Something we’d like to discuss with a literary character? I do have one, burning question that repeats itself to me. And in trying to fit in with the romance writers here, I will tell it…
But, first, some background,(and I’m also stretching the story out!):
When my husband was teaching Jr. high and High school, it was in private academies which were fairly ‘conservative’. Since his main area of expertise is History, he collected and lent many historical novels to his students. (We still have every one. I know he has read them all and I probably have, too). When he was hired by a (then) large homeschool business,his new students were also required to read ‘classics’, but the students lived around, and even out of, the country, so our books were not available to them. Often his teenage female students turned in reports on romantic novels; many did them on Jane Eyre and other works of the Bronte sisters. He came home and asked: What in heaven’s name was going on?
If you are at all familiar with any Bronte novel, you will know that the main male characters are always far from being ‘heroes’. They are brooding, (at best, manic-depressive, at worst), self-absorbed men whom the women ‘love’ even though the guys are incapable or unwilling to return emotion. These men, who could easily be labeled as sociopaths, often refuse to be kind and can be downright cruel between their few weak attempts,(if any),to fain affection for the women. There are allusions to substance use or addiction, but for the most part, they are purely mean, selfish men who use the “This is how I am” nonsense to excuse their callousness and expect the women to just put up with their abuse…which they do. This is not a good lesson for young girls.
[Why were all their stories written like this? The three Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Anne and Emily, were influenced by the behavior of their brother, who was called Bramwell. He was indulged, spoiled and moody,(at best; the rest listed above, possibly), yet the girls held him in the highest esteem. He was their ‘ideal’ man. It seems the entire household had an unhealthy atmosphere, but this was what they knew and romanticized into their stories. (I am sure Freud would have a field day with their works and situation, but I digress.) I told my husband that if the girls had to read classic and they wanted romance, he should advise them read to Jane Austen’s books. No one can write a ‘hero’ like ol’ Jane.
Jane Austen’s books are clean as whistles. The male ‘leads’ are chivalrous, principled, gallant, patient, kind and strong. They also generous, with acts usually done behind-the-scenes and revealed late in the book by a third party. AND they are commonly not commoners but usually,wealthy, landed and often titled, gentlemen. They are nobility at its best, in every sense of the word.
If you have read a Jane Austen novel, you pretty much know what is going to come about in the next one. She had a definite formula going, but I don’t mean to say that the stories aren’t enjoyable, (although I’ve found that they seem better if you take a break between them. They aren’t a brain-strain, believe me.). The situations are somewhat different in each, but it always involves a young woman as the protagonist who is considered intelligent, (Jane put a lot of herself into them), if occasionally misguided…and often, mistaken. The main character is not quite of the same means,(wealth), as The Gentleman, (the perfect gentleman for her who is chivalrous, principled, gallant, noble, etc.), and who is right under her nose…but whom she does not fully appreciate until about the last chapter…ever time.
So here is my question for every Jane Austen heroine, the question that I have been known to, out of frustration, actually ask out-loud by a third of the way into each book…
What’s the matter with you? If you don’t take him, I WILL!