How Do Our Literary Heroes Stack Up? Gale or Peeta?+comment
Falling for a literary hero is nothing new. Year after year, Jane Eyre’s Mr. Rochester is voted the #1 most romantic hero in literature. While I have always had a preference for Mr. Darcy, I appreciate the banter and subtle satire of Austen more than the brooding drama of the Brontes – I understand the appeal of Rochester. He’s tortured, passionate, complicated, and even post-maiming, exudes an attractive manliness that is truly swoon-worthy.
Sadly, fiction writers are running with the tortured and passionate over the banter and satire I prefer, these days. Who wouldn’t kill for some witty repartee between Bella and Edward. Sadly, it is a lot of angst, forlorn looks, and confusion. And unfortunately, despite their addictive nature, there is nothing subtle or remotely close to satire in the Twilight series. In the latest literary love triangle phenomenon, “The Hunger Games,” Katniss (when not trying to survive a post-apocalyptic, Big Brother world of teenage death games – think Running Man for teenagers) is torn between her best friend and tough guy Gale or her adversary/ally and overall sensitive guy Peeta. Neither man (well, they are still really boys) seems capable of much besides hunting and gathering skills – but they are sweet. As much as you may be Team Gale or Team Peeta – I’d ask readers to remember our breakdown of the last complicated, brooding, literary romantic hero and remind themselves that the love affair would be far from easy.
Love in the face of huge obstacles is a powerful narrative, but does that mean that we’d actually like our love lives to be so full of drama? For some of us, the answer is a resounding yes. We may not like to admit it, but many of us are drawn to drama like a madwoman drawn to scissors. But just because a character is the model for our fantasies, would that make him a model boyfriend? Here are a few reasons Mr. Rochester might not be so great in reality. (Even if you are imaging Rochester as his latest incantation – super sexy, big-schlonged Michael Fassbender. Did I just describe him as big-schlonged? Oh yes, yes I did. See Shame if you doubt what I’m talking about).
1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t ‘ward’ just a polite word for illegitimate child? I suppose it is honorable that he didn’t abandon her all together and I understand that society’s rules were very different back then, but who the hell is the mother, and why doesn’t she have any roll in the girl’s life? Does he have a habit of bedding down random women? Is he actually a manslut? Call me old fashioned, but it is just too much baby mama drama for me.
2. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t trust him with the nanny… hell, I wouldn’t even leave him alone for too long with the babysitter.
3. What is up with Rochester leaving for huge chunks of time… talk about absentee father.
4. I know he got ‘tricked’ into his first marriage, but there are two sides to every story (see Wide Sargasso Sea). Polygamy is not sexy, nor is forced imprisonment.
5. He’s sort of flakey and may have questionable judgement. Even if he is blameless for the whole Bertha debacle, there is just no excuse for Blanche. She’s awful. Sure, he comes to his senses eventually, but still…
6. Say you’re in the throws of bad PMS and find yourself getting a little irrationally emotional. Do you really want to worry about getting locked in the attic?
The runner up for romantic literary hero is almost always Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, and I think it is fair to say that he would be a total nightmare in reality. His dedication to Catherine is sexy as hell, but aside from ruining the lives of several innocent people in the quest for revenge, the man kills puppies. Puppies! That’s sort of a deal breaker for me.