Isaac Asimov: Foundation Series' "The Mule": Magnifico Giganticus willingly tells Bayta and Toran about the various indignities that the Mule has subjected him to for entertainment, such as being held upside-down by his ankle while reciting poetry.
Mr Bagthorpe of The Bagthorpe Saga. Yes, he brings a lot of it on himself, but fact remains he's bedeviled by more disasters, wrong bank statements, goats and awful relatives than anyone else in children's literature. If he doesn't break his arm trying to stand on his head he's accidentally bidding for hundreds of pounds of junk in auctions. And he's suspected of being a terrorist and murdering his wife in the later books. To quote, "I am the archetypal can carrier of all time!"
Penlan, aka "Jinxie", from the Ciaphas Cain series. Her bad luck hasn't killed her yet, heck, she even got promoted. Addtionally, she's rather popular with the rest of the 597th as it's believed that all the bad luck in her squad gets attracted to her and leaves everyone else alone. From the what Cain has said, it really does work out for her.
In the Chivalric RomanceCleges, the impoverished Sir Cleges received miraclous cherries at Christmas and went to give them to the king to mend his fortunes. Three royal officials each demand a third of his reward to let him in. When he does so, the king wishes to reward him. He tells the king that the proper reward is thirty blows, and then explains. The king gives his officials the blows and then rewards Cleges's wife for being so faithful to him in his poverty. Porters and other offficials that could keep ministrels from the court are often treated like this in romance — given that Most Writers Are Writers.
Rincewind. He doesn't just want to be left alone, he actually wants his life to be boring. But due partly to being the pawn of Luck, and partly to his own self-defeating cowardice, he always ends up in the middle of some gigantic disaster surrounded by people who want him dead.
Rincewind: I do not wish to volunteer for this mission. Lord Vetinari: I beg your pardon? Rincewind: I do not wish to volunteer, sir. Lord Vetinari: No one was asking you to. Rincewind:(wagging a weary finger) Oh, but they will, sir. They will. Someone will say: hey, that Rincewind fella, he's the adventurous sort, he knows the Horde, Cohen seems to like him, he knows all there is to know about cruel and unusual geography, he'd be just the job for something like this. (sighing) And then I'll run away, and probably hide in a crate somewhere that'll be loaded on to the flying machine in any case. Lord Vetinari: Will you? Rincewind: Probably, sir. Or there'll be a whole string of accidents that end up causing the same thing. Trust me. sir, I know how my life works. So I thought I'd better cut through the whole tedious business and come along and tell you I don't wish to volunteer. Lord Vetinari: I think you've left out a logical step somewhere... Rincewind: No, sir. It's very simple. I'm volunteering. I just don't wish to. But, after all, when did that ever have anything to do with anything?
Note that very few people manage to even momentarily confuse the Patrician. Rincewind is a sort of singularity. (The Patrician seems rather off his game generally in The Last Hero; he does a couple of other things that are not quite in line with the Crazy-PreparedMagnificent Bastard we've come to know and love. The world is about to end, so he's got some excuse for being distracted.)
Also the Bursar. He went insane, and accidents are constantly happening to him; if someone throws away something, you can bet that it's going to hit the Bursar. Mind you, he doesn't seem to notice.
In Divergent, nothing goes well for Al. He is too afraid of hurting others to actually fight during the first phase of initiation, the fear serum destroys his mind in the second phase, he's attracted to a girl who'd much rather prefer their instructor, when he messes up said girl refuses to forgive him, and he commits suicide.
Harry Dresden. Practically the poster boy for Iron Woobie and for good reason. His mother was murdered by magic as she gave birth to him, his father was apparently also murdered - though he appeared to have an aneurysm - when he was six, his adoptive father and teacher saw him as nothing more than a future Elite Mook, his 'first everything' appears to turn on him and go bad leading to him appearing to kill her in the duel that kills his adoptive father. Oh, and he makes a deal with the third most powerful faerie in the Winter Court, after the two senior Queens, the Leanansidhe. Remember this, it'll come back later. Then he gets put on trial for murder and only survives because Ebenezar McCoy (his grandfather) stands up for him. He is thereafter on probation. After he finally escapes probation, he has to deal with living in a musty basement, trying to do good and being looked down on as a freak and weirdo at best or a walking Tyke Bomb.
