Check. And that's not even mentioning the whole can of Wham opened in later books, where he finds that his lifetime rival Staffa Kar Terma is his father, gets more suffering for him and his friends, and so on, so on and so on...
Read a Paul Kearney novel, any of them. There are so many woobies... Losing legs, falling in love with a woman who turns out to be your sister, getting turned into a werewolf. All par for the course.
Folly, who briefly appears in Alan Dean Foster's Spellsinger series. She's captured and enslaved by pirates, freed by the heroes, then given by the well-intentioned but misguided heroes to an Orphanage of Fear where all inmates are forcibly neutered. The heroes do get suspicious and investigate in time to rescue her. Come to think of it, Jon-Tom Meriweather probably wobbles between this trope and Unlucky Everydude.
Alan Dean Foster also gives us Flinx, the main protagonist of the Humanx Commonwealth series. He starts out the series as something of a Canon Sue, but each novel since Flinx in Flux has left him more depressed and convinced of the futility of associating with the people that he's supposed to be saving from absolute destruction. It doesn't help that he's pursued by nearly every authority in the Commonwealth (half want to imprison him, the others want to "fix" him), had his Love InterestPut on a Bus, and suffers from headaches that make migraines seem trivial. Oh, and he most recently found out that his years-long search for his father is futile because he's doesn't have one.
Rhulad Sengar, The Emperor of a Thousand Deaths from the Malazan Book of the Fallen. The youngest brother of four who wanted to show his worth, he ended up as the pawn of a god who would forcibly, and very painfully, resurrect him each time he died. As time went by, Rhulad lost more and more of his sanity, eventually becoming nothing more than a puppet emperor obsessed with dying, as all his friends and family were taken away from him by his enemies and manipulative advisers.
The Dragonlance novels bring us Tanis Half-Elven, who due to his product-of-rape half-breed status is supposed to inspire Woobiedom in our minds, but the general consensus is that didn't work out too well. Broke knight Sturm Brightblade more fits the bill, being dedicated to the old codes of honor and justice (to the point of heroic death) in an age where such beliefs are antiquated and the knighthood is more a band of organized, well-armed bandits... except that Sturm is so resolute, it's almost like he won't let you consider him Woobie. Raistlin Majere has the long line of misfortunes - illnesses that stack, parental abandonment/loss, being the world's UnFavorite compared to his healthy, handsome twin, and more - but is generally so unpleasant about it that it's hard to empathize. (Not that it stops the fangirls, though.)
Caramon, Raistlin's twin, is distinctly Woobieish despite being the strong attractive type, due to a lifetime of devotion to a brother who spends 99.9 percent of the time belittling him, and the fact that even friends treat him as though he's mentally challenged despite it being shown that, away from his old situations, Caramon is actually a magnificent leader of men. (Not Raistlin-level genuis, but he's got Charisma.) And if you do not think that Tasselhoff Burrfoot is a Woobie after Flint's death, YOU HAVE NO HEART.
Dragonlance also gave us perhaps the first dragon woobies. First came Matafleur, also known as Flamestrike, an ancient red dragon who had fought for the Dark Queen in the previous war against the forces of light, and who in the War of the Lance was assigned to guard the children of the slaves of Pax Tharkas, to guarantee the good behavior of their parents. An evil monster, right? Except that her own children had died in the previous war, and she had gone mad, and now believed that the human children she was supposed to be guarding were her own children, whom she loved and protected. In fact, when Highlord Verminaard and his dragonmount Ember tried to attack the children during the escape attempt, Flamestrike laid down her life to save them. The other example was Pyrite, the most ancient gold dragon, and perhaps the most ancient dragon period, in the entire world. So ancient, in fact, that all his teeth had fallen out, forcing him to live on a diet of oatmeal and other soft, high-fiber foods. He was also almost completely deaf and almost completely blind, and he was senile, constantly thinking that it was still the last dragonwar and that he had to protect the long-dead Huma. The fact that they are both so powerful physically only makes these two dragons even more woobieish.
Evanjalin/ Isaboe from Finnikin of the Rock. She fucking witnessed and felt every person from her country who has ever felt pain- all the tortures, rapes, murders, sicknesses and hungers, from the victims viewpoints, the witnesses, and sometimes the perpetrators.
Carrie in V. C. Andrews' Flowers in the Attic and the sequel, Petals on the Wind. Has severely stunted growth from being locked with her siblings in an attic from age 4 to age 8, her twin brother is effectively killed with arsenic-laced donuts by their mother, she is friendless and tormented at boarding school, finally gets a chance at happiness with a fiance in a Throw the Dog a Bone moment only to feel so unworthy because of the fiance's religious zeal (he wants to be a minister) that she commits suicide. The worst part? Just before Carrie dies, her older sister has a talk with Carrie's fiance and finds out he has given up the idea of being a minister, specifically because he saw Carrie was uncomfortable with it, making Carrie's suicide feel like a Shoot the Shaggy Dog moment.
In the Gemini series, Celeste: Always The Unfavorite, her father dies, so does her twin brother, leaving her alone with her crazy mother who forces her to take on her brother's indentity, and she is at most 9 at this point. Her mother mistreats her horribly to maintain this delusion, she's never allowed to even go out, she's raped repeatedly by the only non-related person she knows who blackmails her into not telling, she isn't allowed to act as mother to her own daughter, the stepfather she grew to love dies, her stepsister is evil and Celeste accidentally kills her, and her mother, the only link the world she's ever had, dies, leaving Celeste completely alone and with no idea how to live in the world. Is it any wonder the poor thing goes insane?
