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Characters / For Better or for Worse

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This is a list of characters in the comic strip For Better or for Worse by Lynn Johnston.

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    Elly Patterson
The matriarch of the Patterson family and the main character. She started out as a frustrated housewife who, in a break from the media conventions of the day, did not like housework or raising children at all well — Elly would grow impatient with her bratty children. Her yearning for a greater role in society than "Anonymous Drone Housewife Who Everyone Takes For Granted" informed the early era of the strip while her anxiety about how her children's lives were going informed the latter. She tends to be the "Voice of Reason" as time goes on, usually to her female friends. Based off of creator Lynn Johnston but named after her deceased friend, and meant to reflect the havoc and difficulty of being a homemaker.
  • Audience Surrogate: Was this for the housewives that were the early target audience for the strip, and the 50-something women with adult children reading by the strip's end.
  • Author Avatar: Of Lynn Johnston. She drew Elly as a mild pastiche of her own appearance, and copied some of her personality traits — even the ones she confessed were unfortunate (being a bit too chatty, butting in on others' business, and often doling out punishment that could be rather unfair).
  • Berserk Button: Elly has a short fuse, and is quick to take harmless remarks or jabs personally. Since John likes to push her buttons with snarky asides, and her kids are extremely-bratty in their youth, Elly's dealing with the havoc in her home life is a defining part of the early years of the strip. She grew a lot calmer and more trusting as time went on.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Elly is terrified of having to deal with computers- her lack of patience causes issues.
  • Can't Take Criticism: Elly would frequently get angry at John if he tried to offer criticism- she'd mope and glower if others did as well.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef: Elly spends a lot of time slaving over a hot oven cooking heavy, salty, indigestible stews and casseroles because she thinks that she's showing her creative side. Her family does not appreciate these culinary atrocities.
  • Daddy's Girl: Adores her father, and helps him come to terms when his wife (her mother) dies. She's still protective of him as time goes on.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Elly's driving passion, really. She hates the idea that all she's ever going to be thought of as is just another anonymous, underappreciated housewife when she's sure that she was meant to make a bigger mark. She often interjects into public projects, the library and other things.
  • Drama Queen: One of the recurring images in the strip is Elly bellowing at the top of her lungs and jabbing her finger in the air for emphasis about how little her family appreciates her. Her frequently-bratty children and her more snarky husband both rub her the wrong way. She settles down a lot with age.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: One of the less palatable of her antics was when she exploded in a blind rage at April for DARING to calmly and politely tell her that she had to put her homework away before coming down to eat dinner.
  • Gossipy Hens: Acts like this even in her twenties. Many a strip features her gabbing with one of her neighbors, generally about her other neighbors. Word Of God confirms this is something that happened in all of her hometowns — nobody wanted to miss out on the gossip, because then they'd be the one gossipped about!
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Despite promoting herself as being a loving and patient mother, Elly's rages tended towards the volcanic, especially in the earlier years of the strip.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Elly tends to take her children's misbehavior excessively-personally, and defended the sincerity and moral goodness of someone who was stealing from her — a co-worker had to fire her when Elly went on vacation.
  • I Want Grandkids: Doesn't actually give her children this treatment, but has a very pronounced love for her grandchildren, frequently travelling to help Deanna with their care.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Elly clearly has flaws and can be stubborn but she really is just a normal loving mom. Her stubborness mainly comes from her stressful moments.
  • My Beloved Smother: She seems to be convinced that her endless nagging and lecturing was necessary and good. Most of her children end up living extremely close to home, and seem rather dependent on her, even after they have children of their own.
  • Parental Obliviousness: Her kids get up to a lot of mischief when she isn't paying attention — April nearly died because she snuck off and fell in a river while Elly was yakking about a vacation to her friends.
  • Rant-Inducing Slight: Given her hair-trigger temper, it doesn't take much to make Elly turn into a frothing-at-the-mouth lunatic screaming about some made-up offense.
  • Self-Inflicted Hell: Elly enjoys the idea of children, as most "good" women in the strip do — of course, the kids end up causing her no end of grief once they're born...
  • Teens Are Monsters: The title of one of the collections was She's turning into one of THEM, refering to April becoming a teenager. The image was of April dressed in weird clothing, without actually doing anything particularly awful.
  • The Unapologetic: Even when Elly knows that she's made errors in judgment, she prefers to stay silent rather than apologize.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Elly has a tendency to think of herself as a kind, reasonable, generous mother, and will paint herself as such in any retelling of events which involved her. Occasions when Elly has been any of those things, as a mother, as a wife, or just even as a person in general, are few and far between.
  • Women Are Wiser: Averted — John is actually a little wiser at times.
  • You Can Panic Now: She tends to come up with some rather glaring leaps in logic. The most gnawing example of this was when she misinterpreted Mike's wanting to dress up as Adam Ant for Halloween as his turning his back on love, happiness and kindness because of the atom bomb.