Jim Butcher has said on several occasions that he considers it his job to make Harry Dresden's life miserable
Samantha Byrd in Be Careful What You Wish For. She's a total klutz who is very inept at basketball and is mercilessly picked on by Judith. Her home life isn't much better either, as her parents, while not abusive or neglectful, are emotionally aloof towards her and don't relate to her well, and her older brother picks on her just as much. It says a lot when she decides being magically turned into a bird is the happiest moment of her life.
Michael Webster in The Cuckoo Clock of Doom is blatantly The Unfavorite of the family, as his parents dote on their youngest daughter, Tara, who has an excellent reputation of making Michael's life miserable, and when he does tell them about his sister's torments, they refuse to concede this and assume he's lying. What's more is that even back when he was as young as four, it's revealed that his own father insinuates he's stupid just because he didn't tie his shoe sooner. Thanks to his sister's birth year being knocked off the cuckoo clock after Michael returns from his time traveling expedition, Tara no longer exists, and for all the shit she put Michael through prior to the ending, it's implied that he probably might never go back in time to get her back.
Carly-Beth in The Haunted Mask is considered the biggest scaredy-cat in school, as she is often a victim of cruel practical jokes, mostly from Chuck and Steve, and even her brother often takes advantage of this when messing with her duck costume. She does eventually grow out of it in the sequel when she Grew a Spine though.
Evan Ross in ALL the Monster Blood books. He's constantly abandoned by his parents to relatives who don't like him, gets used as a guinea pig by his nerdy cousin Kermit and often has the latter's experiments horribly backfire on him, is constantly treated like garbage by his science teacher, gets ruthlessly bullied and beaten to a pulp by Conan, and is also stuck in situations involving the titular green substance.
Arguably the BIGGEST one out of all of them is Gary Lutz from Why I'm Afraid of Bees, and to put it bluntly, calling him a loser is a HUGE understatement. He has literally ZERO friends, is spurned by everyone else and even beaten up by a group of bullies For the Evulz, his beekeeper neighbor sadistically torments him with bees, and even his family seem to take great pleasure in picking on him for laughs. It's at the point in which he's considered the biggest Woobie of the protagonists of the series.
Sarah Maas in The Curse of Camp Cold Lake, though admittedly we don't know much of her life aside from her horrible camp experience except that she had trouble making friends. After she accidentally offends each of her bunkmates, they take it upon themselves to bully and shun her to the point where she becomes the camp pariah.
Matt Amsterdam in Don't Go to Sleep is The Unfavorite to his older brother and sister whom his mother believes he should look up to and respect since they take care of him when she's busy, when in reality they bully him and make sure he's miserable. At the end of the book, he gains greater appreciation for his life and family after all the alternate realities he endured due to falling asleep in the guest room, though said life and family doesn't get any better.
Neville Longbottom was very much the Butt Monkey for the first four books, being there mainly just as a source of comic relief. However he Took a Level in Badass in the fifth book and if you're laughing at him by the seventh book, you have a very weird sense of humour.
Peter Pettigrew took away Neville's title ever since the third book was released. Mostly because of the snark delivered his way by people from his ex-friends like Lupin and Sirius, to Voldemort himself. And all verbally assaulted him and gave him crappy jobs for the mere pleasure in seeing him squirm. But then again, when you decide to do a FaceHeel Turn on your best friends knowing it'll lead them to death or worse, then spend twelve years as a rat, you kind of deserve the title of Butt Monkey.
Even while he still was a rat, he was a Butt Monkey — it was repeatedly pointed out how shabby Scabbers (Meaningful Name) looked, and Ron, despite loving his pet rat, was also a bit ashamed of him. And in the third book Hermione got the big cat Crookshanks, which made life difficult for Scabbers.
