Friday, March 5, 2010

Theory of Brooding

(Jay's Note: This is a response to my friend Kelli's blog which can be found on the right under Awesome Blogs: Escapades of a Spinster.)

I'm probably going to get some pretty hefty hate mail from this post.

My friend Kelli is actually one of the most well-read people I know. If not then she is definitely one of the most well-read people near my age. That is why I have sent her my horrible drafts of my novel for some enriching feedback that has, at times, been painfully honest but I enjoy her feedback because I know she knows what she's talking about. It also helps that she is pretty representative of my target audience.

One of Kelli's posts made me think of a theory that I have and I thought my blog would be a good place for me to share it. I have dubbed said theory The Theory of Brooding.

Brooding, according to Webster's Dictionary is being "preoccupied with depressing, morbid, or painful memories or thoughts."

My theory is that, as far as literature is concerned, a hero that is brooding and troubled is one that will attract many a female reader. This, in turn, makes it hard for "normal guys" with relatively no baggage somewhat boring which results in the normal guy having to compete with these fictional heroes. Just like female swimsuit models, comic book super-heroines, and most shows/movies you see in Hollywood give men a messed up ideal of women, books also do the same thing to women about men.

Exhibit A: Mr. Darcy

I have never read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I have seen two of the several movie adaptations. I'm not knocking the classic. I really am not. Fitzwilliam Darcy is the silent type, mysterious and actually treats Elizabeth Bennett pretty poorly at first. So. What's the attraction? Why do so many women go ga-ga over him?

Exhibit B: Edward Cullen

I am in no way comparing Stephenie Meyer to Jane Austen. Edward Cullen is a really flat character while Austen's characters at least have depth to them. Edward the Vampire is far too perfect to be interesting. Yet, as perfect as he is, he still manages to be tortured and brooding. What is with this? I tend to think that Edward is merely a poor imitation of classic heroes such as Mr. Darcy. We all know about the craze for the Twilight Saga and it's not like the teen girls the books are written for really should know any different, but I definitely think it gives an unrealistic view of what relationships should be like. Not to mention the unrealistic perspective of how normal guys act.

Exhibit C: Mr. Rochester

Mr. Rochester is the brooding hero in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Maybe it's just this time period. Women liked a dashing, dark, mysterious hero with a lifetime of secrets to unravel. Honestly, if a girl these days really ran into Mr. Rochester these days they would most likely run screaming.

During some brief research for this post I found what is called a Byronic hero. Named for poet Lord Byron (who is amazing, btw), a Byronic hero typically exhibits several of the following characteristics:
* a strong sense of arrogance
* high level of intelligence and perception
* cunning and able to adapt
* suffering from an unnamed crime
* a troubled past
* sophisticated and educated
* self-critical and introspective
* mysterious, magnetic and charismatic
* struggling with integrity
* power of seduction and sexual attraction
* social and sexual dominance
* emotional conflicts, bipolar tendencies, or moodiness
* a distaste for social institutions and norms
* being an exile, an outcast, or an outlaw
* "dark" attributes not normally associated with a hero, the "anti-hero" effect
* disrespect of rank and privilege
* has seen the world
* jaded, world-weary
* cynicism
* self-destructive behaviour
* a good heart in the end

Huh. Any of those sound familiar to the Exhibits I mentioned? Look at those characteristics carefully. Now, what girl in their right mind would list any of those things in their list of things they want in a future husband? And yet...such is the "ideal" portrayed in romantic literature. I just do not understand.


  1. I'm sorry to hear that my critiques have been painful! ;) Thanks for the praise too! I enjoyed this blog. I completely understand that some women are highly attracted to the bad boy. I've been there. I think the draw to Mr. Darcy is that he comes off as mysterious and judgemental, but as the novel goes on, you can see the bad boy become good. So, he has just a little bit of an edge to keep Elizabeth on her toes. However, not a fan of Edward. Twilight was an entertaining read but like you said, very flat characters. And confession here...never read Jane Eyre. I'll have to go back to Central Book Exchange!

  2. PS...Mr Darcy-the most attractive of the bunch. Edward could be cute if I was a 13 year old girl. As an ER nurse he looks like a meth addict that hasn't bathed in 3 weeks. Mr Rochester...SCARY looking!

