I’ve been thinking about cads and rogues. Why do we despise the one and embrace the other? Because we hate the cad and we love the rogue. We do. Ofttimes, in literature, rogues are the most interesting characters, travelling the greatest arc in the story, from ‘bad guy’ to ‘hero’. And back. Replete with charm, they cut a dashing figure. But… They’re gritty, rough, self-serving, unpredictable, and unprincipled. And after a time, we don’t want our true hero (or heroine) to be anywhere near them.
Unsurprisingly, writers give them the best lines:
- ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.’ – Rhett Butler, Gone with the Wind
- ‘Well, yes mate. See, I’m dishonest. And a dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest. Honestly. It’s the honest ones you need to watch out for, because you never know when they’re going to do something incredibly… stupid.’ – Capt Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean
- ‘A thorough, determined dislike of me– a dislike which I cannot but attribute in some measure to jealousy.’ – George Wickham, Pride & Prejudice
- ‘I make the demands; you follow them.’ – Captain Hook, Once Upon a Time
- ‘You have a very lovely daughter, Mrs Selfridge. Where have you been hiding her?’ – Roddy Temple, Mr Selfridge
- ‘I know.’ – Han Solo, the Empire Strikes Back
NB: I hesitate to include my favorite composer – Franz Liszt – as we’ve been talking about literary rogues and he was far from fictional. However, despite his talent, much has been written about his early roguish behavior. A favorite of the courts, he electrified audiences with his performances, drawing them in with charm and vivacity both at the piano and off-stage. He shook the established conventions in the ‘polite salons and concert halls of Europe.’ Self-servingly, he placed the piano in profile, affording the audience the better view of both his face and his skill. He played from memory, which was considered heretofore in exceptionally bad taste. Women swooned over him and men wanted to be in his circle of intimates. Everyone sought him out, and no one was left unaffected. For these reasons, he’s been called ‘the first rock star’. And why I’ve included him here. He deserves his place in the gallery above. And he’d definitely have a seat at that fictional ‘dinner table’ we all create. Perhaps I’d place him between Coco Chanel and myself, with Winston Churchill directly across as a foil. Regardless, his presence would inspire – and ensure that the conversation never lagged.
So, who’s your favorite ‘loveable rogue’ then? Everyone has one, so ‘fess up. Here’s my vote for greatest rogue of all:
Han Solo meets the ‘rogue’ criteria: charming, dashing, gritty, rough, self-serving, unpredictable, and unprincipled. Until he’s not – and he becomes a hero. We do love a redeemed rogue especially.
Now the intimation is that only men can qualify as a rogue, loveable or otherwise. So while we’re on the subject, can women merit a place in the rogues gallery? Comments, please; let’s hear what you think.