Even Peter's death was pathetic; he gets strangled to death by his own hand in a scene that's basically treated as an afterthought by Rowling, while so much other stuff is going on that you barely notice his passing. Not that he didn't deserve it, mind you.
In an extremely minor case, the Auror John Dawlish, who, though described by Dumbledore as a very good student in his first appearance, is the subject of a Running Gag where he is constantly being beaten up by, among others, Dumbledore himself (twice) and Neville's grandmother.
Not to mention getting constantly Confunded (a sort of hypnosis/forgetfulness/disorientation spell) by heroes and villains alike.
Percy, Filch, Umbridge, Lockhart, and Draco also have their share in this trope, but they almost always deserve it.
No one respects the Divination teacher, Professor Trelawney. Even Dumbledore jumps in on the snark fest when shes not around. He tells Harry in the sixth book that he personally thinks all of Divination is a bunch of hooey but keeps her at Hogwarts partially because parents want it taught and partially to protect her from Voldemort.
Harry himself is the Butt-Monkey of the Dursley household until his 11th birthday.
Life just seems to hate Severus Snape; his past isn't a cakewalk, to say the least.
Ron's favorite Quidditch team, the Chudley Cannons. Once the Cannons' drought reached 80 years, their motto "We shall conquer" was changed to "Let's all just keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best". J.K. Rowling herself said the Cannons' only chance at a title would be to "replace the entire team and down several cauldrons of Felix Felicis".
Lupin literally couldn't catch a break in the course of his life.
Agrajag has his fate intertwined with Arthur Dent's in a unique way. He has been reincarnated as a bowl of petunias, a baby rabbit, and a cricket spectator, not to mention countless flies and other bugs, all of which died at least in part due to Arthur Dent's actions. Agrajag suspects malice on Arthur's part, but Arthur insists it's just "the universe playing silly buggers with the pair of us."
Reading carefully, it seems indeed every single thing for whose death Arthur is in any part responsible is an incarnation of Agrajag, and every single incarnation of Agrajag is killed at the hands of Arthur. It's understandable that he'd hold a grudge....
Also, Marvin, as he seems to get himself stuck in many horrifyingly awful situations, including having his leg stolen for some universe-destroying ritual, having constant pain in half of his body, and being left behind on a deserted planet to literally wait until the end of the universe for his friends to arrive. It doesn't help either that he is programmed to be permanently depressed. And the worst part is, nobody else seems to care.
Hothouse: The tummy-belly men, who spend the majority of their time in the story being subject to all kinds of physical and verbal abuse from Gren, the morel and the narration, humiliating themselves in various ways, dying off in undignified manners and ultimately being left behind to die when Gren decides he's tired of them.
The Hounds of the Morrigan has the Sargeant, who is only ever known by that name. Almost his entire screentime in the book is devoted to having the Big Bad torment him in increasingly ridiculous, magical ways — which he blames on drink, as he's a Muggle. They send him up the Amazon river on a rubber duck, change the cross-stitch wall hanging in his room to insult him, and do various, other cruel things to him which include using him as a pawn to get close to the MacGuffin.
The Hunger Games: Poor Boggs. His life is a string of tribulations, from Katniss puking all over him to Gale breaking his nose to getting his legs blown off and dying horribly. The closest he comes to complaining is a sigh when Katniss pukes on him.
Land of Oz: Nick Chopper (the Tin Woodsman) falls in love with a girl and wants to marry her. Problem: the girl, her family, or both (continuity wasn't Baum's strong suit) work for the Witch of the East. So, the Witch puts a spell on Nick's axe. When he tries to use it, he ends up dismembering himself. Adding insult to injury, the Witch dangled his hacked-off limbs from her broom like a bad pair of fuzzy dice. A tinsmith is able to replace his hacked-off parts with tin, but Nick was more machine than man by the time Dorothy found him. The reason he wanted a heart in the first place was so that he could go back to his girl and be a proper husband for her! Now here's where the Butt Monkey part kicks in. In Tin Woodsman of Oz, he sets it upon himself to find out what became of Nimmie-Amiee. He finds that she had taken up with another man, Captain Fyter (who was cursed like he was, but isn't much bothered about the lack of a heart). He found the same tinsmith who ended up using "magic glue" to create Chopfyt, made from the body parts of both men. Topping it all off? Nimmie-Amiee married Chopfyt to essentially get the best of both worlds.
