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Literary villains who were actually just suffering from burnout.

Jessie Gaynor

September 1, 2022, 11:14am

In case you haven’t read mainstream periodical, Substack, lifestyle website, or know-it-all’s Twitter feed in the past two years: we’re all suffering from burnout. In fact, in a way, the real villain was burnout all along. Armed with this knowledge, I decided to revisit some literary characters who are traditionally considered fairly villainous and see whether they were actually bad, or simply suffering from burnout.

Tom Ripley, The Talented Mr. Ripley
You don’t see Ripley killing any working-class people, do you? That’s because he has class burnout. Relatable!

Captain Ahab, Moby-Dick
If I could tell Captain Ahab one thing, it’s that despite the fact that the crew of the Pequod are all trapped together for endless months trying to satisfy his megalomaniacal revenge fantasy, your coworkers are not your family! Ahab is clearly suffering from workplace burnout and should probably consider quiet quitting (in this case, leaving the whale the fuck alone).

Lady Macbeth, Macbeth
Ladies, when you spend all your time trying to help your husband ascend the throne at any cost, that’s emotional labor. Lady Macbeth is burned the fuck out. The body—and the blood—keeps score.

Nurse Ratched, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
The healthcare system is deeply broken and the nursing profession is in crisis, so when you think about it, recklessly lobotomizing any patient who threatens your power is self-care.

Grendel’s mother, Grendel
MOTHERS  👏  ARE  👏  NOT  👏  O  👏  K .

Satan, Paradise Lost
We don’t talk enough about friend breakups with God, but they’re a major source of burnout for Single Urban Millennials and Princes of Darkness alike.

Judge Holden, Blood Meridian
The judge is actually doing a great job of practicing self-care—naked dancing, anyone?—but as we all know, all the naked dancing in the world can’t fix a broken system.

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