The real hero of 'The Office' was Dwight. Jim was just a bully who never grew up.

The real hero of 'The Office' was Dwight. Jim was just a bully who never grew up.
Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute.NBC / Contributor / Getty Images
  • Dwight is painted as an annoying nuisance, but he's really a hero who tries to do the right thing.
  • When given the chance, Jim upholds toxic workplace ideologies instead of helping others.
  • Dwight is willing to take responsibility for his actions and admit when he's wrong — Jim isn't.

When it comes to figuring out the main protagonist on NBC's "The Office," there are a few obvious choices.

Michael Scott, regional manager, who genuinely believes he is the heart and soul of the Scranton branch. Or Jim Halpert, the clever and charming underachiever who immediately appears sympathetic in his quest to win the heart of Pam Beesly.

But there's only one character who appeared in every single episode, showed the most growth, and ended the series not just getting everything they wanted, but actually earning it: Dwight Schrute.

Dwight is introduced as unlikeable while Jim is painted as a relatable underdog

When we first meet Dwight (Rainn Wilson), he's presented as the rule-following, annoying kiss-up. He continually proclaims he's the assistant (to the) regional manager even though the corporate office repeatedly tells him he's not and has no actual authority over the rest of his coworkers.

He's loud, brash, and everyone - including Michael (Steve Carell), the man he looks up to and defends the most - openly dislikes him.


The real hero of 'The Office' was Dwight. Jim was just a bully who never grew up.
Michael Scott doesn't often seem to be fond of Dwight Schrute.Justin Lubin/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

In contrast, Jim (John Krasinski) is presented as quiet and charming. He has a boyish haircut and slightly unkempt business attire that only add to the wide-eyed innocent gaze he regularly gives to the camera. He's handsome and clever, exuberant but harmless.

This initial setup pushes viewers to side with Jim.

We're supposed to see his lack of motivation not as a flaw but as an understandable commentary on the mundanity that capitalism has forced us into. As responsible adults, we also have little choice but to find a soul-crushing corporate job somewhere in order to pay our bills.

On the other hand, Dwight's staunch belief in upholding corporate rules and enthusiasm for working to be the best employee he can be is meant to be viewed as off-putting.

Framed in this light, it's easy to defend Jim's pranks as harmless. After all, it's not Dwight he's humiliating - it's corporate ideals.


The problem in this setup is that Jim isn't the anti-establishment icon he's meant to be

Jim's constant pranks disrupt office life, but they do little to actually stop his contributions to the company's bottom line.

When left unattended for a day, Jim and Pam (Jenna Fischer) organize the Olympic Games and get everyone to stop working to participate. Jim even tries to get them to continue after Michael and Dwight return to the office.

It seems Jim isn't interested in doing his job, but then tells the camera he completed his expense reports and closed two sales, making it one of his most productive days.

Jim cares little about how much he disrupts office productivity as long as he's entertained and Pam is impressed, all while quietly making sure to hit his sales numbers and do his job.

Even if that can be seen as Jim only doing the bare minimum in order to stay in this soulless rat race otherwise known as corporate mundanity, his pranks against Dwight aren't meant to mock his adherence to corporate principles and ideals.


They're meant to personally belittle and humiliate Dwight.

The real hero of 'The Office' was Dwight. Jim was just a bully who never grew up.
Jim's pranks tend to lean toward cruel bullying, not rebellious dissent.NBC / Contributor / Getty Images

The rivalry often feels less like capitalist commentary and more like the hallways of high school.

Jim clearly represents the popular kids with his effortless cool and Dwight is the amalgamation of outcasts. No matter what he does he's mocked, even when he isn't disrupting or forcing his beliefs on anyone else.

We see this clearly when Dwight dresses as a Sith Lord and is made fun of by nearly everyone, yet Jim's flippant costume as "three-hole punch Jim" with three paper dots stuck on his shirt is remarked as clever and fun.

In fact, later that same season on a booze cruise, Jim's then-girlfriend, Katy, comments the same sentiment, placing her, Jim, Pam, and Roy as the cool kids.


At the same time, Dwight is asked by the ship's captain to steer the boat with a giant wooden wheel, a duty everyone except Dwight knows is fake.

Read More: 18 inconsistencies you never noticed on 'The Office'

And although Dwight seems like an ideal capitalist, he pursues promotions because he genuinely cares about the Scranton branch

On paper, Dwight appears to be a capitalist success.

He owns a successful beet farm, is a bed-and-breakfast proprietor, consistently earns awards for sales, and in the end, becomes regional manager of the Scranton branch.

