In which I hate Valentine’s Day and love fictional men.

I’m not sure if I could detest this time of the year anymore. Sure, racing comes back Sunday (more on that in another post…if I ever get to it). But Sunday is also Valentine’s Day. Or in my case for 21 out of the 22 Valentine’s Days I’ve been alive…Singles Awareness Day. I don’t think I actually cared about it until High School when there was the giant table in the office for flower deliveries and EVERY girls name in the school got called except for me. (Okay, not really, but close enough)

Anyways, half of the problem for me is I’m a girl. I was raised on Disney, where everyone had a Prince Charming and a happily ever after. This shaped me in to an über-romantic. I think my first heartbreak was knowing that Jo and Laurie don’t get married in Little Women (don’t quote me on that though). My favorite author is Jane Austen. The only reason I read Scarlett is so that Rhett and Scarlett get a happy ending.

Anyways…this is basically just a chance for me to a. vent and b. talk about my favorite literary leading men (if I ever include Edward Cullen on this list, I am giving you permission now to smack me.)

1. Mr. George Knightley

Knightley is the ultimate good-guy in my book. (And having just finished watching the latest Emma adaptation, the freshest in my mind). Austen herself describes Knightley as  “sensible,” “cheerful,” and a man who has “nothing of ceremony about him.” He’s honest, and isn’t afraid to tell Emma when she’s wrong. “Badly done Emma. Badly done!” He’s thoughtful and kind. Even though he dislikes dancing, after Harriett is snubbed by Mr. Elton, he steps in and dances with her. And he looks after the Bates, and after he and Emma are married, he moves to Hartfield so that Emma and her father do not have to be separated.

And yet, he’s still human. I love his jealousy towards any other man who tries to court Emma. And in these times, he is a bit ill-tempered. In Mr. Knightley however, Jane Austen created the ultimate “good guy”. And my favorite Austen hero.

“I cannot make speeches, Emma:”—he soon resumed; and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing.—”If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am.—You hear nothing but truth from me.—I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it.—Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma, as well as you have borne with them. The manner, perhaps, may have as little to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover.—But you understand me.—Yes, you see, you understand my feelings—and will return them if you can. At present, I ask only to hear, once to hear your voice.”

2. Theodore Laurence

Laurie has a trait that I love in guys; he has a similarity to Knightley in which he is in love with his best friend. Unlike Emma and Mr. Knightley, Jo and Laurie’s happily ever after doesn’t come with each other. (I’m not sure that Laurie actually got his happily ever after, rather just settled for close enough, but that is a different story.) He loves Jo even though she’s INSANE for the time period. Like flat-out, batshit crazy insane. Regardless, he loves her for exactly who she is, burnt-dresses and all.

Laurie: I have loved you since the moment I clamped eyes on you. What could be more reasonable than to marry you?
Jo March: We’d kill each other.
Laurie: Nonsense!
Jo March: Neither of us can keep our temper-…
Laurie: I can, unless provoked.
Jo March: We’re both stupidly stubborn, especially you. We’d only quarrel!
Laurie: I wouldn’t!
Jo March: You can’t even propose without quarreling.

3. Rhett Butler

First off: Rhett is a MAN. He is a man with flaws and vices. He is in no way remotely perfect. But he’s well-educated. And then there is the way that he gets people…in another life, Rhett would have been the perfect counterpart to Mad Men‘s Don Draper. He’s made for Madison Avenue.

He’s not willing to put up with Scarlett’s crap. I love his relationship with Melanie (at times wondering what they would have been like as a couple…) and with his daughter and step-children. Like Laurie, he’s aware of his love’s flaws, and still loves her regardless of her selfish, childlike manner. He tries and tries to win Scarlett over, hoping that one day she’ll return his love. He waits through two husbands, a war, the birth and death of a child, and a horrible accident believing that Scarlett didn’t care for him (some of that may have been guilt because he caused a miscarriage from an initially undesired pregnancy caused by him raping his wife. Why do I love this story again? But I digress). And then Scarlett realizes how she feels about him and it’s too late. Rhett has moved on, nothing but cold indifference towards her. They never meet up, never feeling the same towards each other at any given point.

While, I love Rhett in the novel, I didn’t fall in LOVE with him until the movie version. To see the relationship with Bonnie play out was devastating. And the way that Clark Gable said my two favorite lines “No, I don’t think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how,” and of course, “Frankly my dear. I don’t give a damn,” makes me swoon. But it’s more than just a crush on Mr. Gable, it’s a fascination by the way that Rhett gives his heart completely to Scarlett almost the minute they meet and holds out until (what he believes is) the bitter end. It’s a tragic romance.

Scarlett: Sir, you are no gentleman.
Rhett: And you, Miss, are no lady.

4. Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy

(Really, just wanted an excuse to post the video. I think this is the reason 99% of women are in love with Darcy. Watch. I’ll wait for you. Also, how is this 15 years old?)

Darcy is NOT the perfect man. Let’s get that straight. I’m not sure why so many people seem to believe that he’s Prince Charming. He is arrogant, aloof and rude. He surpresses his emotions. And have you ever read the first proposal scene in Pride and Prejudice? He explains how he’s tried to ignore his feelings and then how low he is stooping by marrying Lizzie and insults her family. THAT’S how he choses to profess his love.

But…he is tall, dark and handsome. And he does redeem himself in the second half of the book. And most importantly, you know he loves Lizzie with every fiber of his being: “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you”. (Even if he prefaced it by saying that he had struggled to suppress these feelings.) I think THAT is why women love him.

(That and the lake scene. You’re still watching the it aren’t you? That’s the reason I saved Darcy for last.)

“If you will thank me,” he replied, “let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you.”

Elizabeth was too much embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, her companion added, “You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.”

Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change, since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances. The happiness which this reply produced, was such as he had probably never felt before; and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do. Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his eye, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight, diffused over his face, became him; but, though she could not look, she could listen, and he told her of feelings, which, in proving of what importance she was to him, made his affection every moment more valuable.


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