Art imitates life when it comes to literary bad boys. Which one of us hasn't been drawn to the allure of the train wreck relationship in real life, at one point or another? The boys who we know from the start will not just break our hearts, but toy with it first as though playing an exquisitely pleasurable game of cat-and-mouse.
Most of us eventually outgrow the bad boys. Experience is a wonderful teacher and many people quickly learn that as exciting and distracting as it is to be dating a bad boy (you don't even know when he'll call!), it eventually also gets tedious and wreaks havoc with your life, emotions and health.
Nowadays, I prefer my bad boys where they rightfully belong, tucked between the covers of a book. Yes, you need a bit of bad in your boys to ensure that they're not actually just lacking in personality. But most sane folk will agree that the good has to outweigh the bad.
Here are a few of my favourite literary bad boys. The ones that you secretly fantasise about dating...if you were a character in a book too. And before you scroll down, no, Christian Grey is not one of them! Unlike most of the female population, I do not wish to obsess over him, possess him or stay with him forever. I can't imagine a worse fate. Though perhaps I could - next week's hot topic, Anastasia Steele, how do I loathe thee, let me count the ways (kidding, or am I?).
Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights)
The classic trait of a literary bad boy is an inexplicable darkness of the soul - and who can get more mysteriously dark than Heathcliff, whose thwarted love for Catherine Earnshaw caused him to turn into a villain of the nth degree, to the point where he married the sister of his nemesis just so he could enact his revenge upon Catherine's family, whom he blamed for standing in their way. In the novel, it is hinted that Heathcliff could be the child of a demon. Scary, but also kinda hot.
Eric Northman (True Blood)
Okay, it probably helps that on the TV show he's played by Alexander Skarsgard, who is so hot he could make paint melt by his mere presence in a room. He oozes sex appeal from every pore, ahem. Eric fulfils another bad boy trope - the bad boy who's bad to everyone else, but good to you. He comes across as arrogant, but reveals a soulful and vulnerable side to Sookie that no one else gets to see.The ability to make someone feel special is something "players" do exceptionally well, and every bad boy is a player at heart.
Stanley Kowalski (A Streetcar Named Desire)
The character of Stanley is the ultimate bad boy. He's the kind of bad boy that's actually dangerous. Not someone you want to marry or enter into any sort of long-term arrangement with, unless you want your days to be dominated by thoughts of suicide and mental anguish of epic proportions. He's the perfect sort of bad boy for a very brief fling. Or perhaps best left to fantasy.
I am going to argue that Hamlet is a bad boy. A conflicted soul, for sure, but also a bad boy. Just look at the body count he leaves behind! Nearly everyone that he touches dies, including his lady love Ophelia - who went mad and drowned herself after he killed her father. By the time his own turn came to die, we know that he probably deserved it. Hamlet represents the bad boy you'd like to save from himself. He turned bad for a reason (father's murder and there's also some Oedipal issues, but let's leave Freud for another day), not because he's intrinsically evil, though that type of bad boy also has his appeal. Which brings us to my last pick...
Randall Flagg (The Stand)
Okay, so he is evil incarnate, but power can be an irresistible aphrodisiac. Randall has only one goal in mind, to unleash hell on a post-apocalyptic earth, and he will do anything to achieve this. Randall also appears in other Stephen King books, including most of the Dark Tower series, but come on, it would be hard to resist being the woman (or man) who tames Satan. I mean, come on, isn't the whole romance novel industry based on this trope?
Who are some of your favourite bad boys in literature? Care to share?