Three Stupid Characters in American Literature

In honor of Columbus Day, I remind you of the following, courtesy of The History Channel.

For nearly a decade, Columbus lobbied European monarchies to bankroll his quest to discover a western sea route to Asia. In Portugal, England and France, the response was the same: no.

That’s right. Portugal, England, and France missed an opportunity to claim the world’s most famous explorer. Speaking of three stupid decisions, I bring you three of the stupidest characters in American Literature.

…and by stupid I’m not talking about Lennie Smalls kind of stupid. I’m talking about the kind of stupid exemplified by the following.

You Mad BroFortunato from “The Cask of Amontillado.” Fortunato is the reigning king of lack of self awareness. He spends most of his time ridiculing people. You know the type. In fact, you’ve often thought about leading this type into the catacombs under your house and walling him up for eternity, except you don’t have catacombs under your house. So you fantasize about punching him in the face or elbowing him in the throat, but you can’t because you’ll get arrested, fired (if it’s your boss), or beat up. So you settle for unfollowing him on Facebook, except he doesn’t even know he’s your friend on Facebook.

Well Montresor just happens to have catacombs under his house. And Montresor knows just how to use them. But this isn’t about Montresor. It’s about Fortunato. He’s drunk. He trusts Montresor. He is led down to Montresor’s vaults in order to sample some Amontillado, even though he’s already so drunk that he can’t walk without stumbling. He is surrounded by all sorts of creepy stuff. I’m talking skulls and human bones. He keeps going anyway. After getting chained to a wall, he pulls the “what a great jest!” card thinking that’s gonna get him out of this mess. Even at this point, he just doesn’t get what’s going on.

Fortunato, You Stupid!


GatsbyJay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby. I once read The Great Gatsby on three consecutive days. By the third day I was laughing hysterically. The book’s really quite funny. What’s not funny is how stupid Jay Gatsby is. But wait a second, you say. Jay Gatsby makes a huge fortune and throws great parties and drives fancy cars and is the talk of the town. This is true. And I’ll even overlook the obvious nefarious nature of his ill-gotten gains. It’s his motivation for acquiring such massive wealth that makes Jay Gatsby one of the three stupidest characters in American Literature.

He does it all for Daisy Buchanan. Dude, she left you high and dry when you went off to war. You’ve spent the last decade trying to recreate your little teenage love affair. And you’re stupid enough to think she’s gonna leave her rich, established husband and take you back. Until the very end, he does not understand what is going on. Oh, and nobody shows up to his funeral. A lot of good those ill-gotten gains got ya.

Jay Gatsby, You Stupid!


Dont MessBonzo Madrid from Ender’s Game. Granted, Bonzo Madrid has no idea that Ender Wiggin killed Stilson with a drop kick to the chest back on Earth, but he knows enough about Ender that he should know the first rule of outer space: “DO NOT MESS WITH ENDER WIGGIN! EVER! NO MATTER WHAT!” Certainly he couldn’t have predicted that Ender would wipe out an entire alien race without even trying, literally. He didn’t even know it was a real battle. That being said, Bonzo should have known NOT TO MESS WITH ENDER WIGGIN!

Bonzo, after all, is Ender’s first army commander, which is when the honorable Spaniard makes his first stupid decision, not allowing Ender to participate in battles. After Ender bails him out during battle, he makes another stupid decision by criticizing him for excellence. And then the move that makes the Babe Ruth trade to the New York Yankees look as intelligent as the creation of the home computer, he trades Ender Wiggin to another army. By the time the two fight, there is ample evidence to suggest Wiggin never loses. For example, he never loses. Not in the sanctioned battles. Not in Null Room G where he beats up some older kids, even giving one of them a bruised testicle. That’s right, a bruised freaking testicle. And we’re not even gonna talk about Bernard’s broken arm.

Bonito de Madrid, You Stupid!


Check out these short stories for teaching characterization (free stuff). Check out the characterization teaching bundle by clicking here. It includes 5 short story units with lesson plans aligned to the common core, graphic organizers with answer keys, essay rubrics, summaries, analyses, quizzes with answer keys, and more.


Share This: