Tired of the anti-hero. I need a hero.
September 22, 2011 10:24 AM   Subscribe

Can you recommend some good books that have characters that I would actually aspire to be like?

I just finished reading The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen and A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. I really liked these books and the characters. The problem is that I have a habit of whenever I’m really into a book (or a movie, or a song) I like to try on traits of different characters. I actually don’t know how to explain what goes on in my mind other than I tend to see my world through their eyes.

The trouble is the books I like tend to have deeply flawed characters, who are self-centered adulterers. I don’t want to be a self-centered adulterer. Do you have any books that you like that have heroes who do the right thing, are faithful to their spouse, and not addicted to pills? Also, I tend to be more drawn to modern fiction than classics.
posted by chevyvan to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I didn't care for the novel, but the protagonist of Saturday is a genuinely good person.
posted by griphus at 10:28 AM on September 22, 2011

It may be too much of a classic, but I can think of no better character to emulate than Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.

If you liked The Corrections then you should definitely check out Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. I thought Freedom was better than The Corrections (which I loved). Everyone I've spoken to about Freedom has the same eerie feeling that the Berglund family is just like their own. My mom is so Patty Berglund!
posted by El_Marto at 10:39 AM on September 22, 2011

Eugene Henderson, from 'Henderson the Rain King' by Saul Bellow. He gives the straight poop.
posted by TheRedArmy at 11:14 AM on September 22, 2011

Yikes, I found all the characters in Freedom to be even more unlikeable that those in The Corrections. I don't know if it really fits your request. Jack Gladney and Babette in White Noise (Delillo) have a lovely relationship, though both are a bit neurotic. You want that, though, because a purely aspirational character without any flaws would be boring as all get-out. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is pretty good for this, as well -- Oscar is pretty delightful. If you decide to read it, the annotated Oscar Wao is an awesome resource.

This question is tricky to answer. I'm realizing that most of the books I read (and I read a lot) feature characters who are deeply and inherently flawed in some manner. I'll get back to you if I think of more.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 11:42 AM on September 22, 2011

The Bible
posted by oxala at 11:46 AM on September 22, 2011

Trinity by Leon Uris. I fell in love with Connor, the main character, way back when.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 11:53 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

OK, thought of another. While it is not fiction, Patti Smith's Just Kids illustrates one of the most loving and inspiring relationships imaginable.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 11:54 AM on September 22, 2011

Are you looking for a hero, or are you looking for an ordinary, flawed, but basically decent, person? There's a lot of books with the latter - any number of Kurt Vonnegut novels, or Philip Roth's American Pastoral, or Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story (which is more recent).

If it's a real hero you want (and I would not aspire to be like a Kurt Vonnegut character or the guy in Super Sad True Love Story, even though they're not despicable people), you may have a tough time finding one in serious modern fiction. But I could be wrong....curious as to what other people come up with.
posted by breakin' the law at 12:30 PM on September 22, 2011

One of my favorite characters in literature is Elsa Rauch from "And Ladies of the Club" by Helen Hooven Santmyer. Spirited, strong, forbearing, talented, and intelligent. Elsa's courtesy aunt Anne Alexander is way up there as well.
posted by jgirl at 12:58 PM on September 22, 2011

To Kill A Mockingbird
posted by Flood at 1:14 PM on September 22, 2011

The Sojourner by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
posted by bricoleur at 1:29 PM on September 22, 2011

I really liked the male protagonists in The Shipping News and Cold Mountain.
posted by bearwife at 2:12 PM on September 22, 2011

And, speaking of Ian McEwan, a good man is the "hero" of Atonement and The Child in Time, too.
posted by bearwife at 2:16 PM on September 22, 2011

Ok, though t is NONfiction, Zeitoun is a seriously heroic account of the narrator's (prominently ghostwritten by Dave Eggers) post-Katrina battles with adversity, ignorance and cruelty on behalf of the police/government, and faithfulness to his family and community. Of Eggers' fiction, I would point out You Shall Know Our Velocity, the story of two friends traveling the world and attempting to willfully distribute $32,000.
/End EggersFilter

Lorrie Moore's A Gate at the Stairs (NYT REVIEW) portrays an honest, earnest yet wanting-to-be-detached young college student as narrator. Uplifting and admirable in her honesty.

I may pop back in if I think of more.
posted by obscurator at 4:13 PM on September 22, 2011

The protagonists of Pat Barker's Regeneration, Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small quartet, Cat Rambo's "Magnificent Pigs", Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed, and Rita Mae Brown's Rubyfruit Jungle.
posted by brainwane at 4:22 PM on September 22, 2011

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