Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Classics Club - Best Literary Hero and Heroine

Every month the folks over at The Classics Club ask their members to answer a question about reading and books. This is my first time to chime in. The question this month is:

Who is hands-down the best literary hero, in your opinion? Likewise, who is the best heroine?

I initially thought this would be easy; that is until I thought about all of the books I've read and realized I don't typically read books featuring what I thought of as heroes. I wondered "what exactly does "hero" mean?" According to, a hero (excluding a sandwich or a mythological being) is:

1. a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.
2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal. 
3. the principal male character in a story, play, film, etc 

What? "Hero" could just be taken to mean the principal male character? I know that we often refer to a character in a book as the "hero of the story," but the simple fact of being the principal character hardly seems to qualify as being heroic.  On the other hand, taking away the "super hero" idea of a hero, you'll certainly find many more heroes in literature.

Gregory Peck and Brock Peters
Working from that perspective, but bearing in mind that I can't even begin to remember all of the heroes I've read about, I'd say Atticus Finch, of To Kill A Mockingbird (my review of the book) is the best literary hero.  A widower doing his best to raise his two young children, Atticus is a man with the courage to stand up for what he believes is right in a town where doing so puts his life at risk.

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.- Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird

Julie Ghoulson as Mary Call Luther
As for the best heroine, I'm going back a long way, to a little known book, 1969's Where The Lilies Bloom. In this book by Bill and Vera Cleaver, fourteen-year-old Mary Call Luther is charged by her dying father to keep her family together after his death. Although she is not the oldest, Mary Call she must become the parent to her three siblings, helping them to survive winter in the Appalachian mountains without help from anyone. Using courage, intelligence, and a strong sense of loyalty to her family, Mary Call uses everything in her power to keep her promise.

Who are your literary heroes and heroines?

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