So I’ve been a member of The Classics Club for a while now and I’ve been a very bad member. I haven’t participated in any memes and I’m not sure I’m on track with my reading either. I’ve read two books from my list since I joined in September 2012: Victor Hugo: Les Misérables and Toni Morrison: Beloved. Both were extremely good.
Anyway, back to the case in point. This month’s meme:
“Who is hands-down the best literary hero, in your opinion? Likewise, who is the best heroine?”
When I first read the question, nothing really popped into my head. But after reading this post on the BookerTalk blog, I got inspired and suddenly knew who I wanted to showcase as a hero.
None other than Jean Valjean from Les Misérables. Jean Valjean starts out as a nice man trying to help out his family by providing for them. But when he has to steal bread for them, he is put in the gallows and ends up staying there for so long, that he forgets his family and is a changed man when he eventually gets out. He is a broken man, a man with no good in his soul anymore.
But then he meets a man. An old bishop who is a giver. When he has the chance to put Jean Valjean back in the gallows, he doesn’t. This changes something in Valjean and even though he performs one more crime, the bishop’s good deed has put him on a new path.
When we next meet him, he is a mayor doing everything in his power to do good. And even when he again becomes down on his luck, he continues on this path of doing good and helping – particularly in the case of the young daughter of Fantine.
Valjean is very much a hero. He does everything to do good and even though he’s viewed as the lowest of all, he continues striving to improve himself – and succeeds.
A heroine from classic literature can be found in the same book. Fantine. Fantine is a woman who goes from being the belle of the ball to being very much down on her luck. It does seem that I like my heroic characters to be the type who face adversity with dignity and strength, doesn’t it?
What makes Fantine a heroine in my book, is that she is willing to do everything to take care of her child. And not just do everything in the sense that she feeds or clothes her. No, Fantine knows that she is not able herself to take care of her daughter so she finds her what she thinks is the best possible foster home and does everything to pay for it – including selling her hair and teeth. Fantine is an amazing mother even though she doesn’t mother her child herself.
The book was wonderful and amazing. I haven’t watched the recent movie yet but Anne Hathaway’s performance of I Dreamed a Dream makes me cry every time.
You’re not a bad member at all. Sheesh. I haven’t done any of the memes, either, and I’m a moderator. Haha!
Lol. Okay then, I promise not to see myself as a bad member anymore then.
This is a much more considered response than I was able to provide. I haven’t read Les Miserables so have no basis for agreeing or disputing other than what you’ve described. Thanks for the shout out by the way……
Oh, you should read Les Misérables – it’s a great book! And your post inspired me to write my post, so thanks!
This is interesting. Les Miserables is my favorite book, but I didn’t even consider its characters to be my favorite hero and heroine. I guess I love the book more because of the lesson it teaches.
Here is my CC April meme post: http://surgabukuku.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/best-literary-hero-and-heroine-the-classics-clubs-april-meme/
Normally I don’t think of the characters I terms of hero and heroine but she challenged to name a hero and heroine, these fit the bill for me. I love Les Mis for everything it is.
Jean Valjean is the most obvious choice for hero to me, too. I thought about choosing Fantine…she is certainly very powerful. But I was concerned that I might have only chosen her because I was thinking of Jean Valjean for the hero. So I decided to spend the rest of the month coming up with a different heroine. 🙂
My April Meme
Yes, I see your point about Fantine. Still she is an amazing character and I stand by my choice 😉 I tried to comment on your blog but my comments keep disappearing. Jane Eyre is a great choice. I need to reread it too. I think it’s one of those books that gets better with each reread.