Once upon a time, heroes had to be perfect — beautiful men riding in on beautiful white horses to save the day.
Women readers all but demanded it.
And then in 1847 along came Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.
Suddenly, readers learned the beauty of a flawed man, a man who needed a good woman to save him or to appreciate the man he could be.
Jane’s Mr. Rochester dared to go against what was then the Victorian ideal, according to Suzanne Hesse, an English professor at Chemeketa Community College, at a time when the ideal Victorian man was expected to possess certain characteristics: honor, loyalty, intelligence, moral uprightness, and, ideally, a good income.
For most authors of Bronte’s time, those were the only men their heroines could marry—if they wanted to secure a happy life.
Yet Hesse says the idea of the gentleman was changing, even then. A suitable beau no longer had to have a title or property necessarily, but could hold a position that followed a gentlemanly code: clergy, doctor, professor.
And Bronte dared suggest that a man with whom one could easily share one’s thoughts and ideas might actually be more valuable than a handsome hero. And that a true love story just might be one in which the man and woman interact as equals, and the ultimate “hero” is the “heroine.”
Sounds like a modern-day lover story to me.
Have you ever been the hero of your own love story?