We all do crazy things for love.
And we write about our characters doing even crazier things for love.
Where should we draw the line? Where does a character cross from deliciously flawed to just plain dysfunctional? And when we indulge in over-the-top romance, are we improving ourselves by strengthening our ability to empathize or sabotaging ourselves by creating unrealistic expectations and desensitizing ourselves to inappropriate behavior?
These case studies might help answer those questions!
7) Jay Gatsby
Gatsby is number eight on this list because, at the end of the day, I think I would classify him as pitiful rather than creepy.
Sure, he falls into the obsessive camp. He turns his life into a circus to try to lure Daisy into his arms. But he never tries to control her. Even his boldest move–demanding that Daisy renounces her husband–ends in him retreating with his tail between his legs.
6) Humbert Humbert
Humbert Humbert is number seven on this list not because he isn’t creepy (he is, supremely), but because many readers overlook his romanticism. Humbert is number seven because I can come up with more sincere “pros” for him than I can for any of the other characters on this list:
5) The Chairman
In Memoirs of a Geisha, Sayuri is only to happy to fall into the Chairman’s arms at last, but should we be happy for her, given that:
I realize that I might be projecting my social norms onto a time and place where they don’t belong…but I can’t help wishing that when the Chairman first encountered Sayuri as a little girl crying in the street, he would have adopted her as a daughter instead of abetting her transformation into a geisha (in hopes that he would one day be able to “sponsor” her).
4) Mr. Rochester
At first, he is cruel to Jane. Then, he is hot-and-cold with her. Finally, he tries to marry her, only to be thwarted by the revelation that he is keeping his insane first wife locked up in the attic.
Some readers believe that Rochester is redeemed when he tries to save crazy-first-wife from a fire at the end of the novel–and so redeemed, he is finally worthy of wedding Jane.
But there are alternative theories. I’ll let John Green explain them to you:
3) Edward Cullens
I considered leaving Edward off of this list because I know he’s been called out plenty of times before. But then I remembered that he:
Not to mention that Twilight spawned a little fan-fiction number called Fifty Shades of Grey, wherein a psychotically controlling boyfriend buys the company where his girlfriend is working because he thinks her boss is flirting with her.
Oft-cited as the most romantic book of all time, Wuthering Heights actually showcases a dysfunctional relationship (albeit, a passionately dysfunctional one).
Plus, Heathcliff hangs a dog at one point in the book. He. Hangs. A. Dog.
Sure, he was the mightiest god on Mt. Olympus, but when Zeus descended from his throne, all the nymphs fled for the hills.
Honestly, this guy makes Donald Trump look acceptable!
Are you a fan of any of these characters? What redeems them in your eyes? Who would you add to the list?
And of course, happy Valentine’s Day!