Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Literary Romance: great husbands are men of virtue

Last weekend there were a lot of posts about romance in blogland, most of them inspired by valentines day. As I mentioned in my previous post: some people love the day, some people dislike it, but many were inspired by the holiday to give their thoughts on romance. I would like to throw my own little stone in that pond.
I have recently seen many posts that encourage young women to adjust their expectation of a husband. I am in great agreement with that idea if it encourages young women to let go of movie star expectactions and disney princess dreams. Sometimes though, it seems we ask women to give up their hopes and dreams and to 'settle'. As long as he is a Christian... everything else should be ok if you pray a lot about it. I know that God can do amazing things, but our expectations as women will often determine what the goal is that men strive for.
I was struck by this post from the Joyfully home blog. Don't you just love that title?

I agree with a lot of what Jasmine says, but I was struck by these passages:

Many of us would be indignant if young men expected us to look like Anne Hathaway, to act like Anne Elliot, to have an accent like Kate Winslet, to be as tall as Cate Blanchet, and yet to be as spiritually mature as Sarah Edwards or as intelligent as Abigail Adams!

As charismatic as Mr. Knightly may be, I haven't seen him gallivanting around in the twenty-first century, nor should you expect to. As beautiful and multi-faceted as Elinor Dashwood may appear, I am not her, and neither are you. Who we are is children of a sovereign King Who has given us biblical standards for true femininity and masculinity, standards that supersede every romantic notion in our heads, and standards that will be a much stronger foundation for a God-honoring marriage.

Now as far as I know Jane Austin, and Louisa May Alcott who is mentioned further in the post, there is barely ANY emphasis on the looks of their male heroes. On the contrary. All good, marriageable men are recognized by their actions, their behaviour, their... virtues.

Let me give a little summary of some of the well known 'heroes of young womens' literature'.

Colonel Brandon is attentive, steadfast and takes on responsibilites for those weaker than him. He is willing to put his own happiness aside for Mariannes.
Mr. Knightleys great virtue lays in his honesty and moral guidance towards Emma, as well as his greater tolerance for the weaknesses of others.
Edward Ferrars goodness is seen in his lack of snobism, his desire for a simple life and his commitment to a given word, even when it goes against his own happiness.
Mr. Darcy becomes a 'hero' in his willingness to overcome his pride, to confront someone he loats in order to save the woman he loves more public embarrassement and an uncertain future, even after she has previously refused his proposal.
Laurie from Little Women and Good wives sets aside his own desires and grows up. He is man enough to realize that his dream of becoming a genius composer is a castle in the air and instead devotes himself to working in his grandfathers company. He sets aside a passionate youthful infatuation to find a more mature love.
Mr. Brooke is a simple, honest man, who works to provide a living for his family and offers his wife strength,spiritual guidance and growth.
Mr. Bhaer takes care of his nephews, putting more lucrative offers aside to devote himself to his responsabilities. He is generous even when he himself is not rich and is willing to give guidance to a young woman far away from home. He corrects callow youths who try to reason God away and is willing to 'work and wait' to be able to marry.

Does that sound like the current movie star standard? Very few words in the books are actually devoted to the looks of these men. It is NOT their appearance that makes them great husbands, both Austin and Alcott make the virtues of these men the reason why they are worthy of a good wife.

When Jasmine says that Mr. Knightley does not gallivant around in the twentyfirst century, I must correct her. He does. He just does not look like Mark Strong or Jeremy Northam. If I look at my own husband, I can find so many of the qualities of these Austin and Alcott heroes in him. A good provider, a genuinely kind man, someone who helps me grow in spirituality, someone who is attentive, who is steadfast and loving. I could add to the list for a long time. I am not much of a novel writer, but if I was, he would most certainly make a great Austin style hero.

Heroes are around us. They may not look like the moviestars that play heroes, but they have the same qualities still. The qualities that we find in the bible. Because the 'chivalrous impuls' that makes Mr. Darcy protect Elizabeths good name, even when she has rejected his proposel is but a mirror of what Joseph, husband of Mary does in offering to divorce her quietly instead of slandering her good name and possibly sentencing her to death when he finds out she is with child.
Larie's easy compliments of his talented wife near the end of the book is the Proverbs 31 husband praising his wife in the gates of the city.
Edward Ferrars commitment to do what is right is reflected in Boaz who first settles things with Ruths relative who might have greater rights, before taking her as his wife.

I am certainly not implying that our literary heroes are as great as the biblical ones. I am saying though that virtues have not changed. And that there are still men around that posess those virtues that we dream of as little girls. They might not look like Colin Firth (though I personally think my husband quite handsome), but the Mr. Knightleys' Darcy's and Brooke's and Laurie's of this age are well worth waiting for.

I waited for one until I was 28 before meeting him. Now, being married to him nearly three years and with a son, I can tell you that romance, the true and wonderful kind, is a part of my daily life. Do not give up on the heroes. They are there.


Wendy said...

I love this post! What a sweet tribute to your husband, and a great compendium of ideal men from literature. I am partial to Colonel Brandon myself. :)

PS. Little boys are the best! You will be blessed by your relationship with your sweet Joseph more every day as he grows.

Karen said...

Hear! Hear! Cheers to you for such a beautiful post. So our husbands may not look like the world's standard of movie star, mine actually looks like the Keebler elf, but I wouldn't trade him for the world.

I myself was rather partial to Alcott's Laurie :0)