Holden Caulfield Needs a Hug
I believe it was Alfred Lord Tennyson who wrote, “Tis better to have hugged and lost / Than never to have hugged at all.” His words ring true even today, but do they hold sway within the confines of our school-required booklists? By which I mean to say: would Beowulf’s embrace be a page-turner… or would you read it and weep?
I know that I’ve just gotten the ball rolling, but actually I’d like to pause quickly to apologize for those puns. We both know that I’m better than this and I’m unbelievably ashamed.
Okay, we’re good. Read on for more nonsense!
Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby)
A near perfect hug, or so it would seem. Though Gatsby’s execution appears to be flawless, it masks a dark and complex past. He’s eager to build up a reputation as an established and well-respected hugger, but let’s be honest: he’s saving the real deal for Daisy. 8.5/10
Nick Carraway (The Great Gatsby)
Nick has all the passion of a used Kleenex, plus he’s not great with emotional vulnerability. Why is he so sweaty? 3/10
Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye)
Holden isn’t even trying. You initiated the hug and he just started crying and mumbling about a baseball glove. You get the sense that he really needs this, but his lack of effort gets him a 0/10.
Fitzwilliam Darcy (Pride and Prejudice)
This touch-starved malewife is a fantastic hugger. Maybe it’s the height difference, or all of the weird convoluted tension between the two of you, or the edgy repressed thing he’s got going on, but it’s really working. Darcy hates your family, but he’ll give you a nice shoulder massage while he’s at it. 9.5/10
Hamlet (The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark)
Hamlet’s been having a rough week, so it’s not like you can expect very much from him. He’s attempting one of those one-armed half-hugs that you do when you’re thirteen and don’t want your mom to know you love her. Cringe. 2/10
John Proctor (The Crucible)
John Proctor has just the perfect amount of religious guilt to give a great hug. He checks all the boxes: he’s a dad, he’s selfless as all get-out, he’s played by Oscar-winning method actor Daniel Day-Lewis… I just know my boy Daniel was walking around the set giving out hugs. It’s the vibe. He gets it. Minus two points of behalf of his loyal wife Elizabeth, who is perfect and deserves better. 7/10
Abigail Williams (The Crucible)
I don’t trust this spooky little girl for a second. She’s the type of person who would give you a solid hug but she would, like, roll her eyes at someone standing behind you while it was happening. Terrible vibes, 3/10
Edna Pontellier (The Awakening)
Edna is all about bodily autonomy and is too much of a girlboss for the emotional commitment required for a perfect hug. Let’s be real: she’s just going through the motions and is probably thinking about her dreamy French lover Robert anyway. Still, nothing overwhelmingly bad. 6/10
The Creature (Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus)
There’s definitely a learning curve, but the Creature is willing to go the extra mile for you. After all, there’s nothing he wants more than love. Besides, he’s like eight feet tall, so he has all of the himbo huggability of a Jason Momoa type as long as you can get past the fact that his existence is a crime against God. 7/10!
Victor Frankenstein (Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus)
This sad little man is an absolute clown. He doesn’t pay attention to your needs. He’s slowly going mad as he’s tormented with the consequences of his (unbelievably stupid) actions. Plus, you’re pretty sure he’s your cousin, which really isn’t ideal. 2/10
Guy Montag (Fahrenheit 451)
Guy has the body of a firefighter, but he’s a little soft around the edges - a perfect hugging physique. He’s a little out of practice because of his various marital problems, but he’s got Big Dad Energy and thus can always make time for a good hug. 8/10
Emily Webb (Our Town)
Emily could give a good hug. She’s got the tenderness, she’s got the emotional vulnerability… she might even give you a bouquet of invisible flowers when she’s done. Some may interpret Emily’s favorite hymn, “Blessed Be the Tie that Binds,” as a testament to the power of human connection, but I offer a simpler hypothesis: it’s just about huggin’. 9/10!
Every character from Animal Farm
No arms; 0/10. Next!
Winston Smith (1984)
Let it be known that I hate this man. He doesn’t know what to do with his arms, so he overcompensates by moving them too much. He gets his weird gross fingers all up on the back of your neck and it’s terrible for everyone involved. 1/10, do better.
Macbeth (The Tragedy of Macbeth)
Surprisingly, he’s a good hugger! If anything, Macbeth commits - he doesn’t just kill his enemies, he has their wives and children executed too. That’s dedication! If you set aside all of the murder and whatnot, he’s a war hero who has a healthy relationship with his hot wife, and he’s really doing Scotland a favor if you think about it. Duncan wasn’t that great anyway… 7/10
Lady Macbeth (The Tragedy of Macbeth)
Lady Mac is a wild card. One minute, the two of you are sharing a tender embrace and the next, she’s invoking demons and asking you to kill your boss. She is an absolute smokeshow though. Happy wife, happy life - 5/10
Laura Wingfield (The Glass Menagerie)
This fragile little wisp of a girl can actually give a decent hug, but it’s nothing special. Laura encounters what I like to call the “Reverse Darcy Effect,” meaning that she’s so touch-starved that she doesn’t really know what to do with herself. She lacks the spontaneity that makes a truly excellent hug, but she’s not too bad once she comes out of her shell. Be warned, though: she will get attached and it will absolutely crush her. 4/10
Sure, he fulfils all of the heroic virtues… but can he hug? The answer is no. Beowulf is plagued by medieval notions of masculinity, so he’ll dab you up but he can’t find the commitment for a full embrace. Honestly? He’s worse off for it. 2/10.
John the Savage (Brave New World)
John gives good hugs! He’s a big ol’ guy (again, optimal hug conditions) and he was raised in a world that values the simple things in life, like a soma-free show of affection. The true tragedy of Brave New World isn’t the human experimentation, erasure of free thought, or the rigid class structure… it’s that this poor sweet boy doesn’t have anyone to give a nice hug to. 7.5/10
Edward Rochester (Jane Eyre)
This man is so terrible that I don’t even know what to say about him. His sense of timing is all off and he kind of just holds onto you long past the natural lifespan of the hug. You’re forced to wiggle out of there once you start to suffocate, which makes him get all broody and weird. Plus, he smells like onions for some reason and it’s just not the vibe. 1/10
Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre)
These two deserve each other because neither of them can give a good hug to save their lives. Jane’s insecurity is so intense that she just stands there with her arms at her sides while Rochester slowly crushes all the life out of her body. Hey, maybe that’s a metaphor for their relationship! 3/10