“Who is hands-down the best literary hero, in your opinion? Likewise, who is the best heroine?”
That’s the April prompt of The Classics Club Meme. For me, hero or heroine must be someone who does things that I admire, which I don’t think I’d be capable to do. I don’t have to have a crush on him (for this would lead to some fangirlings :D) or to like her to be my best friend. It’s just that he/she had done something I believe in.
At first I had some candidates, mostly I picked from my Top Five Book Boy Friends end of last year and from my Classics Character list. Among them: D’Artagnan, Étienne Lantier, Pip, Ralph Touchett, and even Sydney Carton had come to my radar. But choosing most of them would be just fangirling; as for Ralph Touchett and Sydney Carton, to me, they did all they had done because of ‘love of a woman’. Not that I underrated the power of love, but I really want to pick someone with a greater value than it. And finally I found him!
Ralph from Lord of the Flies
But he’s just an adolescent!—you might have protested :D. Yes, he is an ordinary teenager, and without the incident of being stranded in an uninhabited island, Ralph might always be an ordinary indifferent urban teenager until he’s grown up. But at that certain point, when he was left all alone, betrayed by many of his friends who at first voted him for leading them, when all the others have transferred to be savages, and he won’t have any chance to survive, lonely and terrified; at that critical moment, a teenager he was, Ralph persisted to keep his conscience: ‘Cos I had some sense’. Ralph could simply pretended to join his friends’ tribe to save his life (I think that would be our first instincts); but what makes him my literary hero is that he successfully ignored the temptation and took the risk of losing his life by keeping his conscience. And the fact that he is just a teenager only makes his heroism distinguished from others…. (see also my character analysis on Ralph)
It is really more difficult to choose a heroine than a hero, perhaps because back to last centuries women had not been respected as they were in modern era. Or maybe…. Ah..I believe this is the reason—I haven’t read many classics enough about women or women’s struggles! I have tried to bring in mind several female characters, but one that was so prominent is…
Isabel Archer from The Portrait of A Lady
|Nicole Kidman as Isabel Archer|
Now, you might really protest me, as in The Portrait of A Lady, Isabel seemed to be a loser; instead of getting away from her authoritarian husband, Isabel had chosen to return to him. Then how could that makes her a heroine? It is because Isabel had the courage to live a life she detested. And why did she pick that choice? Because Isabel knew she could not leave her husband just like that, being a woman who ran away from her husband; Isabel knew there won’t be a place for her in the society. She had made a choice of her own—although it turned out to be a huge blunder—so she must take the consequences, and made the best of it. In short, Isabel Archer is an intelligent and very brave woman who refused to be defeated by her husband. I believe—although Henry James did not mention it clearly in the book—that after her decision, she would return to her husband as a new woman. Yes, she surrendered herself physically to him, but not mentally. From then on Isabel would never be afraid of him again; Isabel lived her life because she had chosen it, not from fearing of her husband. (see my character analysis on Isabel)
So, who’s your literary hero and heroine?