My writers group held a workshop last week on the anti-hero. Most people in the room could rhyme off whole lists of such characters and always with a little sigh, a yearning for the “bad boy.” The anti-hero is a very popular trope in modern day romance, not only in books but also in movies and television. 

To create the anti-hero archetype, we needed to look at heroic qualities and then turn them around. 

 


Hero                                                              Anti-Hero

     Selfless                                                                      Selfish

    Brave                                                                          Cowardly

   Honest                                                                        Dishonest

    Loyal                                                                            Untrustworthy  

   Moral                                                                          Follows his own code

   Kind                                                                               Self-centred

   Acts for the good of all                                     Acts only for himself


Of course,  these seven attributes are only a partial list of traits of both characters, but I’d choose the  “hero” over the “anti-hero” any day of the week.  I admit to finding the scoundrel style anti-hero amusing, think Professor Hill in The Music Man, or Bret Maverick    but do I  really want that man in my life? Could I trust him in the long run? When would his charm become irritating? When would he run off and leave me destitute?         

In our cynical world it is fashionable to scoff at the guy in the white hat, but I like my old-fashioned heroes. Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke, risked his life over and over again to keep the town safe. He was loyal. He was honest. He watched out for the misfits. You could trust your life to a man like that. 

Now I will outrage Jane Austen fans by suggesting that Mr. Darcy is not a hero.  He is arrogant, rude, self-centred. He has no compunction about destroying Jane and Mr. Bingley’s happiness, because of his pride. Where is the kindness in that? Admittedly, by the end of the book he has acted to protect Elizabeth and her silly sister but only because he can’t help himself from loving Elizabeth, not from any innate kindness. It sounds very romantic that Mr. Darcy will sacrifice himself for love but really . . . what kind of marriage lies ahead? Elizabeth will have all that lovely money but will she spend the rest of her life apologizing for her family? For not being the woman he would choose if love hadn’t played havoc with his plans? Will he always look down his nose at her? Will she always be “less than?”

I predict Jane and Mr. Bingley will have the happier life together.

The heroes in my books are definitely “white hat” types. Sean O’Connor in The Man for Her, has set aside his own dreams for years in order to look after his family.  He is brave –the rustler scene; loyal — the fist-fight over Lottie’s honour; kind — the way he treats Michael.

In Her One and Only, Grey North has some dark secrets in his past, but he puts aside his own desires to please his mother. He goes out of his way to protect Emma when secrets from her past threaten her life. He behaves honourably when he realizes he has compromised her.  He is a community leader in the growing town of Prospect, and he wins our hearts with a lavish gesture to show his love for Emma.

In Her One True Love, I’ve given heroic qualities to two men. Jack Kendal is a mounted policeman, committed to serve and protect, even at great personal cost. Daniel Stanton is a clergyman, his life dedicated to helping and serving others. Louisa has a hard time choosing between these two men because both are selfless, brave and kind. They fit the model of a hero.

In our politically correct world the term “hero” is being replaced with protagonist or main character. Those terms work well for the anti-hero, but they are too wishy-washy to describe the real hero of my romances. I’m old-fashioned enough to want the “good buy” even if he finishes last, over the “bad boy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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