Probably the most iconic poverty-stricken character of all time — courtesy Charles Dickens, of course — who uttered those famous and simple lines: “Please, sir, I want some more.”
Everyone’s favorite street rat explains his situation simply — “gotta eat to live, gotta steal to eat!” But his pre-genie life’s not all bad — sure, his only friend is a monkey and he seems to only have one outfit (that doesn’t include a shirt), but you have to admit, he’s got a great view.
You know you’ve hit rock bottom when you’re carving up a shoe for Thanksgiving dinner.
Katniss Everdeen and family
We might have put nearly all the residents of District 12 here — Katniss and her family may be even slightly better off than most, owing to the fact that she can hunt — but any girl whose last words to her best friend would be a plea for him not to let her family starve is surely truly destitute.
Bubbles and Johnny
Bubbles, with all of his ups and downs, is one of our favorite characters from The Wire. He and his best friend Johnny are poverty-stricken junkies trying to make it in Baltimore, with little success until Bubbles gets some informing work on the side.
Before Charlie finds the golden ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he and his grandparents have nothing but cabbage water and the occasional loaf of bread to sustain them. Little do they know that they will soon have a life supply of chocolate — though that will probably end up tasting about as good as cabbage water in a few years. C’est la vie.
The Cockney flower girl from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (and, of course, My Fair Lady) sells blooms for pennies on the London streets — until a wealthy professor makes a wager that he can coach her into passing for a high class lady.
The Joad Family
The Joad family, which struggles through the Great Depression in Steinbeck’s seminal novel The Grapes of Wrath, are an extremely poor family of tenant farmers who are driven from their Oklahoma home in search of jobs — or at least enough food to sustain them. When preparing to write the novel, Steinbeck famously wrote of the Great Depression, “I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this.” We hope they paid attention.
The Weasleys can do magic, so we’re not sure how poor they would ever actually be in the real world — just conjure up some pastries, why don’t you — but the Harry Potter books do seem to hammer home their monetary issues, so we’ll take their word for it. After all, if they could possibly afford a better formal robe for Ron than that frilly monstrosity, don’t you think they would have?
Oscar the Grouch
Sure, Sesame Street made waves last year when it aired a special that starred an impoverished “food insecure” muppet named Lily, but does she live in a trash can? Oscar is a street monster who lives in a trash can. You’d be grouchy too.