As a young man or young woman, your thoughts are overwhelmingly consumed by crushes. This is likely some kind of combination of the newness of the world and the thrill of exploration…and hormones. So many hormones raging all of the time. For some of us, this means constantly falling in “love,” with classmates, with celebrities, and, if there was time left after all the crushing to read books, with characters from books. But these were a little bit different. Because so much of a literary character’s personality unfolds inside your brain, it’s extremely intimate. And it’s not even a looks-based thing like other crushes; even if an author goes out of their way to describe a character’s physical appearance, that doesn’t all quite register and you just get kind of a general sense of that character…and the same feelings (funny feelings) as a crush on an actual human being. This makes for a crush that’s entirely merit-and trait-based, and as a result, I’ve still got feelings for the women from books I read years ago.
Trillian (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams)
Any kid with a passing interest in science-fiction or humor reads and re-reads Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And every boy (and some girls) pines along with Arthur for Trillian (nee Tricia), the only other earthling left after the Earth is exploded to make way for a space highway. Not only are they bound by being the last of their species, but Trillian is clever, funny, and cool—proven by the fact that she left Earth in the first place to go on a space adventure. (Filmmakers of the 2005 movie version of Hitchhikers appropriately cast the role with Zooey Deschanel, the most crushable actress in the world.)
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Tonks (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J. K. Rowling)
The late, great Nymphadora Tonks has all the qualities one could ever hope for in a romantic partner. First of all, she has actual magical powers, which is always a plus. Secondly, she was an Auror, so she’s got a cool job to talk about. She’s even from noble blood, which while that isn’t necessary, it’s cool to know she’s from a good family. (Tonks is Sirius Black’s cousin!) Also, she’s bold, knows exactly who she is, and goes after what she wants, be that victory, justice, or Remus Lupin. So she’s taken. It’s fine. She’s also a Hufflepuff, but we won’t hold that against her.
Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen)
Lizzy is complicated, way ahead of her time, stifled by her surroundings, and really, none of us are ever going to be good enough for her. This is classic crush material, but I think I may have had a shot with her if I were 200 years younger and from a prominent family, as she notably “delights in anything ridiculous,” which is totally me. Elizabeth is witty, and can pick apart anybody’s personality, so she’s so over it, but still believes in love and tries to relate to the rest of us. She’s like a literary Daria.
Scarlett O’Hara (Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell)
Now here is a woman who is self-reliant, can get things done, and doesn’t need a man. That’s the whole point of Gone With the Wind. She journeys from being a “silly” Southern belle who’s so spoiled that she can’t and won’t do anything for herself, and then the War of Northern Aggression breaks out, and before you know it, Scarlett is fighting off troops, defending her home and family, making awesome dresses out of what’s literally hanging in the window, and rising above it all to never go hungry again. You don’t want her, Rhett Butler? Well she doesn’t even need you.
Barbara Parker/Sophie Straw (Funny Girl, by Nick Hornby)
This book only came out a couple of years ago, so I’m still apparently getting crushes on fictional amalgamations of words and ink while well into adulthood. Nick Hornby, crown prince of dude-bro literature for literate dude-bros went a little off his usual track with this novel, his first told from the point of view of a woman, and his first that takes place long, long ago. It’s about a small town English beauty queen named Barbara Parker who would much rather make a life for herself as a comic actress, just like her hero, Lucille Ball, than simply coast on her good looks. Barbara changes her name to Sophie Straw, becomes the biggest sitcom star in 1960s England, and the whole world falls in love with her, including you, dear reader, and me. And while we know she’s objectively attractive, it’s because she’s funny. The notion that women aren’t funny is both ridiculous and wrong. Many women are funny, and it’s about the most attractive characteristic there is.
What fictional characters are you crushing on?