But his success is marked in his journey moving away from the belief in the capitalist ideal of individualism to encompassing strength in community.


It's easy to believe his adherence to pursuing corporate excellence makes Dwight an ideal capitalist, but he never pursues promotions for the money. He does it out of the belief that he can make things better.

The real hero of 'The Office' was Dwight. Jim was just a bully who never grew up.
When given the chance, Jim upholds toxic workplace ideologies instead of becoming a better manager.Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Image

On the other hand, Jim pursues promotions specifically for the monetary gain, proven when he steps down from being co-manager because the uncapped sales commission of his previous title would be more lucrative.

Between the two, Dwight was always victimized by the tenets of capitalism while being portrayed as its biggest advocate. And the truth is, the person who not only benefitted from these principles but also embraced them was Jim.

Even as Jim gets promoted, he uses his power to be petty

No matter how hard Dwight tries, he rarely makes the progress he believes he should while Jim skates through his job, takes very little seriously, and still ends up getting several promotions.

In this context, Jim upholds several ideals of a capitalist culture. As Jim moves up, he doesn't exactly strive to make things better for the people he once worked alongside.


A prime example is when Jim uses his supervisor status to enact petty revenge after Dwight gives Jim a gift that's secretly a listening device.

Jim uses the device to play a series of pranks on Dwight before admitting he knew all along what Dwight had done.

Dwight admits to being jealous and, rather than rise above the harmless incident or acknowledge that it was petty to continue pulling pranks as Dwight's supervisor, Jim punishes Dwight by making him wash his car - an act reminiscent of Michael's unprofessional behavior.

The real hero of 'The Office' was Dwight. Jim was just a bully who never grew up.
Jim's pranks often disrupt work for others.NBC / Contributor / Getty Images

Even Dwight's most outrageous acts are guided by his desire to do well and receive approval from others

He may uphold corporate beliefs, but Dwight constantly strives to do the right thing for corporate and for his fellow employees. Many of the things Dwight gets vilified for over the series are actually things guided, or misguided, by his desire to be seen as valuable.

When corporate tells Michael to cut health-care costs by choosing a provider with the absolute cheapest plan, he passes the responsibility to Dwight because he doesn't want to be seen as a bad guy.


Dwight completes the task as he was instructed to do by slashing the coverage to nearly nothing. But when the rest of the office voices their discontent, he attempts to ensure their needs are covered and their concerns are heard.

It's actually Jim and Pam who stand in the way by adding fake conditions to the plan and generally being disruptive to the entire process.

Even his most outrageous acts, like when he locked everyone in the office and lit the trash on fire, are examples of his concern for the general well-being of the office. In this instance, he wanted his peers to take safety protocols seriously.

Beyond that, Dwight frequently tries to help his fellow employees

Even though he's adamant about not acting from a place of compassion, actions speak louder than words.

Just a few memorable instances include when he gets a concussion to help Michael and takes care of Phyllis (Phyllis Smith) when she injures her back.


He gives Ryan (B.J. Novak) genuine sales advice and when Ryan fails the sales call, rather than mock or ridicule him, Dwight comforts him, saying, "Not everything's a lesson, Ryan. Sometimes you just fail."

He even looks out for Jim, the character who gives him the most grief. He steps in and saves Jim when Roy (David Denman) attacks him and helps Jim look for his phone after he admits throwing it out of the car was wrong.

And Dwight is willing to let others win, like when he secretly slips Pam building codes so she can confront him against his building changes.

He overheard her telling Jim she felt like a failure and rather than gloating or using that information against her, he sets her up to win while never taking credit with anyone other than the camera crew.

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Dwight is the hero because he shows us how to embrace both his strengths and weaknesses

Jim and Dwight both showed growth and change throughout the series - but it's Dwight who follows the hero's journey on his quest to make Dunder Mifflin the best it can be.

And Jim is his antagonist whose many pranks actually push Dwight to reveal his strengths and weaknesses, giving Dwight the opportunity to grow.

Perhaps it's easy to say Dwight deserves the ridicule because of how far he takes things, but he's willing to admit his faults, flaws, and insecurities.

But even more important than that, when he does cross the line, Dwight never shirks responsibility or shies away from consequences. The most telling example is when he resigns as acting manager - a position he's coveted and been denied for years - rather than be blackmailed into being a bad manager.

No matter how many setbacks he endures, Dwight continually strives to make Dunder Mifflin the best workplace it can be. In fact, he's the only one to do this consistently throughout the entire show.


Really, Dwight Schrute is the underdog we should all be rooting for.

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