Tanith Low was meant to be killed off in the first book but the publishers said it was too depressing so Landy was forced to keep her in. He wasn't pleased about that. Now as punishment for surviving, in every book she gets tortured in some way. Now she's possessed by an evil spirit and has eloped with a psychopathic hitman. She hasn't been seen since.
Fletcher Renn is traditionally on the receiving end of insults and jibes and got dumped by his beloved girlfriend, Valkyrie Cain, in book 6 though he did get a Big Damn Heroes moment at the end of the book, saving her from the clutches of a Yandere vampire.
In the Malazan Book of the Fallen, Toc the Younger loses an eye, is sucked into a magic black hole, is thrown out a half year later, killed, resurrected in a new body, loses the same eye at least twice more, is betrayed, dies again, is made to serve Hood, the Lord of Death, and is forced to make his best friend his enemy to top it all off.
Roald Dahl's Matilda has Harry Wormwood, once Matilda works out how to get even with him without being found out.
In Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder novel The Sins of the Fathers, a young woman is raped and murdered by her male roommate, who is then immediately caught (covered in blood) by the police and hangs himself in his cell a day later. The woman's stepfather, who had been out of touch with her for a few years, hires Scudder to look into her life because he needs to understand how the crime happened (and the police, with such an open-and-shut case, have no reason to look into the circumstances any further). Scudder talks with a friend in the police department, and they both agree the stepfather is a "poor bastard." The cop points out how, even though a long police investigation and trial can be hard on a murder victim's family, it also gives them something to focus on while they adjust to the idea that their loved one is gone. But this stepfather just has everything — his stepdaughter is dead, the killer is caught, and the killer is now dead too — dumped on him all at once and has no idea how to deal with any of it.
Little Nell from Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop is a 14-year-old orphaned girl raised by her grandfather, who loses all of his money gambling. They are forced to flee his debtors and live as beggars, pursued by the villains, one of whom wishes to force her to marry him and one of whom wants only to torment them both. They finally reach relative safety. Then she dies.
Also Smike in Nicholas Nickleby. He's beaten and enslaved by Squeers and his family until Nicholas takes him under his wing. While the Nickleby family care for him, his love for Nicholas' sister Kate is unrequited. He eventually dies, then it turns out the father he never knew is Ralph, Nicholas' cruel, uncaring uncle.
Douglas Pavlicek from The Overstory tends to suffer a lot of injury and misfortune throughout the book. He participates in the Stanford Prison Experiment, and gets shot out of a plane during a war and suffers burns and a bullet wound in addition to falling, gets pepper sprayed in the groin, has a truck crash into his car, falls eighty feet, and ultimately ends up in prison, while having some kind of tumor that he is too dejected to even bother checking if it's dangerous.
Kitty from Pride and Prejudice. She's always coming in second to her younger sister, and after Lydia elopes, she's told by her father that there will be no more balls or parties unless she's chaperoned by one of her sisters. The family's somewhat dismissive treatment of her is even more pronounced in the BBC mini-series. (Though Austen does mention at the end that her fortunes were significantly improved by being around the Darcy and the Bingley families).
Also her father was JOKING when he said no more balls for her. (Mind you the dad has a weird, almost cruel, sense of humor.) The real Butt-Monkey, if there is one, is Mary, who Austen herself seemed to dislike and is only mentioned to prove how selfish and silly she is while thinking she's smart.
Even though things work out for her in the end, Fanny Price of Mansfield Park would certainly count. She's constantly berated by her own relatives for coming from a poor family, despite doing nothing to antagonise them and is then relentlessly harassed by Henry Crawford, who just can't seem to accept she doesn't want to marry him.
