21 Unreliable Narrators Who May Or May Not Be Lying To You

These unreliable narrators may make you feel like everything you’ve ever known is a lie, but DAMN do they tell a good story. (Minor spoilers)

1. Patrick Bateman from American Psycho

Patrick Bateman: wealthy young investment banker and possible psychopath. Did we ever find out if he killed and mutilated those people? No? Well then.

2. Briony Tallis from Atonement

Atonement’s Briony Tallis is perhaps too clever for her own good, or anyone else’s. She has a certain talent for tattling and rewriting.

3. Yunior de Las Casas from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Yunior seems to indulge in a good amount of creative license as he tells the story of Oscar Wao, knowing things that no one but the character that he is describing could have known. Hmmm. Very suspicious.

4. Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye

Oh, Holden Holden Holden. Probably a bigger phony than any of these guys. Holden’s story is obviously streaked with personal bias, and hints around his stay in a mental hospital. Get it together!

5. Christopher Boone from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Christopher is plagued by anxiety and fear, and has difficulty interpreting the world around him — slightly autistic, but with a lot of heart.

6. “Jack” from Fight Club

The fact that we aren’t even sure that the narrator’s name is “Jack” is probably our first clue that we aren’t getting the whole truth here. By the time we get to the big plot twist, our brains are about as blown as Robert Paulson’s. (May he rest in peace.)

7. Nick and Amy from Gone Girl

Still not sure who was the more evil and twisted character here. A classic case of “he-said, she-said,” but way, way more sinister.

8. Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby

After a wild summer with Tom, Daisy, and Gatsby, Nick’s account of them and their doings is born out of exasperation, horror, and weariness. And who could blame him?

9. Marta Bjornstad from How To Be a Good Wife

Not only are we still unsure if Marta is mentally sound or not, we’re not even sure if she is sure. What are these pills for anyway?

10. David Wong from John Dies at the End

Like American Psycho, Dave is not sure if he killed someone or not (huh?). Bad trips and possession propel Dave to the end, which may surprise like… everyone.

11. Humbert Humbert from Lolita

While some classify Humbert Humbert as a brutally honest narrator, it seems like he is hungry for the reader’s sympathy, and wants to justify his gross pervy-ness to us. (Ewww.)

12. Chief Bromden from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

The Chief is thought to be deaf and mute, but not actually deaf and mute… we’ve been lied to! He’s also a patient in a mental ward.

13. Henri and Villanelle from The Passion

Henri and Villanelle each describe things so magical and unbelievable, that it’s hard to trust them as narrators. This book is so beautiful that you’ll want to, though.

14. Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Charlie has some repressed memories and issues to work out. At the end of the book, he has a breakdown that lands him in the psych ward, but everything works out okay, you guys. It’s all okay.

15. Mrs. de Winter from Rebecca

The narrator of Rebecca spends a large portion of the novel laboring under a gross misapprehension… very mysterious.

16. Jack from Room

A child who has never been outside of the confines of a single room, Jack’s perspective is both unreliable and completely unique.

17. Pat Peoples from The Silver Linings Playbook

Like Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Pat has some serious repressed memories. He is also haunted by Kenny G (?) and has recently been released from a mental hospital.

18. Oskar Matzerath from The Tin Drum

Psych ward resident Oskar is a perpetual child (with adult mental capacity) gifted with a piercing shriek that can shatter glass and a tin drum that he’s a little too obsessed with.

19. Bee Branch from Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Bee is a precocious eighth grader living with (or no longer living with) a very eccentric and emotionally crippled mother as well as hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Smart-beyond-her-years Bee starts to unravel after her mother disappears.

20. Matthew Homesand from Where The Moon Isn’t

Matthew tells his heart-wrenching story of love, loss, and guilt from a mental facility. His narration deftly weaves from grounded and present to out of touch with reality, and back again.

21. Lockwood from Wuthering Heights

Narrator Lockwood is a tricky fellow. He’s telling the story of Wuthering Heights in his diary as told to him by servant Nelly, but in Nelly’s voice and focusing on her perspective only. At one point he records a letter addressed to Nelly from Isabella word-for-word. How does he even remember Nelly’s tale this well pre-tape recorder?

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