Literature is rife with romantic prospects, as well as those people your mother would tell you to avoid at all costs. When you’re sitting at home, staring at your bookshelf this Valentine’s Day, consider these fictional characters who would arguably make a better (or infinitely worse) date than that one you’re either preparing (or wishing) for. There’s someone here for everyone.
Let’s start with the ones in the plus column.
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy (Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice): Everyone’s (or at least most people’s) favorite eligible Austen man, Mr. Darcy is the one you want if you’re into hate-at-first-sight that eventually blossoms into love.
Count Dracula (Bram Stoker’s Dracula): A less obvious choice, but if you want an attentive lover, look no further than the Count. He will love you forever. No, really. Forever. And, as an added bonus, you’ll get lots of alone time during the day. Just be sure you’re ready for a rollicking nightlife.
Atticus Finch (Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird): Yes, he comes with two children in tow, but could you ask for better stepchildren? And no one stands up for justice and takes a stand against inequality like Mr. Finch. He would also be very handy to have around if you happen to be spending your Valentine’s Day cramming for the LSATs.
Odysseus (Homer’s The Odyssey): This is a man who honors commitment. Yes, you might have to wait a while (okay, years) for him to get home but he’s got some monster problems to deal with, so be patient.
Henry Standing Bear (Craig Johnson’s Longmire series, including the upcoming Any Other Name): Need someone to tell you when you’re dead wrong? Henry is it. Need someone to unfailingly have your back through thick and thin? Call Henry. Sheriff Walt Longmire comes with enough baggage to incur heavy airline fees. Henry is the man you want in your corner.
Mrs. Hudson (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes oeuvre): Not only does she make a killer cup of tea but she won’t complain if your job entails bringing actual killers into your flat. And about that flat: bullet holes in the wall are acceptable, as are your questionable experiments that might make a weaker person (of any sex) faint. Bonus: she puts up with that band of street urchins you use as your errand and fact-finding boys.
Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre): Did you fall off your horse? Discover yourself in a bedroom engulfed in flames? Or maybe find yourself blind? Jane is your woman. Maybe, if you’re lucky, she’ll even declare, “Reader, I married him.”
Nancy Drew (Carolyn Keene’s long-running series of the same name): Find yourself besieged with old clocks that have secrets? Or are you flummoxed by hidden staircases? Nancy will solve all your problems, and then some. Just hope that you’re a match for Ned Nickerson, and know that you’ll always be second best to her BFFs George and Bess.
Katniss Everdeen (Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy): She’ll kill your food and slay your heart (and your enemies, too—that woman is lethal with a bow). And she won’t take your shit and will have no problem telling you so. This is the kind of woman you want by your side in battle, or when you’re trying to reason with a store about using an expired coupon.
And now, the ones to avoid like the plague.
Bella Swan/Edward Cullen/Jacob Black (Stephenie Meyers’s Twilight Saga): Unless you’re looking for a fairly helpless (and often lacking in very common sense) girlfriend, or a boyfriend who’s more interested in possessing you than actually getting to know you and loving you, avoid The Twilight Trio. At least one of them might sparkle, but diamonds are a girl’s best friend, right? Not possessive, obsessive vampires.
Emma Bovary (Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary): She already hates you. This is not a good place to start. She also doesn’t need you in order to be happy. And when she says she doesn’t need you, please, take that literally. Strike two. Do you really want to hang around for strike three?
George Wickham (Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice): He just wants to use you as part of his transparent grab for power and glory. Fear not, he’ll ditch you at a moment’s notice—despite professing his love—and move on to your sister. He’s not right for her, either, by the way, despite the annoyance factor of said sister.
Humbert Humbert (Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita): Yes, he has his eye on you. But it’s all the time, and you’re too young. Stay away. And, really, he is a not a good choice for a road trip buddy.
Heathcliff or Catherine (Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights): This pair might say they love you but really, it’s all about ruining your life. And theirs. Obsession can be good in small doses. But these two don’t do small doses.
Frank Wheeler (Richard Yates’s Revolutionary Road): He’s already unhappy and you’re not going to change that. In fact, it will definitely end badly for you. Things might look rosy in the beginning but it really is all down hill. Avoid falling for his beguiling take on The American Dream. Danger! Danger!
Juliet Capulet (William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet): Sure, she’s from the wrong side of the tracks (rebel points!) but your obsession with her will end badly. For you and for her. There’s a reason that Shakespeare dubbed the play a tragedy and not a comedy. And for the record, Romeo is an equally bad choice. Let these doomed lovers have each other. As a general note, anyone who’s colloquially referred to as a “doomed lover” should probably not be one of your hot prospects.
Who would you date from literature and whose calls and texts would you ignore? Let us know in the comments!