What Makes Someone Loveable?

What makes someone interesting to others.

Posted Nov 04, 2017

Perhaps a good way to answer this question is to take a beloved character from a book we admire and ask ourselves why we love him.  Why are we interested in his/her actions, life, or loves. If we take the hero: Pierre Buzukov   from the many pages of "War and Peace"  for example, perhaps one of the most beloved of characters, we find several clues. Why are we interested in this man and willing to follow him in the many drawing rooms, the vast battlefields, and the dark  bedrooms of Russia in the early nineteenth century?    

Pierre is presented to us from the start as intriguing. He is in a precarious position: the illegitimate son of an extremely wealthy Prince. He is large and over-weight and cannot, literally, see very well. He is a dreamer (the only one whose dreams and diaries are given in the book.) He is absent-minded, and bumbles and stumbles through his life, forgetting his hat, his glasses slipping down his nose. He is an innocent who does not seem able to understand much of what is happening around him. 

All these characteristics endear him to us, make us laugh at him, fear for him, and above all identify with him. He is like all of us in so many ways. Have we not forgotten our hats or let our glasses slip down our noses? Are we not fatter or thinner than we would like to be? Are there not so many things in life that we cannot understand?We feel for him and smile tenderly at his blundering efforts to find his way through the battlefield of life in his large white hat. 

At the same time he is not entirely a victim or a passive character. He manages to inherit an enormous fortune, thanks to the intrigues of an older woman. He is obviously highly intelligent, curious, and always searching for the meaning of life. He has high aspirations. Above all he is capable of true empathy with the weak (he comes to the heroine, Natasha's rescue when she is shunned by all.) He is capable of passion: his love for Natasha of course, the main heroine of the book, and from time to time of uncontrollable but satisfying anger against the villains of the book ( his own wife Helena for example). He is impulsive and able to make  plans, to plot. He is moved to action (he plans to kill Napoleon at one point) He is also very lucky ( somehow shooting his adversary in the duel he fights with his wife's lover though he does not know how to shoot.)

All of this gives us many clues as how to present ourselves in order to evoke both sympathy and admiration, how to make ourselves loved in life: we need to admit  to our many small failings and our faults frankly but at the same time to show we are capable of defending ourselves; we have assets that are admirable or we aspire at least to higher things. We are curious, searching for the answers to life. Above all we are capable of listening to others, feeling for them in their distress, reacting with strong emotion to the sorrows around us. We know how to love   .

Sheila Kohler is the author of fourteen books including "Becoming Jane Eyre" "Dreaming for Freud" and most recently a memoir:"Once we were sisters."


War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy  Norton Classics