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Fatal Flaw / Literature

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  • In the Nightfall (Series), there is a case of a villain having a 'Fatal Virtue,' which is his greatest weakness. Prince Vladimir is the Big Bad, who has destroyed human civilization and is breeding the survivors for vampire food. However, he is in love with human art and literature, and this is the only thing the heroes can use against him.
  • The Shahnameh: Esfandiar's obsession with becoming king is how he's manipulated into fighting his tutor Rostam, even though he knows it's the wrong thing to do. Going up against Rostam, of course, is as fatal as it gets!
  • A Song of Ice and Fire could fairly be described as a dozen or so tragedies going on simultaneously (with several in the backstory). This implies almost every single character having their own fatal flaws.
    • A common flaw in the Starks is Honor Before Reason (which could be seen as a form of pride), especially in Eddard and Robb. Eddard's flaw is his undying love for his friends and family, which motivated him to go to King's Landing to help Robert and then lie about Joffrey's parentage to attempt to save his daughters. And Robb's flaw is more of a need to be like his dad.
    • Robert Baratheon meet their deaths thanks to alcoholism.
    • The Lannisters lean toward pride with a side of wrath: see Tywin, Cersei, and Joffrey. A big part of Tyrion and especially Jaime's character development is overcoming this. To be more specific:
    • Tywin, aside from being overly elitist and ruthless (which makes him a lot of enemies), cannot overcome first impressions. The reason he hates Tyrion so much is because he cannot stop seeing the poor kid as the reason his beloved wife Joanna died, despite Tyrion actually being the best politician of his kids. It also gets him killed when Tyrion confronts him over his abuse of Tyrion's lowborn wife and claims that she was a whore. Up until the end, Twyin never believed that Tyrion would actually kill him.
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    • Cersei's is short-sighted paranoia, with a side of sticking to first impressions like her dad. She was once given a prophecy that she would be usurped by a younger sibling and replaced with a younger woman, and ever since then she's seen candidates for both those positions everywhere. Anyone who doesn't practically worship her and kiss her ass constantly is an enemy, and her overreactions and cruelty tend to make people enemies even if they weren't before.
    • Joffrey's is being Stupid Evil. Everything he does is to satiate his short-term bloodlust, and he angers pretty much everyone in the series who's not Cersei. His sadism is why the Lannisters are at war with the Starks, and he eventually dies when he commits one petty act of evil too many and someone poisons him. No one knows who the murderer was, because there's just too many suspects.
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    • Theon's could be considered ambition with a side of pride. He gets both beaten out of him by hard experience.
  • Hubris is a common tragic flaw in mythology and classical literature. One of the more famous examples is Odysseus, who is forced to undergo a 10-year voyage home after angering Poseidon with his arrogance.
  • The Pillars of the Earth: William Hamleigh is not a hero by any stretch of the imagination, but he is absolutely terrified of going to Hell. It's a flaw because others use it to exploit him and make him do their bidding.
  • In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, it's explicitly stated that every demigod has a Fatal Flaw which, if not mastered, will lead to their death. Annabeth's fatal flaw is explicitly stated to be hubris (except Percy thinks she says hummus)- she thinks she can handle any situation and make anything better. Percy's is personal loyalty—he will do anything necessary to save the people he cares about, even if that means ignoring the greater good. Thalia's fatal flaw is that she has a weak resistance to offers of power, to the point she seriously considered betraying her friend to become more powerful than the gods (though her conflicting feelings over this were apparent). It's a good thing Mr.D was able to step in otherwise she probably would have given in. Nico and Bianca have the Fatal Flaw of holding grudges, which they inherited from their father just as Thalia did hers.
  • In The Dresden Files, Harry saves people. It's just what he does. At one point, someone immediately figures out that he's harboring a fugitive because that's Harry's schtick; people come to him for help, he helps them. Even if the person is someone he doesn't like, he will help them.
    • In the Backup Novella a "client" deliberately plays the part of damsel in distress complete with kidnapped child to get Harry's help as part of her plan. Thomas steps in without Harry knowing to save him.
