Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bad boys and aristocratic men

Writing about love stories, Rachel examines the attraction of Heathcliff:

[T]here's a certain type of girl who likes bad boys and nobody is badder than Heathcliff.

True enough. Heathcliff is elemental, earthy. He symbolizes raw masculinity. He is the kind of guy you see on a construction project without his shirt. He is sweaty and might have dirt under his fingernails. Think of the young Brando.

The polar opposite of Heathcliff is Mr Darcy: tall, dark and handsome, and aristocratic down to his fingernails, which assuredly don't have dirt under them. I picture him as looking broody and soulful. He struggles to hide his devotion to the heroine, but behaves nobly given a chance. I always think of him as looking like James Mason, the young Mason, actually, although Colin Firth will do in a pinch.

Both of these archetypal young men were the creation of spinsters, women who as far as we know had no actual romantic experience. That's why they are such pure types.

In reality, Heathcliff would have assuaged his love for Cathy by knocking a few beers back with the boys, while Darcy would find himself distracted from thoughts of Elizabeth by the necessity of meeting with his business manager to go over his portfolio.

However, it is nice to dream of such devotion.

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