Poor, poor Blackavar. Living in the oppressive, militaristic Efrafa he attempts to escape. He is apprehended and as punishment his ears are torn up and he is kept under solitary confinement. Every morning and evening, while the other rabbits are feeding, he is made to sit where everyone can see him, as an example to other would-be escapees.
"I come here for the Mark to see me," said the rabbit in his low, drained voice. "Every Mark should see how I have been punished as I deserved for my treachery in trying to leave the warren. The Council were merciful—the Council were merciful—the Council—I can't remember it, sir, I really can't!...I can't seem to remember anything."
As if to rub it in, the film gives Blackavar one of the most gruesome deaths in the movie.
And Fiver. When he's having epileptic fits and spouting Cassandra Truth, you just want to cuddle him and feed him carrots until he feels better.
I know this is weird, considering she's a minor character at best, but Hyzenthlay. That POEM...
Not weird at all. Aside from the usual torment she gets as an Efrafran doe she's also forced to abort her own children because there's simply no chance of them having a good life. Her friends are one-by-one rounded up and tortured, and she can't move two hops without an officer breathing down her neck. Her crowning moment of Woobie-ism is when she's trembling in Bigwig's burrow, convinced she's about to be raped, but all she can say is "I am in your Mark and under your orders, sir." Ouch.
Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol begins the book as a Jerk Ass and ends it as The Woobie. Which goes to show that even woobification can make a decent plot, provided that you write it well enough.
Bertie Wooster. Dear sweet Jesus, Bertie Wooster. He tries. He really does. All he wants to do is help his friends, and he usually ends up the one getting kicked/punched/called an imbecile/blamed for everyone's problems/engaged to a girl against his will/believed to be clinically insane/forced to ride a bicycle 18 miles in the rain and in his pajamas. Granted, this is P. G. Wodehouse's world and misery is never a big deal in comparison to most other works, but you have to remember that Bertie has no shoulder to cry on when he needs one, except for Jeeves (who never gives him one because he usually has a bad-fashion-related reason for giving Bertie the cold shoulder in these instances, one of which comes right off the heels of Bertie expressing that he feels like no one loves him). Add to that Hugh Laurie's eternally puppy-eyed portrayal of him in the TV show and you'd be reaching for a blanket too.
Every character in Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana, even perhaps Big Bad Brandin of Ygrath, but especially Dianora. Some may find her to be too whiney, but others may find her to just be a very tragic character. An exception is Alberico of Barbadior, who is completely unlikeable.
Many secondary characters are also easy candidates for woobiedom, as the Anyone Can Die nature of the story guarantees that there will be some spectacular suffering going on. The two standouts in a very long list are Leleth and Maegwyn. Leleth is Princess Miriamele's handmaiden, who is savaged by hunting dogs and spends the majority of the novels in a nearly comatose state delivering prophetic dreams to the heroes. Maegwyn is a princess of the Hernystiri, a Celtic Fantasy Counterpart Culture, whose father and brother are killed early in the war and who is forced to lead the remnants of her people in exile, all while suffering Unrequited Love for Count Eolair. She eventually goes mad from the stress and, to add insult to injury, is Mind Raped by one of the Storm King's minions. What's particularly brutal about these characters is that they both end up dying in order to give Simon the strength to return from near-death and confront the Storm King.
The Groke from The Moomins. Yes, it looks like a horryfying monster. It is also personification of winter, so it is doomed to horribly freeze for eternity. All other characters ostracize it, beacause it emmits cold and sadness, but it just desperately wants to have friends, and the kindest characters of the series, who understand its horrible condition, are too afraid to talk with it.
Frankenstein's monster. He might look scary, but the poor guy's just really lonely. He starts out innocent, but society's mistreatment turns him into the monster they believe him to be. Among other things, he gets shot for saving a girl from drowning. His part of the novel makes Victor look like a completely pathetic douchebag.
During Victory of Eagles, Laurence was not much better off himself.
Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower, who will probably make you choke on the bubbly, warm goo that rises in your heart every time he says something innocent and wise. The traumatic memories of Aunt Helen also make you want to wrap your arms around him in a ridiculously tight squeeze.
Enzo, the narrator of Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain, is a dog. A wonderful, clever, lovable dog with a ridiculous capacity for empathy and a master whose life is (most of the time) a cavalcade of misery. Also, Enzo announces that he's dying of old age. In the first chapter.
What about his owner, Denny? The guy just cannot catch a break. Enzo sums it all up pretty well here:
Imagine this. Imagine having your wife die suddenly of brain cancer. Then imagine having her parents attack you mercilessly in order to gain custody of your daughter. Imagine that they exploit allegations of neglect against you. Then they hire very expensive and clever lawyers because they have much more money than you have. Imagine that they prevent you from having any contact with your six-year-old daughter for months on end. And imagine they restrict your ability to earn money to support yourself and, of course, as you hope, your daughter. How long would you last before your will was broken? They had no idea who they were dealing with. Denny would not kneel before them. He would never quit; he would never break.
Prince Ahren Elessedil of the Elves, in The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara. He's sent on the Voyage because his brother wants to get him away from the line of succession. He Jumps At The Call because he sees it as the chance to be a part of a big adventure. He spends the next couple of books running for his life in the company of Ryer Ord Star, who he may be crushing on, despite being aware of her Mole status. He arrives at Antrax's headquarters too late to help save Walker, then gets captured by CreeBega and The Morgawr. He spends the last book being interrogated for information and watching Ryer change sides again to help The Morgawr, escapes because she creates a distraction for him, and is then confronted by Cree Bega who mocks him about Ryer's torture, possible rape, and suicide, before engaging him in a Knife Fight; this is after, in a previous scene, forcing Ahren to watch The Morgawr drain a ship's crew of their minds. By the end of the series, Ahren has no self-respect and no sense of his own worth left; he never goes home, and dies at the start of the next series with very little effort. From start to finish, his entire story is one big tragedy, and in Voyage, he is the standout Woobie. At least he managed to kill Cree Bega.