    • His other fatal flaw is probably his temper. When he gets mad enough, he'll do almost everything in his power to destroy the bad guys with little regard for the consequences. He reevaluates this outlook in "Ghost Story", after the destruction of the Red Court throws the world into chaos.
  • Harry Potter's "saving people thing" gets him into trouble. He's willing to do anything in order to save the people he cares about, and he has a martyr complex that keeps him from asking for help or back-up at times when it would really be a smart idea. He does this to keep the people around him safe but it tends to really work against him. Voldemort uses this to manipulate him into doing things that lead to Sirius's death. This also makes it very easy for Harry's enemies to lead him into traps.
    • Voldemort's fatal flaws:
      • Pride and an inflated ego. It's not so much petty, plain-old narcissism and arrogance than it is outright full-blown megalomania, and Sanity Has Advantages. He's the smartest and most powerful wizard in the world and he knows it, so he tends to go out of his way to add a flair of grandeur and grace to his plans while attempting to achieve his objectives in the way he thinks will be more terrifying. For example, he challenges Harry to a duel in the graveyard purely to show off to his Death Eaters, when the most pragmatic option would be to simply Avada Kedavra Harry right there and then while Harry was still tied up, wandless, and helpless. This extends to his Horcruxes- while he was smart enough to put some very nasty protections around them, his obsessive desire to collect trophies made him only create Horcruxes out of unique and personally meaningful objects like artifacts from the Four Founders and hide them in places that held personal importance (i.e. Marvolo's ring in the Gaunt shack), making them comparatively easy to track down by people who knew his past, while Harry immediately notices that they would be much harder to find if he'd just chosen random objects and hidden them in random locations. He also has a tendency to think that other people weren't able to do things he did, such as find the Room of Requirement at Hogwarts.
    • Inability to understand compassion. Voldemort is aware about what love is in theory, but in practice he tends to miss connections between loved ones, such as not realizing that Snape was no longer trustworthy after Voldemort killed his crush Lily, and that Narcissa Malfoy was loyal to her husband and son over him. It's implied that being a Child by Rape (his mother used a love potion on his father) stunted his ability to feel love himself.
      • Thanatophobia. Voldemort is also so terrified of death that he doesn't believe that there could be anything worse. And Word of God states that Voldemort's boggart would look like his own corpse. His quest to cheat death forever, combined with his other flaws mentioned above, ultimately condemns him to a Fate Worse than Death, with his soul forever in pain and stuck in limbo, between the boundaries of life and death. Moreover, all of his major defeats come about because his adversaries prove that they aren't afraid to face death: he died in the First Wizarding War because Lily Potter willingly sacrificed herself to save her son Harry, his plan to claim the Elder Wand fails because Dumbledore willingly lets Snape kill him, and he ultimately dies in the Second Wizarding War because Harry willingly dies to destroy the Horcrux inside him.
    • Sirius Black's recklessness; he's a Leeroy Jenkins.
    • Severus Snape hangs on to the past to the point that he makes seemingly irrational choices simply because of some event or another that happened a long time ago. Case in point: the reason he bullies Harry (aside from house pride) is because he resembles his Jerk Jock of a father, so Snape thinks that Harry must be like James in personality, which couldn't be farther from the truth.
    • When he was young, Dumbledore had a whopping case of Pride, planning to create a "new world" with Grindelwald in which wizards would rule over muggles. He snapped out of it with the death of his sister and spent more than a century deliberately avoiding powerful positions because he didn't trust himself. He refused the position of Minister of Magic, for instance, even though it isn't hard to see that, pride or not, he'd do a far better job than someone like Fudge.
    • Ron's jealousy and inferiority complex, which causes several falling-outs between him and his friends.
    • Hermione's Pride. She's smart, but she's not omniscient, and at times this makes her a Know-Nothing Know-It-All (the rest of the time she's just a regular know-it-all), and when called on it, she gets stubborn and refuses to admit that she's wrong. She also has a fear of failure, and her boggart is Professor McGonagall failing her.
    • Neville's lack of self confidence. He was rather slow to develop as a child and was mocked for it; now, as a student, he's the Butt-Monkey of Gryffindor, which sets him on a vicious cycle of screwing up because of self-doubt, doubting himself more and then screwing up, and so on. When given positive reinforcement, he's capable of surprising badassery.
  • Lupin’s “condition” (being a werewolf) has given him a huge case of self-loathing that caused him to be an Extreme Doormat to his friends in his youth. In his adulthood, it manifests itself as not being able to let anyone get close to him because he views himself as being undeserving of being loved.
    • Peter Pettigrew's ambition. He wants to be on the winning side, and more importantly, he wants to be a power player on the winning side. While Voldemort did threaten his life, the reason he took the offer instead of informing Dumbledore (who could have certainly protected him) is that he was a footsoldier for the Order of the Phoenix, but as a spy he could be important to Voldemort.
  • Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights holds on to grudges and spends his life getting even with people who were mean to him. He uses his own family as pawns and holds Kathy on such a high pedestal that he refuses to see that everything that happened to him was her fault. He is also blind to the fact that his revenge can never last so when he dies and everything reverts back to normal, it's like nothing happened.
  • Captain Ahab's obsession with revenge against Moby-Dick, which dooms not only himself, but his ship and nearly everyone on his crew.
  • Ambrosio, titular character of The Monk, commits the sin of pride long before he starts committing any of his truly deplorable acts. It is his pride that allows him to believe himself holy while he continues to sin.
  • The Iliad: The Trojan Royal Family is so tight that they protect Paris even though they know he is wrong for taking Helen with him. This dooms them and their country.
  • The animals of Animal Farm were far too trusting. Benjamin the donkey is too cynical and refuses to voice out his concerns about the Rebellion's aftermath.
  • Gollum's obsession with the Ring in The Lord of the Rings.
  • The Bible:
    • Book of Genesis - Adam and Eve's ignorance allows them to be manipulated into losing the Garden of Eden for good. Cain's temper leads him to kill his brother for a petty reason and become cursed for it.
    • Book of Exodus - Moses' anger leads to the destruction of the first set of tablets he receives from God, and then gets him banned from the Promised Land. Aaron's weak leadership almost leads to the destruction of the Israelites. Miriam's overzealousness gets her cursed with illness.
    • Book of Judges - Jephthah's rashness causes him to lose his only daughter in an unlawful sacrifice. Samson's lust for women and drink causes him to lose his prodigious strength at a critical moment, though his repentance allows him to briefly get it back for a Dying Moment of Awesome.
    • Books of Samuel - Saul's tendency to disobey God and ignore his prophet Samuel causes him to lose his kingdom and then his life. David's lust leads him to take the wife of one of his most loyal generals, leading to a chain of events that cause a rebellion and the loss of his son.
    • Books of Kings - Solomon's dissatisfaction with his life leads him to try to fill the void with money and women, which leads to the loss of the lion's share of his kingdom and ultimately the fall of Israel. Though, we did get some very good poetry out of it. Ahab's inability to stand up to his wife causes him to catastrophically misrule Israel, to the extent that he is still remembered as one of the worst kings the land ever had.
    • The Four Gospels - Simon Peter means well, but lacks fortitude and keeps sticking his foot in his mouth. As a result, Jesus constantly has to correct him and, when the chips are down, Peter abandons him. Fortunately, he grows out of this in time to lead Jesus's followers after the latter takes off.
  • The Apprentice Rogue: Falita is consumed by her greed and steals Leona's necklace, which leads to tragedy. She even takes the hemp string on the necklace, despite recognizing that it was worthless, because it was part of the necklace. The narration notes that she might have gotten away clean if she didn't take the string.
  • Jay in the Spaceforce series is a highly competent agent for the Taysan Empire, fearless, clever and resourceful, with a talent for deception and masquerade that is highly unusual in his species. But he is constantly undermined by his compulsive womanising, which has brought him to the brink of disaster at least twice. It's all the more dangerous because sexual immorality is actually a crime in his society.
