I’ve been rummaging through the dusty book-lined, cobweb-covered garret of my mind trying to find the literary character who most resembles Donald J Trump.
First, we need someone who is not particularly articulate. Sure, Trump is quick-witted, capable of an occasional laser-guided zinger, but no one would ever mistake him for Macbeth (though the Thane of Glamis and Cawdor does share with the Emperor of Orange a lack of restraint and total unfitness for office). What Angus said of Macbeth, Lindsey Graham could say of Trump, “Now does he feel his title/ Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe/ Upon a dwarfish thief.” However, no way does Trump possess the depth and eloquence to mutter, “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player/ That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/ And then is heard no more.” When Macbeth is out for revenge, he says, “I am in blood stepped in so far that should I wade no more,/ Returning were as tedious as go o’er.” Instead, with Trump we get, “If I win-I am going to instruct my AG to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation bc there’s never been anything like your lies.”
There’s perhaps a closer cousin to be found in Dickens, but the sad truth of the matter is that my moth-ridden mind only houses three volumes — Great Expectations, The Tale of Two Cities, and Hard Times — and I can’t think of anyone from those tomes who really reminds me of the Donald – though when it comes to holding grudges, Mr. Trump could give Mrs. Havisham a run for her pound sterling.
The best I can come up with his Michael Henchard from Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge.
Henchard, in the likely case you haven’t read the novel, gets drunk and sells his wife and daughter to a sailor, awakens the next day, suffers remorse (a very un-Trumpian emotion), swears off hooch, builds a thriving business, goes into politics, and is elected mayor of Casterbridge.
Here’s Wikipedia’s patched together character analysis:
Henchard has a very impulsive temperament, although he also has a tendency to depression. He tends to take a sudden liking, or a sudden dislike, to other people and can be verbally aggressive even when sober. Henchard is respected in Casterbridge, having built up a strong business almost from nothing, but he is not well liked, and when he drinks, he can be abusive. Indeed, one of the reasons he does so well in business is because, after he sells his wife and child, he swears an oath not to touch alcohol for twenty-one years. When he decides Farfrae [a former business partner] is his enemy, he wages an economic war that, at first, is extremely one-sided. A risk-taker, Henchard eventually lets his personal grudge against Farfrae get in the way of his reasoning abilities. He takes too many risks, gambles too aggressively, and loses his credit, his business, and most of his fortune.
Nevertheless, although Henchard is exasperating, you somehow can identify with him. You – or at least I – was terribly moved when I read Henchard’s last will and testament:
“That Elizabeth-Jane Farfrae be not told of my death, or made to grieve on account of me.
“& that I be not bury’d in consecrated ground.
“& that no sexton be asked to toll the bell.
“& that nobody is wished to see my dead body.
“& that no murners walk behind me at my funeral.
“& that no flours be planted on my grave,
“& that no man remember me.
“To this I put my name.
To cut to the chase, Trump lacks the stature to be tragic and is too dangerous and mean-spirited to be truly comic. Perhaps if we’re looking for a literary doppelganger, we’re better off searching comic books. In fact, with his outrageous hair, orange complexion, and out-sized ego, Trump would make a fairly cool Batman villain. The terrifying thing, of course, is just how close this Joker has come to being elected President of the United States.