    John Patterson
Elly's husband; a successful dentist. Frequently doesn't "get" women, and a running gag is that he'll poke fun at something his wife did (John is extremely snarky, and quick to make verbal jabs), resulting in her getting angry at him. Also spends a lot of time napping after work. However, he's generally a good provider, is rather supportive of his family's amibitions, and acts as a voice of reason. Later has a bit of a mid-life crisis, and develops an obsession with trains. Kind of moves away from prominence in the strip as time goes on. Based off of Lynn's then-husband, also a train-loving dentist.
  • Aesop Amnesia: John is constantly having to relearn that Elly feels unappreciated and that his children aren't space Nazis who are plotting to ruin him.
  • Appeal to Worse Problems: He loves shutting down his children's attempts to make him care about their problems by talking about starving refugees.
  • Berserk Button: Rather calm in the face of his children's misbehavior, but tends to reach his breaking point if he's had a rough day at the office.
  • Depraved Dentist: Averted. John is actually one of the more positive portrayals of the profession (Rod Johnston is a dentist in real life), and generally has to deal with all of the crazies and loons who have to come into his practice. It's actually a plot point in the strip that John feels hurt and offended when people break into diatribes about how much they hate dentists (Rod actually felt this as well).
  • Flanderization: John develops a love for model trains, like his real-life basis. Eventually, most of his jokes and stories would involve trains and complicated sets for them.
  • Nice Guy: John is a mild-mannered and loyal family man.

    Michael Patterson 
The eldest of John and Elly's three children. Starts out the strip as a very rambunctious little boy, but grows into a mature young man — if a bit overly-obsessed with his work. He becomes a very-successful writer, and ends up having two children of his own with a girl he knew (and feuded with) as a child.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Mike is constantly learning AND forgetting that other people's feelings matter as much to them as his do to him.
  • Callousness Towards Emergency: Upon coming on the scene of the accident that led to his reunion with Deanna, Mike made an ugly fool of himself complaining about the paramedics ruining his shot by getting in the way just because they were trying to save a young woman's life.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Can be a bit overly-focused on his work.
  • Drama Queen: An extremely-theatrical child. Asking him to do anything that he isn't interested in doing always results in yowling about how nooooooooooobody loves him and how everyone loves Lizzie better and so on and so forth.
  • Generation Xerox: Michael takes after his mother, but unlike her, pursued his more artistic self. Also, ends up having a pair of children, one of each gender, like his parents in the early days of the strip. And then finally moves back into his childhood home.
  • Informed Ability: Everyone and his dog will gladly tell you that he's a gifted writer. Actual excerpts of the writing on the official website for the strip reveal that his skills are... not quite that great.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Michael has always been this despite how much he has changed throughout the course of the series. He can act selfish on occasions or playfully mock his family but he genuinely loves them (in the way a young man would).
  • The Resenter: Resents a lot of the attention little Lizzie got in the early years. Grew to just playfully make fun of "Lizardbreath" in his teen years.
  • Sibling Rivalry: He and Lizzie fought like two rats in a barrel when they were younger, often competing for attention, or just picking on each other because they were bored.
  • Too Dumb to Live: We are dealing with a man who, upon escaping a house fire, charged back into a burning building to rescue a laptop despite having a back-up copy of his important files at his place of work.

    Elizabeth Patterson
The rather moody middle child of the family. Started life as a bratty young girl, constantly feuding with her older brother, and turned into a bit of an awkward teen with big glasses and a dorky boyfriend. She grew up a lot more glamorous, and started living a bit of an adventurous, exciting life, causing a lot of the strip's fanbase to identify with her character. Unfortunately, they did a "Nerd Gets the Girl" storyline with her, irritating said fanbase, leading to the strip being overwhelmed by what Lynn calls "The Snarkers". Eventually settles down with and marries Anthony, her first boyfriend.
  • Audience Surrogate: Kind of became this as time went on, though not really deliberately — the female fanbase of the strip really identified with her attempts to form an identity Post-College, and her travels around with exciting career choices (such as being a teacher in a remote Native community) and handsome men following her around. Unfortunately, she re-started a relationship with a dork, which is what set off the "Hatedom" of the strip.
  • Captain Oblivious: Her friends actually had to sit her down and explain to her that the reason Anthony kept following her around is that he had a sloppy, embarrassing crush on her that everyone but her saw.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: A huge aversion — both John and Elly absolutely love the idea of Elizabeth getting closer to Anthony.
  • Generation Xerox: An odd example — she marries a man very similar to her own father.
  • Give Geeks a Chance: She did, much to the chagrin of the fanbase of "Snarkers".
  • High-School Sweethearts: Her and Anthony. This is treated as less of a major plot-point, and more like some "typical High School romance" without a lot of focus. The whole "Destined to be together" thing does not happen until much later.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Particularly in earlier strips. She drops her jerkass moments more when she became a mature young woman.
  • Nice Guy: She became a gender-inverted example after she matured and grown into a developed young woman.
  • She Is All Grown Up: During her college years, Elizabeth transforms from a dorky teenager to a beautiful young woman.