  • The Great Gatsby's obsessive love for Daisy, despite the fact she isn't worth it
  • In the Samurai Kids book Monkey Fist, Niya's flaw is loyalty- he will not abandon a friend for any reason. While this may sound like a good thing, it really isn't. In the novel's climax, Niya's true companion, Kyoko, has been kidnapped by a corrupt imperial minister, who offers to release her if the protagonists reveal the location of a group of benevolent monks politically opposed to him. Niya's thought process clearly shows that, had the choice been his, he would have betrayed the monks and let them die if it meant Kyoko's safety.
  • In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo's flaw is his pride. His dad was a lazy deadbeat, and he's afraid of other people thinking that he's like that too. The author Achebe modeled Okonkwo after the heroes of Greek Tragedy, so it's no surprise that his flaw is hubris, leading to the atë (rashness) that caused his downfall.
  • The titular Julian has a deep craving for the mystical and incomprehensible. Relying on the insights of a hammy soothsayer isn't wise, especially when you're the Emperor of Rome.
  • Most of the Forsaken from The Wheel of Time have at least one which is responsible for their descent into villainy. Most obviously, Be'lal's flaw was Envy of everyone and everything more powerful than he was (he was even known as "The Envious"), and Demandred's was the combination of Wrath and Pride that lead him to hold a vengeful grudge against Lews Therin Telamon beyond all reason.
  • Les Misérables:
    • Jean Valjean has Chronic Hero Syndrome and he will save every person he can even if he screws up other lives in the process.
    • Javert's Black and White Morality blinded him to the reality that some people can't afford to be as law-abiding as him. He kills himself after letting Valjean (who had saved his life earlier) go and feared he has betrayed his own principles.
    • Fantine is a Horrible Judge of Character which is why she got pregnant in the first place, then she left her daughter in the care of an Obviously Evil couple who proceeded to maltreat Cosette and extort more money from her causing her to prostitute herself. Her temper also gets her a lot in trouble.
  • Pride for Hollyleaf in Warrior Cats. She believes that she deserves to be a leader of the Clan, and that her devotion to warrior code makes her a better cat than those outside of the Clans. This leads to her downfall, after she discovers that she is not a cat of pure heritage. First, she murders a cat threatening to reveal her origin, when she believes that it prevent her from becoming a leader. Later, when she learns that she is of even more illegal lineage than she thought, she collapses completely and goes on a rampage to punish everyone involved. She eventually abandons her pride and accepts her fate with humility, redeeming herself.
  • In The Witchlands, each of the main characters has a fatal flaw that menaces them throughout the story.
    • Safi: recklesness. She rarely stops to think about the bigger picture, and ends up almost dooming everyone.
    • Iseult: low self-esteem stopping her from realizing her full potential.
    • Merik: inflated self-importance, leading him to ignore truth right in front of him in favour of messianism.
    • Aeduen: trust issues. Many of his troubles could've been avoided if he didn't shy away from people.
  • The Hunger Games has Katniss Everdeen and her consistent "Us vs Them" mentality. She constantly characterises everyone as her enemy unless they prove otherwise - in the first book she obsesses over Peeta definitely planning to kill her and misinterprets everything he does as trying to make her let her guard down, she views the Career tributes as her enemy instead of seeing them as fellow victims, she decides everybody else in the Quarter Quell is her enemy and plans on killing them first, whilst decrying them as waiting to slaughter her and Peeta at first opportunity...the list goes on.
  • In the novel The Post Birthday World, Irina's passiveness and need for a man to take care of her is this in both timelines - Her reluctance to confront Lawrence about his odd behaviour means he is able to get away with his affair with Bethany for five years, and her following Ramsey around on tournaments and letting him throw money on lavish things mean she's thoroughly unprepared when Ramsey gets sick and the money disappears.
  • In the novel Bone China, Hester Why has two - her temper and her desperate need to have other people need her. When her employer seemed to be freezing her out by hiring a nurse to take care of her during her pregnancy to stop her miscarrying again, Hester is so incensed that she brews together a tea that she knows would terminate the baby, only to backtrack on this when she realises what she's doing, but by then it's too late as another maid has already delivered the tea.


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