Andrei Taganov of We The Living. The guy gets strung along by both his "comrade", Pavel, who manipulates the system and lives the life of a corrupt capitalist he supposedly hates while Andrei remains true to his ideology and is mocked for it; and by his "lover", Kira, who manipulates him into using his power and position to help her help her true lover, Leo. Later, he uses his power to get Leo out of prison and away from a death sentence, he is then stripped of his position in the Party and is Driven to Suicide, and Pavel makes a party of his funeral. In the end, Leo leaves Kira to become a gigolo and Kira dies while trying to cross a border, and I could say that I don't care about either of them, but is this what Andrei's sacrifice amounts to for those two assholes?
Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire from A Series of Unfortunate Events. No human being, let alone CHILDREN, should go through what happens to them. For the record: Parental Abandonment, pursuit by a greedy psychopath, kidnapping, near decapitation, being unjustly accused of murder and being forced to commit arson to maintain a disguise. One almost wishes they died in the fire with their parents so they wouldn't be put through all this...
Lemony Snicket himself.
In The Obsidian Trilogy, Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory give us an 18 year old goatherdess named Vestakia. She spend her first ten years living with her mother and aunt in the howling wilderness well away from any sort of settlement. She spent the next four living just with her aunt. The four years after that she lived all alone save for some goats and convinced deep in her heart that any who got a good look at her and didn't try to kill her on the spot were planning to kidnap her and subject her to far, far, worse. Before anyone asks, the people who told her that last bit were neither evil nor insane; for the Prince of Shadow Mountain has occasionally sent his (or rather his mother's) creatures to hunt his daughter down.
Eustace Scrubb is the resident Jerkass for a good portion of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Then he gets turned into a dragon, and suddenly your perspective on him changes. He's a different boy after he gets changed back by Aslan, but he still goes through his struggles and you still root for him all the way.
There was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
Oscar from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. He goes through every damn misery a kid can go through in New Jersey AND the Dominican Republic. His mother and his grandfather go through much of the same. Well, at least his grandfather doesn't have to live in New Jersey.
Satou and Misaki from Welcome to the NHK. Satou feels worthless most of the time and is a total screw up who tries to act like he's fine. Since the story is told from his first person perspective, "I should just die" comes up a lot in his internal monologue. Misaki is sort of a Stepford Smiler who goes from being cheerful to saying oddly depressing things that reveal how much she hurts. There are so many moments where I wanted to slap and hug both of them. It turns out Misaki had been planning to kill herself for quite a while, then Satou tries to kill himself to stop her. They both fail and end up with a very strange Crowning Momentof Heart Warming.
Sara becomes one after her father dies. And then there's Ermengarde and Lottie... That boarding school is like a Woobie breeding ground.
If you read Speak in it's entirety and didn't have the desire to give Melinda a hug, you are not human.
The Great Gatsby himself. He falls in love with Daisy, fools around with her, is not able to marry her because of his financial status, is going to get rich enough for her liking just to have that taken out from under him by aWoman Scorned, earns his money in questionable fashion, and starts living the high life in order to get her attention...to find out that Daisy is married. You think that would be the end of that, but Daisy proceeds to encourage him to spend his money on beautiful dresses for her, sleeps with him more, manages to get him to take the blame for a murder just to cover her tracks, and finally is able to convince her to leave her husband. So, naturally, they live happily ever after, right? Wrong. Daisy and her husband don't even show up to Gatsby's funeral.
Dr. Goldpepper from the Galaxy Magazine short story Help! I Am Doctor Morris Goldpepper! A leading dentist, he was lured by aliens, with promises of glory, into servitude to aliens who meant to infiltrate us (maybe just to leech off of us, but maybe with more sinister aims), forced to make false teeth for the (toothless) aliens.
Nicci from Sword of Truth. Her mother, a Well-Intentioned Extremist, continually hammered the teachings of the strawman communists into her head: that beauty is useful only to a whore, and that her life is worthless without self-sacrifice. Her father was a successful businessman who genuinely loved her, but her mother convinced her that he was evil due to his capitalist ways. This sense of worthlessness, combined with her magical training, led her to become a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
Second, we have Hades's son, Nico di Angelo. Caught in a Lotus-Eater Machinesince the 1930s, he starts off pretty pitable, but only gets more so when his older sister gets killed by a malfunctioning Talos. He flees to the Underworld, where he is duped by King Minos into thinking he could retreive her soul, but gets sealed in the Labyrinth by him when he outlives his usefulness. And he's twelve. In the sequel series, he learns that Bianca decided to get reborn without telling him, gets trapped in the darkest part of the underworld and suffers excruciating Mind Rape, which no human or god has ever survived. Then he's kidnapped and its implied Gaea subjects him to such horrific torture he'll never recover.Then, in The House of Hades, it is revealed that he is (or was) in love with Percy, who will never love him back and is now trapped in Tartarus, and Nico is afraid that his sexuality will make him even more of an outcast than he already is. And yeah, he's only 14.
Third, there's Nico's big sister, Bianca, who has the same backstory as Nico, but, as mentioned, gets killed halfway through a quest by a Talos. Which only attacks because she picks up an action figure to bring back to her beloved little brother (the Talos is designed to attack anyone who touches the items in the junkyard it guards). Even after death though, she's still trying to help and guide Nico as much as she can.