In the Rainbow Magic series, Rachel is this. She's been frozen solid and captured at least 10 times, much more often than Kirsty or the fairy of the book.
Both girls become this in Lindsay the Luck Fairy's book.
Similarly used in Redshirts. Intrepid's astrogation officer Kerensky has quite a track record of nearly dying, then being all healed up by the next week. As it turns out, that's because he's the Butt-Monkey of a TV series in another timeline whose plots are fucking with the Intrepid via Negative Space Wedgie.
In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion (and the individually published The Children of Húrin), Túrin Turambar gets cursed by Morgoth when he is eight. He gets sent to safety and never sees either of his parents again, he runs away from his foster father the King of Doriath after sort-of-accidentally killing someone, he kills his best friend after he shows up trying to help him, his overconfidence causes the fall of Nargothrond, he fails to rescue the woman who loves him, (and him rescuing her was his other best friend's dying wish), and when he finally falls in love with someone else, gets married, and gets her pregnant, she turns out to be his sister Niënor. "O master of doom by doom mastered, O happy to be dead" indeed.
There's also Bombur from The Hobbit, who is a more classic comedic example.
Tyrion Lannister. Born as a deformed dwarf, having his own mother die bringing him into the world, growing up being reviled and hated by his father, having his first wife gang-raped by his father's garrison, becoming the laughing stock of Westeros despite being wise and kind (or at least not cruel), falsely accused of murder and imprisoned twice, protecting a city with his life only gaining more scorn, getting half his nose cut off, denied of his birthright, forced into a second marriage with a woman who finds him repulsive, finding his lover in his father's bed and becoming an exile wanted by the whole of Westeros after killing both, becoming a broken down drunk in exile, and getting captured, sold into slavery and nearly fed to lions for a momentary laugh from the audience of the Meerenese arena. Without a doubt one of the best examples of a dramatic Butt-Monkey.
Tyrion's sister, Cersei, is also this. She's beautiful, tough, resilient, brave, it's impossible not to like her. However she's sort of trying to be a Magnificent Bitch but failing miserably. She's spent her life living in fear of a prophecy that one day her life would basically fall apart and then she'd be ignominiously killed so all of her efforts are dedicated to protecting her children and escaping this prophecy through manipulative attempts at power-grabbing that ineveriably blow up in her face. As Petyr Baelish points out, while Cersei desires power, she has no idea how to wield it and while she thinks she is a player in the Game of Thrones, she usually just ends up being a pawn. However she does now have Gregor Clegane on her side so things should start looking up for her.
Brienne of Tarth. She's an ugly woman warrior in an incredibly sexist world who has had to deal with one of her masters dying, another one mistakenly believing she betrayed them, being a suspect in a murder she didn't commit, attempted rape, getting put in a bear pit for someone's sick amusement, and being constantly mocked. Not to mention her issues with unrequited love.
Samwell Tarly. Nothing good happens to Sam. It's never played comically, but you never want to hit the people who do it, because Sam deserves it.
Theon Greyjoy. He gets no respect, not even from his own kinsmen. the universe just seems to twist itself into knots in a deliberate effort to ruin Theon's life. On the other hand, he's such a massive jerk that even most of the other men in Westeros don't like him.
On the "minor character" front, Edmure Tully, Lady Catelyn's sweet-natured brother who had the misfortune to be born a total dingbat with bad judgment and worse luck. Directly or indirectly, his mistakes manage to lose the war for Robb, get Robb killed, and ensure that his sister will never get her daughters back. He also misses the fact that his king and family are being murdered down the hall because he's too busy having sex, spends half a book standing on a gallows with a rope around his neck as the world's most useless hostage, can't even take a bath without someone threatening to put his baby in a catapult, and had a popular and Actually Pretty Funny song written about his erectile problems. Also, tradition has it that he light his father's pyre by shooting a flaming arrow at it, but he continuously misses, so his uncle has to do it for him. Basically, if there's an opportunity for him to humiliate himself, Edmure will find it.
