my favorite heroes of 19th century literature.

Having recently read both The Count of Monte Cristo and A Tale of Two Cities, I felt inspired to chat about the heroes of both books—and several others, as it turned out. So without further ado, here’s my list of favorite heroes from books written between 1800 and 1899!


Dan Kean / Little Men & Jo’s Boys (1871 & 1886)

Dan is my favorite fictional character of all time. I’ve discussed him at length in this blog post, but suffice to say that his protectiveness toward those weaker than himself has always endeared him to me. Dan may not seem the most outwardly heroic character at first glance, but he saves many lives and follows his own complicated (though upright) moral compass and…I just love him a lot.

Edmond Dantès / The Count of Monte Cristo (1844)

The Count of Monte Cristo was a wild roller coaster ride of a book. I started out loving and pitying Edmond. When he transformed into the vengeful Count, I drew back from him—he became a borderline villain and, while I still was enjoying the story, I couldn’t like the character anymore. But then…Edmond Dantès came back to himself and I still can’t get over how amazing the transformation was. I’m forever a fan of the book because of the stunning Edmond→Count→Edmond journey.

Sydney Carton / A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

On my latest re-read of A Tale of Two Cities, I noticed more of the book’s flaws. Some of the characters are quite thinly drawn, a fact not helped by all the time jumps. (So. Many. Time jumps.) Some chapters are downright boring. (I skipped them. No regrets.) I even saw more flaws in Sydney himself this time around—I used to give him a pass in the ‘The Fellow of No Delicacy’ chapter, when he says that there’s no chance for him to better himself. But that isn’t really true. He could still have taken the high road and worked hard and made something of himself, despite his broken heart.

But despite all of that, I forgave all the flaws of both the book and Sydney by the time I reached the last few chapters. Because Sydney does change. He does redeem himself. (And I truly believe God redeemed him, which is the most important character change of all.) Sydney’s actions and words toward the seamstress are enough to make me love him forever. And I do—I really do.

Colonel Brandon / Sense & Sensibility (1811)

I admit that my love for Colonel Brandon is at least half due to Alan Rickman’s excellent portrayal of him in the 1995 movie. But the original Colonel Brandon is still a great character in his own right: kind and thoughtful and honorable. (Even if he should have told Elinor and Marianne what he knew about Willoughby.)

If you’re also a fan of Colonel Brandon, I highly recommend Colonel Brandon’s Diary by Amanda Grange. She does a wonderful job of bringing even more depth to the character. ❤

Sherlock Holmes / A Scandal in Bohemia (1891) and on

It’s Sherlock Holmes! What more do I have to say?

Jean Valjean / Les Misérables (1862)

Valjean is undoubtedly selfless. To some people, he may seem too perfect. But when you read the book, you see Valjean’s inner struggles against temptation and wrongdoing. (This is also brought out in the musical, though not as strongly.) I find Valjean both relatable and inspiring and I love how Hugh Jackman portrayed him in the 2012 movie. (Although my favorite Valjean is probably still Colm Wilkinson.)

Honorable mention: Edward Rochester / Jane Eyre (1847)

To be honest, I don’t really love Mr. Rochester. I’ll defend him forever. I’ll even swoon a little over Timothy Dalton’s portrayal of the character. I just don’t have a deep-seated love (or even…liking, half the time) for Mr. Rochester. But he’s an icon of 19th century literature and I do feel a connection to him, despite everything, so honorable mention it is!


Did you spot any favorite characters on this list? Who would you have included? Should I do a ‘favorite heroes of 20th century literature’ post? Let me know in the comments!

Eva-Joy

10 thoughts on “my favorite heroes of 19th century literature.

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  1. I love this post idea! I’ve been planning to do something similar (ranking period drama men) for a while now. This gives me some extra motivation. 🙂

    Love Brandon, Valjean, Rochester, etc. I’ve only read Little Men (I think?), but I liked what I read of Dan! And I always think of you whenever he comes up, now.

    Okay, YES on A Tale of Two Cities — like, the ending did make me cry more than any other book has so far, BUT . . . I actually don’t think it’s that great of a book? Like you said, it has some issues. Some brilliance, too, but . . . some issues, hehe.

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    1. Do it!! I look forward to that post.

      I’m very pleased to be known as The Friend Who Likes Dan. XD

      Brilliance + issues is a pretty good way to sum up ATOTC, honestly.

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  2. Ah, I do love me a good 19th-century hero. *happy sighs*

    Except Edward Rochester, of whom we will not speak. 😛

    You’ve got a good point about Colonel Brandon. It’s weird that the other characters never seem to think he SHOULD have told them what he knew about Willoughby? Like, with Darcy in a similar situation in P&P, there’s a definite sense in the narrative that he SHOULD have told what he knew about Wickham to prevent further harm. But no one really seems to think that in S&S. It’s odd.

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    1. Heehee…I knew you wouldn’t be impressed that he was on the list. 😉

      It is *really* weird when you stop and think about it. Willoughby raped a fourteen or fifteen-year-old girl and Colonel Brandon says nothing when he thinks Willoughby is about to marry the woman he loves? Yeesh. XD But I view that as more of a narrative choice, and not a character failing of Colonel Brandon’s, if that makes sense.

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      1. Yeah, I think Sense & Sensibility suffers from a few plotting issues in that regard, stuff that doesn’t totally make sense when you think about it too hard. Probably because it was one of her earliest novels?

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      2. Even though I love S&S, it’s always felt the most uneven and choppy of all Jane Austen’s books–definitely an early novel thing, imo.

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  3. This was great! I love mulling over favorite book characters. Mr. Rochester is definitely on my list. I love Mr. Travilla from the Elsie Dinsmore books. And I adore Sherlock Holmes! He can be very droll. I just finished a G.A. Henry novel (he was an 1800s adventurer/journalist who wrote tons of great historical fiction) called The Curse of Carne’s Hold. I ended up really liking, or maybe pitying, the murderer, who wasn’t revealed until the very end. It was a thrilling read!

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    1. Mr. Travilla was a favorite of my childhood!

      My younger brother really enjoys G.A. Henty’s novels. I should look up The Curse of Carne’s Hold…it sounds like something I’d probably enjoy. 🙂

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      1. Oh yes! They’re great books. Also, are you familiar with the Lamplighter Collection? They are books by various Christian authors mainly from the 1800s; Lamplighter Ministries republishes them with beautiful hardcover binding. There are so many good books of varying themes and plots and lengths. We love them!

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      2. I think I’ve read a couple Lamplighter books–it’s so cool how they’re re-issuing Christian fiction from long ago!

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