Fourth, there's Hazel Levasque, the daughter of Pluto (Hades' Roman aspect) first introduced in Son of Neptune. Born in the 1920s, her mother struck a deal with Pluto that caused Hazel to pull up cursed treasure from the ground wherever she went. Because of this, she and her mother were more or less outcasts causing her mother to strike a deal with Gaea for Hazel to help raise Gaea's eldest son. In order to keep said giant from returning, Hazel sacrificed herself. This might have ended happily with Hazel in Elysium, since she was deemed a hero, except that would mean her mother would have to go to Tartarus. So Hazel struck her own deal that they would both go to the Fields of Asphodel, which ended up being a thousand times worse for her, because of her abilities thanks to being Pluto's daughter. Finally, after years, she is rescued by her half-brother Nico, who only rescued her because he couldn't find Bianca. Add to that the fact that most of her life was spent with her semi-crazed mother, a Disappeared Dad, a love interest who has his life force linked to a piece of wood that will probably burn up pretty soon, her half-brother's kidnapping and the fact that, despite all this, she is still one of the most helpful and good-natured characters in the series and you've got the biggest Woobie of a Wobbie-ful family.
And finally, a rare non-Hades Woobie is Leo Valdez. Tricked into burning his own mother alive as a child, thrown out by the rest of his family, kicked from foster home to foster home for years and forced to adopt a Sad Clown mask to protect himself. When he finally finds out he's a demigod and makes friends, he's still treated as an annoyance, comic relief and general repair man, despite saving their butts repeatedly. His pet, metallic dragon dies and all his other friends couple off, leaving him as the lonely 'Seventh Wheel', of no importance to anyone. Oh and to top it off, he's got a massive inferiority complex as well.
Niall in the Wicked Lovely/Faery court series. He was in love with the Dark King, Irial. He didn't know that he was a gancanagh, that the mortals he had slept with were addicted and dying, until Irial tells him. He freaks out, and tries to leave the dark court. Irial sends his servant/gaurd to bring him back to the dark court, permantley scarring his face in the process. There, Irial gives him a choice- he gives the dark fey the mortals he has addicted or gives him himself. Niall gives them himself. This results in him being horrfically abused and on at least on ocaision raped by the dark fey. Most of the fans were absolutely horrorified by his admission of this and Niall was completley, irreparably broken by it. In the end, his sacrifices were for nothing; the mortals still died, pining away for the drug in Niall's skin. He goes on to put his trust in another faery king, Keenan, who lies to him about a mortal girl named Leslie who had fallen in love with. And who is kidnapped and used as an emotional conduit -and as something close to a willing sex slave- by Irial. Yes, THAT Irial. Even when he eventually frees Leslie, she leaves both him and Irial, leaving them with eachother. And then Irial forces Niall into kingship, subsequently turning him into the one thing he hated and feared above all else. His scars (of which there are many, both physical and emotional) are tragic, but they make him more endearing.
Leslie herself. If your older brother allowing his friends to rape you isn't bad enough, then try seeing things no mortal should and losing your emotions. Watching someone become a shell like that is heartbreaking, both for the readers and Niall (Notice how it comes back to Niall? Guy's the personification of woobieness.)
Keenan is something of a Jerkass Woobie, although the reasons why (aside from the curse his abusive mother placed on him, and the things he had to whilst under it) aren't quite clear.
Also on the Jerkass Woobie side of things is Irial himself; he is only doing what he has to for the dark court, but watching the dark fey abuse your ex-lover in the worst possible way can't be pleasant, especially not when it's technically your fault.
Donia, a girl transformed by the curse. She is forced to carry the winters cold, being mistreated and Manipulated by Beira all the while, and when she eventually is freed of it has to see the one she loves in another's arms; her and Keenan love each other, but can never be together.
As hard as it may seem to believe, what with his habit of killing people and all that, but The Da Vinci Code's Silas is a Woobie. A passage in the book tells us of his background, and it is revealed that his Father was deeply ashamed of his son's albinism, blamed his Mother for it and beat her often, eventually killing her when Silas was seven. Silas was so guilty that he'd allowed it to happen that he killed his Father, before running away. Due to his appearance the other runaways wouldn't accept him, leaving him alone on the streets for years and years, growing into adulthood, never shown any affection, if people noticed him it was only because they were scared by the way he looked. After killing a docker who'd reminded him of his Father, Silas was sent to a prison where he was, again, rejected and taunted by his peers. He was able to break out when the prison was destroyed, and spent several days running, delirious with hunger and exhaustion with nowhere to go, until he finally collapsed. Upon being rescued by Bishop Aringarosa, he was overwhelmed with gratitude because it had been the first time in years and years that anyone had shown him any kindness, and Aringarosa had to name him, because he'd forgotten his real name, remembering only the insults he'd had to endure all his life. You can't blame him for being a touch unhinged, really.
Balram's dad in The White Tiger. He's been poor and miserable his entire life, is abused by the women in his family and puts all of his efforts into making sure Balram receives the education he needs to have a good life, only to die painfully on the floor of a government hospital of tuberculosis.
Codex Alera has a couple: Araris Valerian and Rook. Araris spends most of the series getting kicked around in various ways, some of them very painful (at one point he disembowels himself) and badass as he is, he still ends up needing to be saved several times. His backstory is superlatively woobieish, and he can't even catch a break when acting like a helpful but seriously brain-damaged slave; even Bernard snaps at him. Not that you could tell from how he acts. Rook, on the other hand, is the head of the intelligence service for Lord Kalare, and though she hates him and would love to turn on him given the opportunity, can't because he's holding her daughter hostage. So she has to continue to work against the people who have become her friends during her time undercover, and doesn't even have the consolation of being able to cry about it, since that could make them suspicious. And, when it looks like the poor woman is finally going to get some peace, Gaius drags her back into service and she gets killed by the Vord Queen.