The people of the Riverlands suffer the most in the war. Their lands have been ravaged by the Lannisters who had House Clegane and the Bloody Mummers pillage every settlement in their path, leaving the Riverlands into a corpse filled wasteland.
Sweet Valley High: Jessica Wakefield, of all people. Her schemes blow up in her face, leaving her humiliated (though this is often deserved, given her malicious intentions). Her genuine efforts at improving herself (cooking classes, music lessons) end the same way. Every time she meets a guy she really likes, it falls apart. Everyone, even her own parents, blatantly favor her sister Elizabeth over her and said sister frequently lords her "perfection" over her.
Trapped on Draconica: Ritchie is treated as such by his owner, Kalak, but when it comes to his inability to roll his 'r's, he's this to everyone.
Darkstripe and Snowtuft from Warrior Cats are always getting picked on by the other villains. In Snowtuft's first appearance, his belly is violently sliced open, and later Mapleshade thinks that he was spying on her so she forces him into a battle where he gets wounded horrifically. Meanwhile, Darkstripe is repaid for his Undying Loyalty to Tigerstar by being constantly mocked and beaten up when he so much as looks at the others.
The protagonist in the short story "You're Another" finds out that people from the future are coming back to his time, completely changing things and then filming it as entertainment. (The protagonist brings up the Grandfather Paradox, but the people from the future say it doesn't work like that. "What happen to dog when you cut off his grandfodder tail? Noddin.") They even explain why he's always falling in holes, being cheated on by his girlfriend, and having paint cans spill over him. He's "comic relief."
Franz Kafka: every protagonist of his ever written, every one, and he often put his characters out of their misery in the end.
Justine, the title character of one of the Marquis de Sade's (in)famous works, is the ultimate embodiment of this trope. At every turn, she's subjected to abuse hidden under a mask of virtue. She is forced to become a sex-slave to monks, is locked up in a cave and abused, publicly humiliated and raped numerous times. And just when things begin to look up for Justine, she gets struck by lightening and killed. Butt Monkey indeed.
This is, of course, a reflection of the philosophy of Sade's that virtuous people finish last. Every virtuous character in a story of Sade's is a complete Butt Monkey.
A critic once remarked that De Sade's novels have a kind of inverted karma: good acts end up hurting the actor. For instance, Justine's sister Juliette has no scruples whatsoever, and the one time she refuses to commit a crime it is because she is afraid of the consequences, not from any moral considerations. Nevertheless, by refusing to commit the crime she loses her favored place at court and spends much of the rest of the novel in poverty and misery, until by a long series of evil acts she finally regains her power and luxury. (What really clinches it is betraying her sister Justine, of course.)
Many a Thomas Hardy protagonist, particularly Jude of Jude the Obscure and Tess in Tess of the d'Urbervilles. Jude and Tess both begin as wholesome, virtuous innocents until about the fourth page of their respective books, in which a endless series of escalating tragedies designed to rob them of all hope begin because God Is Evil and Victorian morality stifles any hope of a freethinking life. When things do improve in some minor fashion, it is only to make the next tragedy all the more poignant. Thomas Hardy biographers have tried and failed to come up with a reason for his unrelenting grimness; perhaps a contemporary review of Jude the Obscure sums the case up best by saying that, "He is depressing because he himself is somewhat depressed."
Most Tom Holt main characters have things go hideously wrong for them more or less nonstop. Everything from jackass parents to being a pawn in century-old GambitRoulettes to having the Queen of the Fey wipe your girlfriend's memory of you. At the end of the story, they are usually given a lot of money and/or a vast region of land somewhere on the other side of the world as a karmic payoff for putting up with vast amounts of misery.
P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster: Bertie Wooster could easily be classed a Butt Monkey. He's forever insulted by everyone he knows, berated by his aunts, and is made to perform degrading errands by people who lean on ties of family or friendship to make him do those hideous tasks. Even Jeeves called him "mentally negligible". However, in the end he always avoids the worst, such as marrying girls he dreads and or getting beaten up by jealous guys, and returns to his comfortable Idle Rich life.