Study Guide

Fargo Wade (Harve Presnell)

Wade (Harve Presnell)

Wade Gustafson is a dominating presence: a wealthy, arrogant guy who owns the car dealership where Jerry, his son-in-law, works. We get the impression that Wade doesn't like or respect Jerry… and doesn't hesitate to humiliate him.

He doesn't see why he should loan Jerry the money for the real estate deal and cuts him out of the deal altogether when Jerry protests. Compared to Wade, Jerry's a sweetheart.

Wade's a self-important guy who's used to being in control and getting what he wants. He's not going to leave the ransoming business to the bumbling Jerry; it's his money, and he'll deliver it himself. He figures he'll show up and intimidate the punk who's kidnapped his beloved daughter, and that will be that.

He can't possibly know that his usual M.O. isn't going to work this time. Carl, just coming off a serious beating from Shep Proudfoot, is in no mood to negotiate. He's too agitated to be intimidated. He sees this arrogant, confident guy as a "f***in' joke," and shoots him.

Just as the Coens spend little time getting the audience to sympathize with the terrified Jean, they don't seem all that interested in getting us to feel sorry for Wade. In reality, he's a distraught father willing to do anything to get his daughter back and get revenge on her kidnappers. But to Carl, he's just another annoying complication.

To the viewers, he's just an obnoxious, pushy guy who can't imagine that anyone wouldn't do what he demands. That swaggering confidence does him in—at least he gets a shot off before he dies.

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