Jamie from The Demons Lexicon. Let's see, a timid guy who just wants everyone to get along, unhappy at home, miserable at school, marked for possession by a demon, hiding the fact that he's a magician, who in this 'verse are more or less Always Chaotic Evil...and his only friends apart from his sister are a Knife Nut and a Consummate Liar. Nothing ever goes right for Jamie. The boy needs a hug per chapter. At least.
It's impossible not to feel bad for 'Cita in the second Petaybee book- she is first introduced just after she fled a cult to escape an Arranged Marriage to a man who held her and her mother prisoner for years. Her given name at that point is Goat-dung.
No mention of Serena Butler from "The Butlerian Jihad" of the Dune books? Despite her brother dying 3 years earlier, Serena finds the loves of her life and is engaged to marry him. She takes a gamble and goes to liberate the planet of Giedi Prime (Which was only overtaken because her fiance overlooked certain security measures in order to get back to her). The plan succeeds at the expense of two of her crew and her capture. She then finds out she is pregnant and is given to a psychotic robot who likes to do experiments on humans. Her son is born but that is the last good part in the book. In the following chapters, her son is murdered by the robot, her uterus is removed and she returns home to find out her fiance married her younger sister. She ends up being killed in order to be made a martyr. Her woobiness bordered on blatant character abuse.
Cosette, from Les Misérables, before Valjean rescues her. After that, she's fine, but before...if you don't want to hug the little 8 year old you have no soul. She's never had anyone be kind to her, she's always dressed in rags and barefoot, even in the winter - working ever since she could crawl (part of this involves making warm, child sized stockings - for her foster sisters) she's never given enough food, she's beaten constantly - even if someone else does one of her chores for her - and she watches other little girls play with dolls, while she works, or if she's very, very luck, gets a break to play with a tiny sword, smaller than her pinky. Plus she's verbally abused day in, day out, and thinks that she doesn't have a mother. She doesn't get love. Also, she's the size of a six year old, for added adorability.
When she first meets Valjean, she's outside, in the very, very dark, carrying a huge, heavy bucket, and she's soaked and cold. The first thing she does back at the inn is go back to work - she can't even warm herself by a fire. If that doesn't make you want to wrap her in a warm blanket, and give her the biggest, prettiest doll in the world, you are not human.
Most of the characters get this sooner or later. Valjean needs a hug every time he has those night-long angsts about what's the right thing to do (he always chooses the right and painful path). Also, poor Fantine needs Deus ex Machina so badly. Éponine, even if the fangirls made her an annoying Sue, is heartbreaking in the original. Azelma too when her evil dad makes her smash a window and cut her hand. Also, Gavroche and his little brothers in the rain. Old Mabeuf who interestingly, takes a level in badass. Marius's poor father... *sniff* ... even Inspector Javert could use a hug near the end, he's so confused and desperate.
Ginger from Black Beauty. Abused by nearly all of her owners before Squire Gordon bought her, and then just after she decided it was okay to trust humans, she was sold to a vain owner who tortured her (and Beauty, who is also a woobie) with a rein so tight she couldn't breathe while she was wearing it. If you can blame Ginger for going crazygonuts after a few months of that, you have no soul. The next (and last) time we see her, Ginger's next progression of owners have treated her so badly that she's completely worn down, physically and mentally, and hoping that her owner will be merciful enough to just shoot her. He doesn't; he just works her to death. It's one of the most powerful depictions of animal cruelty in literature, and by God, it works.
Astrid Lindgren (in The Children Of Noisy Village) has a little boy who's even younger and weaker than Lotta (the little girl), and it is stated that she can beat him up easily. When she's asked why she hits him, she explains: "Because he's so cute when he cries."
Sublett from William Gibson's Virtual Light. Where to start with this guy? First, he's an albino who has to wear sunscreen and reflective contact lenses constantly to avoid sunburn and corneal damage. Second, he has to chew special medicated gum multiple times a day because he has such severe chemical allergies that even walking into a room where cleaning fluid was recently used could kill him. Third, he was born and raised in a bizarre Christian sect that worships movies and TV, which confines him to his mother's trailer home as part of a penance ritual after he watches Videodrome on a recommendation from a friend (David Cronenberg's work is considered a tool of Satan). The only reason you shouldn't try to give this guy a hug is that your perfume/deodorant might put him in the hospital.
Several characters in The Orphan's Tales, particularly the Stars, although the eponymous orphan storyteller is a definite candidate. Itto, the Twin Star falls to earth and deliberately gives away his light so he can live among humans. All he wants to do is build a red ship, and as his materials are stolen bit by bit, a red boat, then a red raft... And then eventually the raft is stolen, he's beaten half to death, and then thrown into the ocean.
The knife really slides in when the little fox girl who's heard his tale and helped him die peacefully finds the remnants of Itto's raft. The raft had washed up on a shore and grown into a Ship-Tree, hoping one day he would come and find her. Upon hearing about his death:
The masthead's face became as soft as wood can manage, and tears of sap flowed down her face. She spoke to the moat around her.
"Itto? Itto? Do you see how big and tall I've become? I'm a real ship now, not a silly broken raft. Aren't you proud of me?"
Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The Tower of the Elephant" managed the impressive feat of turning an Eldritch Abomination into one of these. Yag-kosha was once a member of a race of beings from beyond the stars that journeyed to Conan's world after being outcast from their own world by their kings, and lived for many, many years, seeing a lot of the history of the world of that time, and dying one by one until only Yag-kosha was left, the Last of His Kind. He was worshipped as a god by the Khitans until he was found by Evil Sorcerer Yara, who wanted power, and who eventually tricked him into divulging a secret he had not meant to bare, turned the being's own power against him, and enslaved him. Over the course of three hundred years, Yag-kosha was tortured, blinded, horribly abused and made to serve the sorcerer's evil will, and such was Yara's utter cruelty that Yag-kosha was not even allowed to kill himself to be freed from his centuries-long torment. When Conan found Yag-kosha in the title tower, after revealing the above to the young thief and warrior, the creature bade Conan release him from his agony, in the only way a being like him could be released, as part of a "last gift and a last enchantment" to finally destroy his tormentor.
Surely Sebastian from Brideshead Revisited counts? His family betray him, Charles betrays him, Kurt gets taken from him by the Nazis and he falls from being a beautiful and lively young man to a hermetic hanger-on at some backwater monastery, with plenty of alcoholic misery in between.
Dominick Birdsey in I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb. The book deals primarily with his struggle with having an mentally ill twin brother but what else doesn't happen to the poor guy? Abusive childhood, losing a parent, a painful divorce after losing his only child, severely injured at his job, an AIDS scare...
And Dolores Price (later Davies) from Lamb's first novel, She's Come Undone. Her abusive father leaves her mother, she's raped at thirteen years old before comfort eating her way to obesity. Her mother is then killed by a truck and she goes to college, where she is bullied because she is fat. After that, she witnesses the death of a beached whale and attempts suicide herself, and then spends seven years in a mental hospital. If that weren't enough, she then finds love - with an emotionally abusive idiot, whom she marries, becomes pregnant, and he forces her to have an abortion. Then her grandmother dies... Wally Lamb is very, very good at writing woobies.
In the Twilight series, Bree Tanner. Turned into a vampire against her will, confused and terrified, then abruptly killed off after apparently finding someone who can help. Even people who aren't fans of the series may find themselves wanting to hug her.
How about Leah? The author initially paints her as being a bitter, sarcastic bitch, but it's not without cause. Her father dies of a heart attack, which may have been brought on by the shock of Leah and her brother Seth turning into werewolves. She loses her boyfriend to her cousin Emily, thanks to imprinting, essentially a werewolf soul mate detector. She is originally a member of Sam's pack, and since werewolf packs are all connected mentally while in wolf form, she is constantly subjected to Sam's thoughts about Emily. Fortunately, she breaks from Sam's pack and joins Jacob's, but that's not the end of it. She reveals to Jacob that the shifting to a wolf has stopped her menstural cycle, and she worries that this may prevent her from ever having children, imprinting, or being imprinted on. She also feels some insecurity about being the only girl wolf and wonders if this reflects badly on her femininity. Granted, she ends the series a lot happier and with some plans for her future, but she still had to deal with a lot.
Tom from Rot & Ruin. Forced to run away with his then-18-month-old brother, Ben, leaving behind his Stepmom and zombified Dad because of the zombie outbreak. He loses several companions along the way. Him and his group were half-starved and being chased by zombies before finding a refugee camp. Fast forward 14 years, he's a closure specialist, paid by people to kill their zombified friends and family, which is an emotionally draining job. Ben hates him and believes he's a coward for running away instead of saving his Mom. His love interest is severely beaten and dies in his arms. And close to the climax of the book he gets shot over 40 times and falls into a horde of zombies. At the end, he has to Kill his zombified Dad, and it's revealed that he didn't rescue Ben's mother because she was already bitten. Ben hated him all those years for nothing
For that matter, what about Inigo? He grew up being dirt poor, but he didn't care at all because he had his father and loved him. And then he watched as his father was murdered by a bastard of a nobleman and no one dared do anything about it. While he devotes his entire life to being the greatest swordsman ever, he also becomes an alcoholic, which he is taunted by Vizzini over. And when he finally finds Count Rogen, he is stabbed and is taunted with "You must be that little Spanish brat I taught a lesson to, all those years ago. Don't tell me you chased me all of this time, just to fail now". It's immensely satisfying when Inigo kills him.
Fitz Chivalry from Robin Hobb's Farseer and Golden Man trilogies. As one of the characters in the series remarks, Fitz is constantly either tearing around at a frenetic pace or lying in bed recovering from yet another injury. He also has every chance at happiness he seeks taken away from him, usually brutally.
Kyle from Beastly goes here by the end of the story. He quickly abandons hope of anyone loving him, but he does really love Lindy and want her to be happy. Because of this, and though he continues to wish she'd refuse the offer and stay with him, he lets her go home to her father, with an open invitation to return to him as a friend instead of a prisoner. When she doesn't come back, he believes she secretly hated him and resigns himself to a life alone. And to top it all off, on the night he's going to be stuck a monster forever, he gets a vision of Lindy being dragged off by a shady drug dealer who's implied to want her for prostitution. He goes to save her and is fatally shot in the process, after a subway full of people see him and call him a monster. He refuses hospitalization and decides to die in an abandoned warehouse, just so he can spend a few more minutes with her. His last thought before dying is that at least Lindy's safe and that he wants just one kiss from her before he goes. Fortunately, he just makes the deadline and turns back.
Arthur Dimmesdale from The Scarlet Letter. It's almost painful to watch this sweet, well-meaning, and intelligent man rip apart from the inside.
