posted on October 25, 2016 by Jeanne Devlin

The Heroine as Hero

Let's Talk Books

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-eyreJane’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?

—Jeanne Devlin

Jeanne Devlin

Jeanne Devlin

Jeanne Devlin is editor of The RoadRunner Press, an award-winning traditional publishing house based in the American West. An editor of newspapers, magazines, and books for more than thirty years, she has also worked on national marketing and publicity campaigns with such publishers as Simon and Schuster and St. Martin's and for a number of New York Times bestselling authors, including Robyn Carr, Sabrina Jeffries, Debbie Macomber, Linda Lael Miller, and Wendy Corsi Staub. A graduate of the Stanford University Publishing Course, Jeanne is a member of the Children's Book Council, the National Book Critics Circle, and the Oklahoma Center for the Book of the Library of Congress. She also consults with boutique publishers.

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