A gentleman’s bookshelf says more about the man he is than his most watched on Netflix, his favourite sex position on a Sunday morning or his opinion on Joey Essex. Indisputably it’s what a man reads, how he empathises with the characters and how he uses what he learns from them, that defines him.
In the tip-top fashion of bogus literary criticism we bring you, our reader, a list of the top literary characters that will change the way you look at the world:
LORD HENRY WOTTON – THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY BY OSCAR WILDE
For those of you unfamiliar with the world of un-closeted dandy Oscar Wilde’s personal life, then I suggest you read up on it. Arguably Wilde’s alter-ego, Lord Henry identifies, and poisons, the fruity and seedy backstreets of London life. Sending the protagonist, Dorian; who is arguably a more charming and less vulgarised 19th century Justin Bieber, into a flurry of hedonistic deeds that if performed nowadays would place him pictured panda-eyed on the frontpage of The Sun newspaper.
A warning, gentlemen, when picking up the novel… do not follow the principles of Lord Henry Wotton, for he dangles the luminous orange carrot of temptation in front of your very eyes.
Wotton’s Top Quote: ‘The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield it.’
TYLER DURDEN – FIGHT CLUB BY CHUCK PALAHNIUK
The schizophrenic, narcissist famously portrayed by Hollywood pretty boy Brad Pitt is arguably the most influential literary character to the modern man. With the desire to return masculinity to a primitive like state – without a worry for credit cards, Neutrogena moisturiser or Air-conditioning – it appears as if Mr. Durden is going full Bear Grylls on us. Tyler sets up a near revolution chock-full of existentially unhappy young men and attacks the way modern consumerism has created a generation of delicate boys, the answer is quite simply to fight.
His philosophy will have you trading in your Espresso machine for a penknife, testing yourself to your very physical limits and, if you’re really really serious about the whole thing, he will have you cutting the cord to your relationships and luxuries to live life like a Neolithic caveman, or just to sign up for Bear Grylls’ The Island.
Durden’s Top Quote: ‘It’s only after we’ve lost everything, that we are free to do anything.’
FORREST GUMP – FORREST GUMP BY WINSTON GROOM
The simple, selfless and particularly sycophantic dimwit, made famous by Tom Hanks’ portrayal of him, may not strike you as a character that could change his bedsheets, let alone your perception of the world. But the man, created by Winston Groom, possesses some life lessons that we could all learn to invest in.
Forrest Gump’s honesty and adoration of other people is something that we feel every gentleman should learn from. He sticks to his virtues, says what he thinks and finds pleasures in the simplicities of life. The heart-warming account of his being will have you questioning how you choose to run (Forrest run) your own life.
Gump’s Top Quote: ‘I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is.’
JAY GATSBY – THE GREAT GATSBY BY F. SCOTT FITZGERALD
Self-created jazz age Billionaire Jay Gatz is perhaps one of Literature’s most celebrated characters. The man that teaches both swindle Dee and swindle Dum, Daisy and Tom (the novel’s antagonists), that if you really want something in life then you can go out and get it. Of course Gatsby’s deluded impression that anything is possible (even altering the past) is what eventually gets him shot, what ruins Nick’s trust from the realisation that he had been deceived by his friend who actually ran an illegitimate bootlegging enterprise, and what leaves the angelic money-leech Daisy none the wiser on the lesson of devotion. But don’t let that put you off, as we like to think that there are some valuable lessons that can be learnt from Mr. Gatsby’s short existence.
Gentlemen, if there’s something in life that you want, then live the Gatsby way and go get it – legitimately.
Gatsby’s Top Quote: ‘Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!’
HOLDEN CAULFIELD – THE CATCHER IN THE RYE BY J.D. SALINGER
Celebrated sociopath Holden Caulfield is to nostalgic teen bookworms what Manny Pacquiao is to the boxing world, the un-awarded fan favourite. Credited as one of the greatest novels ever crafted, it is hard not to include the protagonist Caulfield in this list, with his adolescent innocence and discontent towards what he calls, and tries desperately to understand, the ‘phony’ adult world.
Learning from Holden will remind you of the importance of morality, of social innocence and of course… the forgotten coming of age moments you so harmlessly experienced when you too were trying to work out the world.
Caulfield’s Top Quote: ‘People never notice anything.’
DEAN MORIARTY – ON THE ROAD BY JACK KEROUAC
The sporadic pseudonym of Neal Cassady could be argued as non-fiction. Yet, well we hope that, the presentation of him by Kerouac is largely fictionalised (although there are documents to suggest Cassady was as insane as presented). The controversial anti-hero of one of America’s best loved novels demonstrates to us the importance of time. If you’re ever worried that you’re not living in the moment, then consider the unconventional, uncertified and simply unacceptable teachings of Dean.
It is unquestionable; a gentleman must live his life to the fullest that it can be.
Moriarty’s Top Quote: ‘We gotta go and never stop going ‘til we get there.’
Article published in The Gentleman’s Journal [26.05.2015]