Kaladin from Brandon Sanderson's The Way Of Kings. His family is despised and abused by Citylord Roshone, to the point of his brother Tien, at age 14, being drafted into the army by Roshone's orders, whom he follows to try and protect, but Tien dies. As a spearman he continues to try and keep his squad alive, but then most of them are killed by a Shardbearer, and the ones who remain are killed by their own superior officer, Brightlord Amaram, who has decided the Shardblade and Plate rightfully belonging to Kaladin (who refuses them) would be better off in his hands and has to kill them all so it looks like he won them, as no one would believe that Kaladin just refused them. For this, he is branded as a deserter and is sold into slavery. After being bought and sold numerous times and abused, he tries to use his surgeon knowledge to help a fellow slave, whom the slavemaster kills, to make sure he doesn't infect the others. He becomes part of a Bridge Crew in Brightlord Sadeas's warcamp, where a bunch of unarmored men carry heavy wooden bridges for miles and miles just to be shot at by a full line of Parshendi archers as a distraction from the real army. At one point, Kaladin nearly commits suicide due to his station in life, but comes out of it when Syl brings him a poisonous leaf he had treasured months earlier. When he discovers a tactic that would save bridgemen's lives, it works for his well-trained bridge crew, but ends up getting the others killed, and crippling Sadeas' forces, causing a huge loss, for which he is beaten and then left to die tied to a wall in a highstorm, which he miraculously survives. After which he is hated by the new officers in charge, who first put Kaladin's bridge crew on full-time chasm duty, then move their chasm duty to the night so they can be on full-time bridge running duty.
Needful Things's Nettie Cobb. Too bad she dies. Also, Norris Ridgewick.
The Chaplain from Catch-22, who is constantly accused of doing things that he didn't do and doesn't have the courage to stand up for himself.
Kurt Wallander. He deals with the anguish due to shooting a man for the first time, suffers when his father goes crazy and eventually dies, then his horrible bitch of a daughter and his even more horrible bitch of an ex-wife visit him and tell him what a failure at life he is. And he just sits there and takes it, looking sadder and sadder.
The title character of Lolita, whose childhood is all but destroyed by the pedophilic Villain Protagonist. Her mother Charlotte Haze arguably counts as one as well.
The Marquis de Sade's Justine. Sweet, kind girl who just wants to be good, but everyone she meets who doesn't want to beat and/or rape her wants to do something even worse to her, and usually gets to do it. Some say that Sade was trying to make a political point about how the rich and powerful mistreat the poor and weak, but one can't help feeling that he just enjoyed it.
Considering Sade's utter hatred of the conventional morality and virtue of the period (considering it little more than a mask for Straw Hypocrite lies) and the fact that one of the subtitles of the book in question is "Virtue Well-Chastised", more likely than not, he did enjoy it.
Beth March. The Ill Girl of the March family, painfully shy around men and more painfully aware of her flaws, and in love with a man who doesn't love her back. And then things go downhill.
Aaron Stampler from Primal Fear appears to be this, until the movies twist ending.
Though you wouldn't think it, Artyom from Metro 2033 is very smart, very naive, and, solely because he lacks a socio/psychopathic streak, he's constantly kicked both sides of the world, like in the Nazi station, he kills a Nazi officer for shooting Vanechka, the mentally handicapped boy a friendly old man was playing father to, and he has a large rope mark around his neck for his trouble. Every two seconds, somebody says "It's up to you now." and he's got to do it, despite being quite scared of the Metro, not as strong as the many people still alive (Natural Selection in the works) and only doing it because he was effectively blackmailed by Hunter,who still shows up every now and then in hallucinations to scare the crap out of Artyom. Plus, it would seem that the Metro itself is actively trying to kill him, as there's often some sort of unexplained noise, or gunfire, or strange phenomena just around the next corner. The worst part, though? There's nowhere else to turn. If he stops journeying to Polis, the Dark Ones will kill everyone in VDN Kh, when he keeps going on he's almost killed every few seconds in a bizarre way, and if anyone wants to reclaim the surface and leave all the weird stuff in the Metro alone, they'll have to cleanse the atmosphere first, 'cause there's a nuclear winter on. Oh, and if Artyom were to die at any point, he'd be absorbed into a hive mind of dead people that must eternally walk the Metro because Heaven and Hell were atomized in an And I Must Scream scenario. Really, at this point, a hug would be like trying to fix all the wounds of all the wars in all of time with a band-aid.
Poor little Vardaman from As I Lay Dying. Those five words and it's obvious he needs a big hug and maybe a foster family.
In Death: Poor Nixie Swisher from Survivor In Death. Her best friend and entire family are murdered in one night, with only her surviving. That happened because she woke up at night to get an Orange Fizzy, hid when the murderers came in, and the murderers thought her best friend was her. If that makes you feel nothing for her, then you must as soulless as the murderers in this story.
Alex Rider. Starts the series as a perfectly happy, if somewhat unusual kid, then by the end of the year his uncle his dead, he's gone through horrific situations that no adult should have to go through, let alone a child — his housekeeper, the only person he's always loved and trusted, is blown up as he's Forced to Watch, and he ends up as a Shell-Shocked Veteran. At the age of fourteen.
Fletcher, especially as of Death Bringer. He has no friends and no life because of how devoted he is to Valkyrie, who ends up dumping him after cheating on him with a vampire. He realises that Skulduggery and the group insult him to relieve stress, and he actually likes it because he feels like he belongs when they do. Also in Faceless Ones he was kidnapped and implied to have been briefly tortured until he complied with the villains, and it was also hinted he might have issues with his father.
