(Caption: Gone with the Wind’s Rhett Butler immortalised in film by actor Clark Gable).
For those of us who spend much of their life in the imaginary land of books, it is only natural that our crushes should also be imaginary (nerdy but true). After an extensive poll of a representative cross section of women (chatting to a few friends) I compiled a definitive list of the hottest men in fiction. If they don’t make you swoon then I don’t know who will.
1. Edward Cullen
Let me stress for the record that this inclusion was NOT MY IDEA. However because of popular demand Twilight’s blood sucking vampire from Stephanie Meyer’s hit series has been reluctantly added. The adolescent fantasy of a man who is genetically addicted to your blood and therefore in love and obsessed with you forever to the extent that he stalks you and saves you from every calamity (minus the proviso that he wants to eat you and is about 1000 years old) is for some the epitome of love. Go figure.
I’ve already talked about how Atticus from Harper Lee’s seminal book To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favourite literary characters. In fact several articles have been written about the impact of the character of Atticus on the civil rights movement in general. A kind of Malcolm X and Obama rolled into one. Atticus is sexy because he is a world-changer and girls always dig that.
I actually dislike Heathcliff intensely, but this hero of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights seems to be recurring theme in conversation. Brutal and thuggish, Heathcliff is abusive to everyone except his headstrong lover Catherine. When it doesn’t work out he goes loco, howling at the moon and sleeping on her grave, becoming even more tormented and cruel. I think the appeal of Heathcliff to women may lie in the desire to “rescue” the damaged but fabulous lover whose crazy behaviour can be all put down to his bad childhood.
Darcy is universally admired hero of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice. His status with female fans puzzles many. Darcy is arrogant, condescending and presumptuous. However you know underneath all the barriers he puts up, he is a man who is vulnerable. Darcy’s demeanour appeals to us because we all know how fatal misunderstandings and bad first impressions can be in relationships. It is a relief to the audience, that despite all the obstacles built up by those filled with as much pride and prejudice as Elizabeth and Darcy, two hot headed individuals can actually cut through the barriers to finally make it work.
5. Rhett Butler
The suave and grinning hero from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, Butler’s mocking teasing of Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara and his yearning for her despite her brattish behaviour drive the plot. Confident and charming, Butler is the Southern cowboy who rides into town ready with disparaging commentary on social conventions and is impressed with Scarlett’s tempestuous and unladylike behaviour as she struggles to fit into the social ideal of femininity. The ability of Butler to always see through Scarlett’s motivations and scheming and admire her because of it makes him our favourite rogue.
Karim is the hero of Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie’s Kartography. The novel tells the story of childhood friends Raheen and Karim whose friendship which blossoms into a romance takes place against the backdrop of the politics and turmoil of Pakistan in the 1990’s. Generous and lyrical, Karim would do anything for his best friend until family circumstances and Raheen’s apathy to the situation of their country threaten to tear them apart. Caring and socially conscious with liquid brown eyes, Karim is definitely one my big novelistic crushes. Embarrassed to admit I even asked the author one time if Karim actually existed. Shamsie laughed and told me he wasn’t based on any person in particular but that “one should be optimistic.”
Benedick from the Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing is the joker misogynist who declares he will “live a bachelor.” We love Benedick because we know under the bravado is a man who is protecting himself against getting his heart broken. The witty banter and tension between Benedick and Beatrice is palpable, “My dear Lady disdain are you yet living?” he jibes, “A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours” she rejoins. Equally hilarious is the pair’s sudden transformation when their friends play a trick on them convincing each the other is love with them, revealing their true feelings for each other.
The dark playboy of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, he embroils Anna in an adulterous affair that eventually leads to her tragic end. The romance is hot but as the excitement tapers and Anna faces social ostracisation and the fear she is losing his interest, she throws herself in front of a train. I put his appeal to the high romance of tragedy and prospect of annihilation in love.
Who are your biggest book crushes?