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My Favorite Men In Novels?

I did the same recently for women. I wasn’t going to post today. However, I thought that this morning, and it being a quiet Sunday…

[The Christmas poinsettia is still with us – despite me looking after it. Photo by me, 2019.]

…for a bit of fun the men deserved some similar treatment. My favorite men in novels? That was actually a much tougher question to answer because as I thought about it I realized I tend to find women characters more interesting. Men are often written rather “mysteriously” and “distantly,” leading me to want to get back to the women.

For example, despite reading The Great Gatsby cover to cover just days ago, I’m not sure who “Jay Gatsby” essentially is as a man? Is anyone? Even in playing him on film in 1974, Robert Redford apparently thought “Gatsby” was supposed to be something of an autobiographical effort by author F. Scott Fitzgerald; but Fitzgerald’s daughter reportedly told the actor that her late father saw himself much more as the book’s narrator, “Nick Carraway.”

[Yesterday in the lounge: a cappuccino and Pride and Prejudice. Photo by me, 2019.]

Similarly, “Mr. Darcy”? He’s fine, but is also very difficult “to know” – again, much as I’ve found too many men are in novels. Yes, yes, I know that such “remoteness” is part of the point to the novel, but knowing that doesn’t make it easier to warm up to him. The way Jane Austen wrote him, for much of the book he is close to insufferable.

First, a quick reminder: here are my three favorite women in novels:

[Photo by me, 2019.]

As I think back now, my teenage experience first reading The Last of the Mohicans (I read it outside of school, about age 14, out of curiosity)… and seeing what happened to “Cora” (I still recall my mother, noticing what I was reading, warning me about the ending) … may have impacted and scarred me for life!

These are almost certainly not the “greatest” male characters in novels. They are merely three of my “favorite” ones I’ve encountered over the years. Chances are you would not have guessed: they may surprise you:

3) “Colonel Brandon” – from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility: As I said, I’m full of surprises! He is perhaps the most “realistic” of all of Austen’s “leading men.” He is not wildly handsome or “dashing.” He falls for much younger “Marianne Dashwood” quite believably (being about twenty years younger than he is, he is awkward and has trouble relating to her initially), and she eventually comes to appreciate and love him in return. He’s NOT a “Mr Darcy” by any means, but is a “solid” and “respectable” sort who in many ways morally anchors the tale.

2) “Christopher Newman” – from Henry James’s The American: Perhaps the first literary American abroad confounded by the French… and by French women. The rich, often naive, earnest American guy dropped in among a group of foreigners he finds baffling and lifestyles and life outlooks and “rules of behavior” he just doesn’t understand. He spends much of the book apparently holding his head in disbelief and you often can’t do much but feel sorry for him as a fish out of water.

[Herman Wouk’s “The Winds of War” – all 1110 pages of it! Photo by me, 2014.]

1) “Leslie Slote” – from Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War: In his later 30s, academic, brilliant, and well-traveled, of a WASP American family, but of not the greatest of physical courage – and he senses that latter. He fell in love in Paris (before the novel begins) with expat itinerant Jewish American “Natalie” (who is… in my humble opinion, one of the most annoying, self-absorbed, and relentlessly clueless, “leading lady” characters ever invented). He wants simply quietly to move up the foreign service career ladder and not rock the boat. But the Nazis keep invading where he is stationed (he finds himself at the US embassy in a Warsaw under attack; and later at the US embassy in Moscow in a Soviet Union being invaded) and they truly terrify him. He comes around to risking his career in the face of anti-Semitic (of the Hemingway characters type) mandarins at the State Department to raise an alarm about the Nazis’ mass murder of Jews in Eastern Europe. Every page in the massive novel on which he appears is some of the best reading of the book.

Looking at those three again, it is obvious as well a writer is influenced by what they also read and have read!๐Ÿ˜‚

5 replies »

  1. Hmmm…Interesting insight, dear Robert! I have always believed that the favourite character in the novel is the author himself disguised somewhere. I-m glad that you have disguised in these three curious men.
    Have a nice coffee Sunday! ๐Ÿ™‚

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