Valkyrie, who ends up going through a lot of beatings, torture, watching friends die and general unpleasantness despite only being a teenager. She's also Darquesse, the person fated to destroy the world and kill her own parents, which causes her no amount of distress.
Skulduggery himself. His wife and child were killed in front of him, then he himself was brutally killed and came back as a skeleton. This along with the horror of war made him snap, and become the Omnicidal Maniac Lord Vile. His insanity starts to show in Dark Days, after being tortured by The Faceless Ones for the good part of a year.
The Prince of Wales in The Prince and the Pauper. While Tom Canty was having a high old time pretending to be him, he was off being beaten by a jeering mob, followed by a similar beating from Tom's father and grandmother. Then after escaping their clutches and a brief respite with Miles Hendon, Tom's father recaptured him and, after fleeing said father and the gang of ruffians he'd joined up with, he was nearly killed by an insane hermit with a grudge against the king. Then Tom's father found him again and, after he was rescued again by Miles Hendon, they arrived at Hendon Hall only to be thrown into prison by Hendon's corrupt brother and forced to witness two women being burned at the stake. Sure, they were released and he managed to switch places with Tom again and it all gave him a keener appreciation for the hardships of the less privileged, but he was only fifteen at the time and a ruder awakening to reality is hard to imagine. And then, in accordance with history, he dies young.
Haywood from Tales of the Frog Princess. Let us count the ways. Motherdied, horriblefather, siblings afraid of him because he's a wizard, can't do the type of magic he wants, his girlfriend's (the one good thing about his adolescence) mother turned him into an otter, he finally turns back but has trouble re-adapting, making him even more awkward and shy than before, and his girlfriend is cursed, turning her into an ugly nasty hag who hates him, and it's almost a year before the curse is broken and he finally gets to marry her. On top of all of that, he's probably in his forties when he finally has a son, and seeing as how this is the middle ages, he'll probably die when his son is in his twenties, or even still a teenager! In short, Haywood's life sucks.
Chartreuse is a Jerkass Woobie. She's borderline emotionally abusive to her daughter Emma, and has a loathing of magic (Emma's a witch)... but this is because Emma resembles Chartreuse's younger sister Grassina, who's a witch, even though Chartreuse tried and tried for years to become a witch. As a result, Grassina was the favorite of their own horrible mother. Whether you like her or not, it's sort of hard not to feel a twinge of sympathy for her.
Peter Pan gives us Tootles, the unfailingly sweet, ever-miserable, Born Unlucky Lost Boy. When he accidentally shoots Wendy and thinks she's dead, we get this memorable Tear Jerker:
"I did it," he said, reflecting. "When ladies used to come to me in dreams, I said, 'Pretty mother, pretty mother.' But when at last she really came, I shot her."
Sarah Heap in Septimus Heap. After losing some of her children all the time, you really feel sad for her.
Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Match Girl" also fits this mold. Afraid to go home and face her horrible father after failing to sell any matches, she is reduced to huddling by a wall and striking her matches in an attempt to keep warm. The story ends with her being found frozen to death.
Imriel de la Courcel from Kushiel's Legacy definitely counts. He's sold into slavery and subjected to horrific tortures as a child. Even after being rescued, he still has to deal with being the son of Terre d'Ange's most infamous traitor and the mistrust that comes with it.
Eeyore in A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh, and in subsequent film and television adaptations. While it's arguable that the worst thing that ever happened to Eeyore was having temporarily lost his tail, his perpetual sad, slow and melancholy demeanor and general lack of self-esteem seems to evoke a feeling of sympathy and pity for him from the audience.
Note that he's a lot more woobie-ish in the Disney films; the books depict him as more self-centered misanthrope than victim of fate. This doesn't stop Piglet and Pooh, and quite possibly the reader, from feeling sorry for him and wanting to do nice things for him, such as making sure he gets a birthday party.
The people at the door never say anything, but the child, who has not always lived in the tool room, and can remember sunlight and its mother's voice, sometimes speaks. "I will be good, " it says. "Please let me out. I will be good!" They never answer. The child used to scream for help at night, and cry a good deal, but now it only makes a kind of whining, "eh-haa, eh-haa," and it speaks less and less often. It is so thin there are no calves to its legs; its belly protrudes; it lives on a half-bowl of corn meal and grease a day. It is naked. Its buttocks and thighs are a mass of festered sores, as it sits in its own excrement continually.
Will Herondale from The Infernal Devices, after we find out the Jerkass attitude is due to a curse that anyone who loves him will die.
Even more so when we find out that there really was no curse. The demon tricked him by telling Will he put a curse on him, and then killing Will's sister to make it look like it was the curse.
The biggest woobie in The Cat Who is actually a Posthumous Character. A farmer in the late nineteenth century, he braved the massive wildfire that had reached his house to save his two children—but by the time he found them, one of his arms had burned off and he could only save one of the kids—and he had to choose which one.
Three words: The Ugly Duckling. Who didn't want to hug the poor little guy after he had suffered so much?
Simona Ahrnstedt gives us Beatrice Löwenström in her debut novel Överenskommelser. She's smart, competent and tough, but life has been really hard on her. Not only did she lose her mother when she was only six years old and her father when she was only fourteen years old. But she also has to live with her tyrannical uncle, who abuses her for five long years, forcing her into a marriage with a man, who's like forty years older than her and treats women like dirt under his shoes. Beatrice's relationship with Seth, her love interest, is also complicated to say the least. And just when she thought that things would turn out good between them, cue her sadistic cousin ruining everything! Not to mention that she was brutally raped and almost killed on her wedding night...