Surprisingly, I wouldn’t have thought compassion ranked very high on the list of traits for a hero, even though it ranks high on my own personal list. Apparently it’s a very popular trait with other readers as well.
Compassion is when the hero shows consideration for others. Of course he will show kindness toward the heroine—that’s a given. But he will quite often go out of his way to show his concern for others. He sympathizes with another character, perhaps even with a very minor character, often below his rank or station in life. Joanna Penn, in her article “20 Tips for Writing Loveable Romance Heroes,” says “make him act with kindness and compassion toward his staff or the working classes.” We want a man who can be generous with his time, money, and concern for others.
In Catherine Lanigan’s book, Writing the Great American Romance Novel, she says point blank, “It is impossible for the hero to be the hero without compassion. Without compassion for others who do not have his advantages or talents, the hero would be a cold fish or possibly a psychopath.” The hero can show compassion in many varied ways. His liking and patience for animals and small children are an excellent way to display his concern for the weak. Lanigan insists that the hero must love his mother, no matter how bad her character is. And she makes the point, and it’s a valid one, that “compassion fully realized is love.”
The moment in Outlander when Jamie shows his compassion for both the heroine, Claire, and others, is one of my favorite in the series. I watched that episode, “The Way Out,” over and over just for this one scene. It’s where Jamie pulls the nail out of a child’s ear who’s been nailed to a pillory. He could have gotten into great trouble for doing it, but for the child’s sake (he’d have had to rip his own ear from the nail) he does it without hesitation. There are other instances where Jamie shows compassion throughout the series and the books, but this is the one that speaks loudest to me.
A compassionate man is very attractive because we value a person who will put himself out, delay his own needs, in order to help another less fortunate than he.
Do you have a favorite scene in which a hero shows his compassion and wins your heart thereby?