On Friday I was chatting on twitter with Marg in Australia about one of my fictional men—Gareth in Named of the Dragon—for whom I've always had a "thing", and Marg agreed he was attractive. "Broody, damaged type," she said, and meant that in a good sense. Later on that night, in that serendipitous way that sometimes happens, I went to see the new film adaptation of Jane Eyre (starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender, above) whose hero, Mr Rochester, could be the dictionary definition of the "broody, damaged type". And reader, I adored him.
Loved the film so much I went back for a second time today, to see it over. And with Rochester AND Gareth sitting brooding in my mind, now, I've been thinking about why I find some damaged heroes so attractive.
Notice I say "some", not "all", because with my apologies to Brontë-lovers everywhere, I have to tell you Heathcliff's not my type. I mean, there's damaged, and there's Damaged, and some brooders have gone so far to the dark side that the only thing to do, in my opinion, when you meet them is to run.
No, damaged heroes only work for me if they are of a certain type, like Rochester, or Mary Stewart's Raoul in Nine Coaches Waiting, or the Captain in The Sound of Music, men who aren't psychotic but are cut off in their way from life, grown cynical and disillusioned. Men who have the strength of mind and character to function well, to hold their own, but who inside are heartbreakingly lonely.
It all goes back for me, I think, to my love of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale in childhood, with the kind and generous beast who needs the girl to save him. Only her love, freely given, can restore him to his true self.
In a way, that's true of all my favourite damaged heroes, only in the stories that I love the best the woman's not the rescuer so much as she's a catalyst, an independent equal who brings meaning back into the hero's life and gives him someone else besides himself to care about, and want to be a better man for.
Rochester, in the book, calls himself "Heart-weary and soul-withered", and says of being around someone like Jane that "such society revives, regenerates; you feel better days come back—higher wishes, purer feelings; you desire to recommence your life, and to spend what remains to you of days in a way more worthy..."
And I find it rather interesting that in each story—Beauty and the Beast, Jane Eyre, The Sound of Music, and Nine Coaches Waiting—the heroine not only leaves, but runs away...returning later of her own free will to give the hero what he needs to become truly whole again: her love.
Of course, in my own damaged hero book, the heroine stayed put after she'd left until the hero came to her, but that's just me. And if I ever meet a real-life Heathcliff I'll be getting that restraining order...
What are your thoughts on the damaged hero?
(Don't forget to come back Thursday, to read Julie's next post)