    April Patterson
The youngest of the family, and the only child to be born during the course of the strip. Starts out as a standard baby, becomes a bit brattier with age, and turns into more of a "modern teen" with time. While Michael was more of a prankster and troublemaker with a group of similar buddies, and Elizabeth was more of an awkward nerd, April was more of a rebellious type who followed her own path.
  • The Cast Showoff: In-Universe. Well, it's a comic strip, but sort of. Most of her running plots after a point are based around her music, and her small group of friends who perform in a band.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Many of the fans consider her section in the epilogue to be this trope, as she is the only Patterson who leaves the suburban town of Milborough for good, becoming a veterinarian, meeting a guy who isn’t a childhood friend or high school sweetheart and moving to Calgary.
  • Only Sane Man: She was hit with this hard in her teen years, both calling out Elly for defending Kortney despite the latter slacking off of work and threatening to beat the teenage girl and Liz encouraging Anthony to cheat on his wife.

    Deanna Patterson 
Mike's long-suffering wife whom he had a sloppy, embarrassing crush on in the fifth grade and whom he reunited with after a car accident. After they reconnected, the quickly fell in love, got married, and had a pair of children of opposite genders — much like how the strip started out. Largely turns into a "homemaker" character as time goes on, often being a sounding board for Michael's ideas.
  • Hypocritical Humor: One of the more annoying of her traits is her wondrous capacity for not being able to take what she dishes out. At one point, she smugly listed every little tiny thing about Mike that annoyed her only to go into a crying jag when he pointed out that she was tone deaf.
  • My Beloved Smother: Deanna seems to be convinced that her mother is a domineering social climber who thinks that she has to run everything and who never listens to her children. The reason that this is kind of pathetic is that she says that this is not the case with Elly.

    Anthony Caine 
Anthony started off as Elizabeth's High School boyfriend. They reconnected as adults, at which point various characters (Liz's parents especially) started shilling how amazing he was. Given that his ambition is to eventually open a bed and breakfast, John and Elly love him to bits because he's so plain and "stable". Pretty much the whole reason the Johnston's online fanbase turned to snarking on the strip — she clearly loved the character, and a few creative misfires (he had a tendency to openly whine and moan about his troubles; his career was basically being an accountant for a local garage/car lot; he wasn't drawn as particularly attractive or interesting) set the audience against him. The online fanbase snarked on him pretty soon after his return to the strip, and this only grew with time — eventually, almost all online commentary about the strip was anti-Anthony stuff, giving the once-popular strip a sizable Hatedom.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Thought this would happen to his career-minded wife, Thérèse, upon the birth of their daughter. However, this is subverted — Thérèse appears to go through postpartum depression, cares little for being a homemaker or housewife, and soon cheats on Anthony and abandons her daughter.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Gets this moment when he rescues Elizabeth from an amorous co-worker. This was meant to be seen as a heroic moment that made Anthony seem even better, but it got muddied when he immediately began whining to the victim of a sexual assault about his marriage woes.
  • Character Shilling: Gets this a lot, especially from Liz' parents. The fans don't agree, to put it politely.
  • Fatal Flaw: His It's All About Me tendencies, inability to properly deal with his problems other than whining and waiting for them to work out on their own, and Stay in the Kitchen mentality made a lot of people hate him.
  • Give Geeks a Chance: Elizabeth did. The fans did not. It didn't help that Johnston didn't really see Anthony as the nerd the readers saw him as — she saw his small-town lack of ambition as charming and "stable", while fans wanted Liz to go back to her exciting post-college life.
  • Lack of Empathy: When it became obvious that his first wife was crippled by post-partum depression, Anthony treated her like a leper because she didn't turn into Suzy Homemaker like television said she would. This led to problems.
  • Took A Level In Jerk Ass: In Elizabeth’s high school years where he was introduced, Anthony was a mild mattered Nice Guy. It wasn’t until the later years where he became the jerk he’s remembered as.

Infamous and controversial in the strip, primarily due to her relationship with Anthony. She is immediately introduced as Anthony's serious, humorless, cold wife, who openly resents his relationship with Elizabeth. She is the mother of his child, and it's explained that Anthony more or less had to beg her into breeding, offering to raise the child entirely on his own. The strip makes it pretty clear that she suffered from postpartum depression, grew more and more distant from her husband, and had an affair on him, thus ending the marriage. She abandoned their daughter and left the family, leaving Anthony (who had been carrying on an emotional affair with Elizabeth, begging her to wait for him).

This of course makes her highly interesting to the strip's fandom, which started hating on the Anthony/Liz pairing, and seeing the character in a different light. Given that her suspicions about Anthony were proven correct, she clearly had postpartum, and she had been badgered into having their daughter, she perhaps comes off more sympathetically than writer Lynn Johnston had intended. Thus, a character who only appeared in the last few years of the strip has a much larger "indent" on the comic's TV Tropes page than you would expect.


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