Saturday, January 21, 2006

How to make a difficult hero sympathetic

I have finished Devil'sCub and have gone on to Regency Buck which features another rather wondrful hero -- Julian St John Audley.

But I wanted to say something more about the Devil's Cub -- Marquis ofVidal, Dominic Alastair.
On the face oof it, a murderer, gambler and thoroughly bad sort with women would seem to be a moral reprehensible hero, repugnant, and yet in Georgette Heyer's capable hands, the reader falls in love with him in an instant. Why? The secret is in the execution.

The reader first meets Vidal when his coach is waylaided by highway men. Rather than surrender his valuables, he warns and then shoots one through the pocket of his great coat. With sangfroid, he continues on to the drum and encounters his aunt. Yes, he has killed a man, but in self defence. This gives the reader some inklings as to his heroic nature.

Later when he is trying to seduce Sophia's Mary's foolish but beautiful sister, he whispers that he never cheats at cards or a t love and that he has dishonourable intentions to her. He is most emphatically NOT playing her false. She may choose to disbelieve him, but he has has told the truth. Vidal does not lie.Georgette Heyer also goes out of her way to show that Vidal and Sophia are NOT in love. Mary in the early part of the book is much more attracted to Vidal than Sophia is. Sophia is seeking to use him as a means to an end.

Later when he is accused of cheating, and is also drunk, because of the hints Georgette Heyer has used, his actions seem acceptable. he is acting by his code. He did not seek the duel. He has already made a wager about how fast he can drive, and therefore feels honour bound to complete that.

Equally when he discovers he has ruined Mary's reputation and that she is a virtuous, he offers to marry her. She had no idea he meant dishonourable things, so he feels honour bound to marry her. Her refusal to go along with his plans despite her love and attraction for him sets up the second half of the story.

Yes, Vidal is a rake. But Georgette Heyer presents him in such a way that he is always shown as being self-posessed, that he keeps to his code of strict morals, he is mature and not given to introspection. he does not worry why he did things.

Julian is another sort of hero who would be easy to dislike, if not presented properly, but I will save him for another time.

It should be noted that neither Mary Challoner nor Judith taverner areweak willed women, given to vapours. A strong man needs a strong woman.

The key imho is the careful ground work Georgette Heyr lays. It is all in the execution.

No comments: