Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Salon: Six Favorite Literary Heroes

Yesterday I posted Five Favorite Heroines and so, today I'm posting Six Favorite Heroes. Fair's fair - right? (It was only going to be five, but I fudged.)

1) La Bete (Beast) in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.
I've been thinking a lot lately about my interest in gothic lit and later, gothic suspense lit and I've realized that the original Mr. Gothic is none other than Beast, in Beauty and The...
I'm going to post a bit more on this theory of mine at a later date, but for now I'm listing the brooding beasty of my dreams as one of my favorite heroes though in truth, the story is more about La Belle than it is about La Bete. But I adore Beast as the ultimate in misunderstood males. The ultimate example of never judge a book by its cover. (Though the painting on the cover of this issue of the famous tale is lovely. I love Barrett's interpretation of the beast.)

2) Mr. Rochester in JANE EYRE
Well, we had a discussion with Carolyn on A Few of My Favorite Books on the finer and/or lesser points of Jane Eyre's beloved Mr. Rochester. I came down on the side of 'yay' while quite a few came down on the 'nay'. But my mind will not be changed. Mr. R was a favorite of mine when I was a kid, and lo these many years later, he is still a favorite. Wretched man though he may be. To my mind, all dark, mysterious men bristling with secrets, spring from Mr. Rochester and he, of course, springs from Beast. (That's my theory in a nutshell, but I'll talk more about this at some point. It's Not Byron, It's the Beast.) Rochester is definitely a man of his times, an imperious, high-handed, selfish, wealthy playboy who has committed a capital error in judgement and must now pay for it. Jane Eyre, the equally mysterious young governess, is his penance. How these two work their way into each other's lives is still a story worth the reading.

3) Stanley Hastings in DETECTIVE by Parnell Hall, and the rest of the many books in this on-going series.
As different from my previous two choices as night from day, I would still follow Stanley Hastings down any dark alley, but mostly to protect him from the bad guys. Stanley is not, what you'd call, a typical private eye and yet that is exactly what he is. A Manhattan p.i. who works for an 'ambulance chasing' lawyer, mostly tracking down witnesses to accidents that may or may not have actually happened. This is a very funny series as Stanley spends a great deal of his time wisecracking to cover his feelings of ineptitude. He underrates himself on all counts and never thinks of himself as a hero, yet that is exactly what he is. Because Stanley has a pretty prickly conscience and always wants to do what's right, he generally gets things that need doing, done. Things come right in the end because Stanley interfered. The world-weary Stanley is an anomaly in the land of hard-boiled private eyes since he is happily married and goes home to his wife every night. He is also an amateur actor (who'd rather be a professional) and occasionally gets involved in 'little theater' productions. His on-going stint as a p.i. is just to bolster his income in between acting gigs - or so he tells himself.

4) Sherlock Holmes in all the Arthur Conan Doyle stories.
I should have listed him first, but simply put: I forgot. Horrors. Hey, I'm an old lady with faulty memory. I'm lucky I remember to get up in the morning.

Anyway, yes, Holmes if my very favorite hero of all time. Yes, he's a cold fish, but I suppose I love cold fish. At any rate, I love this cold fish. I am a sucker for brilliance, especially eccentric brilliance. I am also mindful of a kind heart and I believe that Holmes, for all his thinking machine protestations, has a kind heart and a true sense of justice. When he forgets to be human he has his Watson to keep him from going too deeply into the dark.

I first read Holmes as a kid and knew right away that he was a hero for the ages. No wonder that to this day he is still read, he still gets letters addressed to him, he still continues to be larger than life. I am also very fond of the Holmes created (or maybe I should say, expanded upon) by Laurie R. King in her wonderful Holmes/Russell series begun with THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE. King has taken Holmes and added flesh and blood to his normally skeletal frame. The combo of Doyle and King is a knock-out.

5) Mr. Darcy in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen
Not a big surprise. Though as I've said, Darcy can be a bit stiff-necked, he is still, at his best, the kind of gentlemanly hero many a young girl dreams of. The main thing that recommends him of course, is the fact that the smart and astute country lass, Miss Elizabeth Bennett, sees fit to fall in love with him. But Darcy can stand on his own. He is certainly dashing in a quiet sort of way, he is the epitome of stiff upper lip so he is not always complaining about this and that, or baring his soul to all and sundry like some modern men are known to do. I find that very attractive. He is also the kind of man who will sort things through and set things to rights if need be. He is the wealthy owner of a very fine house and has a very fine yearly income - nothing to make light of, that's for sure. AND he's not bad-looking, at least in the movies based on the novel. Always a good thing. PLUS, he gets to be taught a lesson in the end and is humbled by the need to learn and change for the better. (Though how deeply that change runs is another matter to be discussed at a later date.)

6) Radcliffe Emerson in all the Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters
In reality, this would be an impossible man to spend any great deal of time with, although he has his basic attractions and one tends to overlook much if the man is both brilliant and handsome. But in the fun-filled, fictional universe of the Amelia Peabody books, Emerson shines like the star he truly is. A star in his own universe. That's the most wickedly charming thing about him: he makes himself the star of his own universe and never deviates. It's up to Peabody, his equally eccentric and strong-willed wife, to smooth the waters if they get too disturbed. Though in truth, she seems to think that Emerson is entitled to behave as he pleases since he is the most brilliant archaeologist of this or any generation. Plus he does look awfully good in his work outfit of white shirt, sleeves rolled up to show his tanned muscular arms of course, and beige jodhpurs tucked into high black boots, not to mention his thick black, over-long hair blowing in the hot Egyptian winds. Sounds good to me.

Now I often say that the man, despite his attractions, is basically a lunatic (with all due respect) and I would be right most of the time. He has what I would call an Overpowering Personality, with all that those capital letters imply. He is eccentric with a capital E, brilliant (I believe I've mentioned that once or twice), possessive, kind-hearted, inclined to Dramatic Hyperbole, thinks nothing of rushing headlong into danger and has enough courage for three men. A brief example of his...uh, eccentricity: He pushes an annoyingly intrusive reporter down a flight of stairs at the hotel and then, almost immediately, denies he did any such thing - AND gets away with it because he actually believes he did nothing wrong. He cannot tolerate the slipshod methods of most of the other Egyptologists working archaeological digs and doesn't hesitate to let them know in the strongest possible voice and language. It's gotten to the point where the head of the Cairo Museum hides and refuses to come out when Emerson shows up. All of Emerson's native workers call him The Father of Curses. They adore him despite his many and various eccentricities. He is, in their estimation, a splendid man. In mine too.
Now of course, you have to post your own five or six or seven favorites.
I'll be posting more favorites myself as time goes by.
These sorts of lists are a great deal of fun to do.


  1. I would like to show that Beauty and the Beast pic to my two rabbits. They could do with a mighty big scare. :)

  2. Oh, Beast would see them as a little snack. For sure. Ha! Though if I remember correctly, in the Jean Cocteau film, Beast preferred larger game, i.e. deer. Hey, a fellow's got to eat. ;)

  3. I'm not familiar with the Parnell Hall books but will be looking for them soon. And I've only recently discovered the Holmes books by L. King. I really enjoyed the first one and am looking forward to some cold autumn evenings to read the next in the series. My reading tastes have changed over the years and although I once didn't care for mysteries, now I can't read them fast enough!

  4. Hi Pam, the Parnell Hall books featuring Stanley Hastings are worth looking for. They are so much fun and are true mysteries as well. The Laurie King series of Russell/Holmes books are simply wonderful.


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