  3. LOVE Mr. Darcy because, as Kelli mentions, he comes off as a bad boy, but really he's not at all. In fact, he's a very good man. I think I like him because I can relate him to men that I really know. ie: my bro-in-law Laird. Laird is very intimidating at first and comes across as very moody, but the more you get to know him, the better you love him for the absolute (dare I say Christ-like?) sincerity that he has to do the right thing.

    I want to puke whenever I think of Edward Cullen. Ditto to your comments of him--and Kelli's (I'd like to meet this Kelli. She seems to have good taste.).

    Mr. Rochester: you end up loving him for the same reasons as Mr. Darcy, but I think you're right. If most eligible young LDS women were to come across him now, they would indeed run the other way. However, he does have redeeming qualities (such as taking in a baby that is NOT his and caring for her in the best way he knows how) AND his past life haunts him for the same reasons that our mistakes haunt us.

    I have a few comments on the OVERALL SUBJECT: Who DOESN'T want a strong, handsome, GOOD man (or woman) to spend their life with?

    I married a regular Joe from a small town, but I find in him the same qualities that I find in both Darcy and Rochester (and Mr. Thornton from Gaskell's North and South--I sit it along side P&P, it's THAT good. He is also a brooder.)...or maybe I am finding more and more good qualities in these heros BECAUSE I'm married to one in real life. Does Dave brood? Sometimes, but mostly he's just silly.

    Why are girls attracted to Brooders? Probably the same reason guys are attracted to cute, bubbly, radiant girls. What's wrong with regular run-of-the-mill girls? :)

  4. What a fun read with good information! The other comments were great too, as I tend to feel mostly the same. So here is my opinion, as I have read Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre and some of Twilight. Sorry, but I HATE Twilight with a passion. I think Stephanie Meyers is a pathetic author. No offense to her fans out there, but I don't see the hype those got. Edward does not appeal to me in the slightest. Not the character nor the actor who played him. He was great as Cedric Digory in Harry Potter, however, I agree with Kellie, he looks like a drug addict all the time. Anyway, on to my opinion of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Rochester.
    Mr. Darcy-I don't really see him as a "bad boy", since in my opinion a "bad boy" is more the rebel type. But he is, in fact, a more private person. He holds much emotion far beneath the surface, in hopes of hiding the past that perhaps he wasn't always proud of. He knows life and although he's more customed to the way of life he has lived, he still understands a bit of what others go through, and in so doing, makes him a deep and mysterious and yet intriguing and very likeable character. He sees the flaws of those other worlds and doesn't always understand or agree with them and yet, he has such a strong heart as to serve others in times of need. He's, as Anne stated, very sincere and honest in all he does and that right there makes him quite a hero in my book. I love Mr. Darcy, however, he is just a character and I would hope that most women would know that their own Mr. Darcy's might not be quite like him, but are, to them, a hero. I felt that way with my husband. He's not like Mr. Darcy at all (although he is very sincere) and yet, to me, he is my hero, as Mr. Darcy was to Elizabeth in her times of heartache. Does that make sense?
    As far as Mr. Rochester, he was never my favorite. He was always so rude and quick with Jane for so long. However, he was mysterious because of his past and his crazy wife and such and so of course you can't help but wonder what's really going on with him, in doing so, drawing you to his character. Then, thanks to Jane and her goodness and kindness, he starts to soften and we see that people can have a change of heart and indeed, turn for the better. His love for Jane was true and deep and I love that about him. His story was tragic and I like him, but I wouldn't call him a hero. Rather, Jane was the heroine who changed him and made him better. And I, again, must agree with Anne. They are characters that we can relate to and find likeable qualities in ourselves and significant others that perhaps we can therefore appreciate more in them and strive to perfect in ourselves. Mr. Thornton is an AWESOME character and the North and the South is excellent, as Anne said. They might be brooding, but they are deep and passionate about life, and that is a turn of BIG TIME! I hope this all makes sense. It taken me forever to write thanks to the many interruptions from my children, so my thoughts might seem random and broken. Sorry about that. Anyway, thanks for letting me ramble.

  5. hey , just found your blog in a google searches. and really enjoyed reading this post .
    in my past, the brooding type have been the guy i am the most strongly attracted to. however it has never brough me any happiness, only distress. am in the process of trying to ween myself of them. but finding it difficult,

    great blog, and happy blogging