Welcome, friends and fellow bibliophiles, to our second and final post celebrating Valentine's week. :)I debated a length between highlighting unmarried literary characters (which would be fun), and the top romances of literature (which seemed in great danger of being too spoilery), or the top five heroes and heroines. (from separate books, of course.) I also considered highlighting one couple only, and making an entire post about them.
In the end, I thought it would be nice to give a practical illustration of last year's series on biblical romance, so I elected for the Top Ten Heroes and Heroines, five men and five women--the ones in literature that best express loving in actions and in truth.
And Jane Austen is not making a clean sweep of all of them. Just for the sake of variety. ;)
Before We Begin
The heroes and heroines highlighted in this post are meant to illustrate a specific principle, which we discussed last year at this time: namely, instead of a couple that spends their time glorying in physical and emotional reactions, these heroes and heroines (while they are attracted to each other) get to work and dirty their hands together advancing the cause of Christ, or at least bettering society. These are men and woman who dream, but who don't despise the everyday things; who know when to resist evil, but who never claim selfish rights; who love each other so much that they want what's best for the other person, even if that future doesn't include a happily-ever-after marriage.
We live in a fake, feministic, Hollywood love culture that lauds couples for 'breaking the chains' of 'tradition' (i.e. Christianity) and 'seeking their own happiness'.
These couples did things differently.
To avoid spoilers, all the heroes and heroines in this post are from separate books. Not all of the people I chose got married. But since this is Valentine's Week, each person listed below loved someone and hoped to marry them, whether or not they actually did.
Now I present to you five men and five women who loved in action and in truth.
1. Peter Morrison (Her Father's Daughter, by Gene Stratton-Porter)
Many people have never met this most estimable of men, more's the pity. An author who takes the notion to build a home in California, he soon finds himself attracted to his young and original neighbor, Linda Strong. From beginning to end, his first thought is to wait for her until she's ready to be awakened, and treat her as a good friend in the meantime.
2. Laddie Stanton (Laddie: A True, Blue Story, by Gene Stratton-Porter)
Laddie's head-over-heels in love with Pamela Pryor, even though she comes from a rather odd family. A gruff atheist father, household secrets, and the even the English class divisions can't get in his way once he sets his heart upon her. But Laddie shows that love isn't blind, and there are some things he just can't do for the Princess, even if it means breaking off his courtship with her.
"You see," [Laddie said], "a very charming friend of mine expressed herself very strongly last night about the degrading influence of farming, especially that branch of agriculture with evolves itself in a furrow; hence it is my none too happy work to plow the west eighty where she can't look our way without seeing me, and I have got to whistle my favorite 'toon' where she must stop her ears so she doesn't hear; and then it will be my painful task, I fear, to endeavor to convince her that I am still clean, decent, and not degraded."
"Oh Laddie!" cried Mother.
"Abominable foolishness!" roared father like he does roar once in about two years.
"Isn't it now?" asked Laddie sweetly. "I don't know what has got into her head. She has seen me plowing fifty times since their land has joined ours, and she never objected before."
"I can tell you blessed well!" said mother. "She didn't care two hoots how much my son plowed, but it makes a difference when it comes to her lover."3. Captain Ralph Percy (To Have and To Hold, by Mary Johnston, Vision Forum edition)
Intending to take a wife that will bear him children and keep his house clean, Captain Percy is in for a surprise when he finds that his new acquisition is a runaway ward of the king. Even though under threat of death, he refuses to renounce his marriage, and stands by the woman who does not love him.
She spoke haltingly, through dry lips. Her face was as white as her ruff, but a strange light burned in her eyes, and there was no trembling. "This morning you said that all that you had--your name, and your sword--were at my service. You may take them both again, sir. I refuse the aid you offer. Swear what you will, tell them what you please, make your peace while you may. I will not have your blood upon my soul."
There was yet wine upon the table. I filled a cup and brought it to her. "Drink!" I commanded.
"I have much of forbearance, much of courtesy, to thank you for," she said. "I will remember it when--Do not think that I shall blame you--"
I held the cup to her lips. "Drink!" I repeated. She touched the red wine to her lips. I took it from her and put it to my own. "We drink of the same cup," I said, with my eyes upon hers, and drained it to the bottom.
4. George Knightley (Emma, by Jane Austen)
Of all Jane Austen's heroes, Mr. Knightley perhaps most embodies the principle of loving in action and in truth, though Henry Tilney would make a close second. While Darcy, Wentworth, and Bertram struggled with pride or blindness before they could begin to love, Knightley loved Emma as a brother before he ever loved her as a man for a woman. Though not without his faults, he was bold to rebuke and reason when the occasion called for it.
