Last weekend I went to see Far from the Madding Crowd, a gorgeous period drama based on the Thomas Hardy novel by the same name. In 1870, Bathsheba Everdene is a headstrong English beauty, who is courted by three very different men. If you haven’t seen it or heard of it, here’s a quick trailer to give you a feel for the story.
This love story got me thinking about what makes a hero loveable. What is that makes him stand out and win the heroine’s heart? Far from the Madding Crowd offers three male leads, who are very, very different.
Gabriel Oak (played by Matthias Schoenaerts) is a shepherd, who has built a life from nothing. He’s a shepherd with a farm that’s almost paid for and a pretty neighbor named Miss Everdene. But when he loses everything, he sets out to find a new life and ends up working for the lovely Miss Everdene, who has just inherited a farm of her own. While he loves her, he stays quiet, showing her with every act of service. He’s a man of action and compassion, a man of encouragement and quiet humor.
Sergeant Francis Troy (played by Tom Sturridge) is a handsome, reckless solider. His distinguished red coat looks dashing, but after he’s jilted at the altar, he turns his affections to Miss Everdene in order to forget the woman who broke his heart. He tries to give love in an effort to heal his own heart, but there isn’t much love left to give when he’s given his whole heart to the women who didn’t know up at their wedding. His love endures, and he’ll never forget her.
William Boldwood (played by Michael Sheen) owns the farm next door to Miss Everdene. He is a quiet, middle-aged man of dignity. Many consider him cold, but when his emotions become involved, he is consumed by them. When Miss Everdene sends a Valentine as a mean joke, Farmer Boldwood lets down his guard and sets his sights on his neighbor. Like a schoolboy with a crush, he offers her everything his money can buy, security, protection, and an easier life.
I won’t give away the ending and tell you which (if any) of these men Miss Everdene chooses. But I think these varying personality types beg the question. What makes a hero, a hero? Which of these guys do you think sounds more like a leading man? Who is your favorite novel hero? What makes him such a loveable character?