5. Malcolm MacPhail (The Fisherman's Lady/The Marquis' Secret, by George MacDonald)
"You seem to have quite a regard for your young mistress, Malcolm."
"I would die for her, my lord."
"That's a common enough assertion," said the marquis.
"Not with fisher-folk. I don't know how it may be with your people, my lord."
"Well, even with us it means something. It implies at least that you would risk your life for someone. But perhaps it may mean more than that in the mouth of a fisherman? Do you fancy there is such a thing as devotion--real devotion, I mean, self-sacrifice, you know?"
"I don't doubt it, my lord."
"Without fee or hope of reward?"
"There must be some capable of it, my lord, or what would the world be like?"
"You certainly have a pretty high notion of things, MacPhail. For my part, I can easily imagine a man risking his life, but devoting it! That's another thing altogether. What, for instance, would you do for Lady Florimel now? You say you would die for her. What does that mean on a fisherman's tongue?"
"It means everything my lord--short of evil. I would starve for her, but I wouldn't steal. I would fetch for her, but I wouldn't lie."
"Would you be her servant all your days? Come now!"
"More than willingly, my lord--if she would only have me, and keep me."
1. Amy Dorrit (Little Dorrit, by Charles Dickens)
A hard-working little woman who loves and hopes even with no thought of return. Not a hint of self-pity spoils her character, and though she lives with a family takes for granted all the work she does for them, and loves a man who is perhaps the most endearingly thick-headed heroes of Dickens thus far (in regards to not recognizing her true feelings), she carries on.
2. Fanny Price (Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen)
A 'living' definition of biblical meekness. Fanny illustrates love without resentment or self-seeking, very similar to Amy Dorrit. And she gets much less than is her due among bibliophiles.
3. Elinore Stewart (The Frontier Adventures of Elinore Stewart, narrated by Victoria Botkin)
She is not perhaps the youngest heroine, but Elinore Stewart is a real-life woman who travels out West to show other widows they can build a homestead. There she finds a husband, and in her letters we find humorous accounts of loving and cheerful service to him. A heroine worthy of anyone's acquaintance, and a biblical, real-life depiction of a friendship that leads to marriage. (Though marriage in itself is a side-plot in the story, and not the main focus.)
4. Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte)
Perhaps one of the greatest tests of love in literature, Jane chooses to love in actions and in truth, even when it could lead to the self-destruction of the man she desires.
While he spoke my very conscience and reason turned traitors against me, and charged me with crime in resisting him. They spoke almost as loud as feeling, and that clamored wildly. "Oh, comply!" it said. "Think of his misery, think of his danger, look at his state when left alone; remember his headlong nature, consider the recklessness following on despair; soothe him, save him, love him; tell him you love him and will be his. Who in the world cares for you? or who will be injured by what you do?"
Still indomitable was the reply, "I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained, I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God, sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad--as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation; they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigor; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?
5. Masouda (The Brethren, by H. Rider Haggard)
Worthy of Sherlock Holmes' acclamation "The Woman", Masouda shows practical love on the level of ice and blood and fire--the bold, sparkling kind.
As he spoke the lighting flashed and showed her face as she stood there against a background of green leaves and red lily flowers. There was a strange look upon it--a look that made Godwin feel afraid, he knew not of what.
[...] "Masouda," he said in a whisper, "oh! think me no vain fool, but since it is best perhaps that both should know full surely, tell me, is it as I have sometimes--"
He took her outstretched hand, hesitated a moment, then lifted it to his lips, and went...As she slid thence into the black, embracing night, Masouda said to herself:
"Had I played a little more upon his gentleness and pity, I think that he would have offered me his heart--after Rosamund had done with it and in payment for my services. Nay, not his heart, for he has none on earth, but his hand and loyalty. And, being honorable, he would have kept his promise, and I, who have passed through the harem of Al-je-bal, might yet have become the lady D'Arcy, and so lived out my life and nursed his babes. Nay, Sir Godwin; when you love me--not before; and you will never love me--until I am dead."
Snatching a bloom of the lilies into her hand, the hand that he had kissed, Masouda pressed it convulsively against her breast, till the red juice ran from the crushed flower and stained her like a wound. Then she glided away, and was lost in the storm and the darkness.
So, friends and fellow bibliophiles, thus we have my five top heroes and heroines in my small library. And now, I would love to hear your favorites! :)