Soooo, if you haven’t been lucky enough to come in contact with a Hipster or a group of Hipsters (often called a Stache of Hipsters), then let me enlighten you about their characteristics in two sentences or less. Hipsters generally distinguish themselves by only liking non-mainstream or societally accepted fashion, art, music, enterprise, politics, or literature. If you see someone with really huge glasses, shaggy hair, skinny jeans or thrift-shop garb who is trying to be vegan or start a knitting group dedicated to human trafficking, Voila! You have probably found a Hipster. (Wait, I think that was 3 sentences.) Anyway, as a lover of the classics, I started thinking about which protagonists might be considered a Hipster if they were around today. I set up a bit of an evolutionary scale of literary Hipsters because Hipsters don’t dig organized religion, and I thought it would be apropos. So let’s get started on the Top 6 Hipster protagonists from the classics.
Number 6: Ethan Frome from Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
We’ll call Mr. Frome a Hipster in the making. Sort of a pre-hip Hipster. A little tiny baby Hipster if you will. You may totally disagree with me and say that Ethan is really just a slave to convention when he meets the love of his life while still married to the dreadful hypochondriacal Zeena and can not seem to make the decision to leave. Meh, I say Potato/Potahto. He wears suspenders and flannel shirts, people! He also displays Hipster qualities like wanting to go learn about Chemistry and new engineering technologies. When that dream dies, he tries to work the land become all ecological and whatnot. The only problem is that the universe does not cooperate with Ethan Frome- she is a cold and callous nemesis. Ethan never makes it to full Hipster status despite having all the right stuff. If I had my way, the ending would be different and Ethan would finally be happy in his adorably retro Hipster home with his Hipster sweetheart, Mattie Silver, wearing an awesome flower crown. Zeena would be left with her imaginary diseases, bottles of medicine, and firmly established social conventions as so many of today’s unenlightened masses live.
Number 5: Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Heathcliffe (swoon!) is the next step up in the literary Hipster evolutionary ladder. Choosing Heathcliff as number 5 totally validates the theory that 90% of Hipsterness is made up of appearance and just being really really passionate about stuff. Ok, so by the end of the book, he isn’t all idealistic and environmentally conscious. He isn’t even compassionate towards charitable causes. Through circumstances beyond his control (sort of), he turns into a sick and twisted, sadistic fiend bent on revenge. Whatever, he has awesome unruly Hipster hair, dark brooding eyes, and a passionate connection with Catherine Earnshaw that even the grave can not sever. If Cathy’s lust for socially appropriate relationships didn’t drive Heathcliff to violence, they would have been living off the grid and raising little vegan baby Hipsters in crocheted beanies somewhere on the moors. Darn that Cathy!
Number 4.Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
First of all, there is whole bunch of debating going on over the issue of whether or not Nick Carraway is gay. Let that be his first Hipster trait. Hipsters are commonly more androgynous and generally disregard stereotypical gender roles. Someone’s sexual preference has no validity whatsoever in Hipsterdom. I can see the validity of both sides of the Nick Carraway argument and choose not to partake in either side (very Hipster of me, yes?). Nick detests Gatsby’s money and power, but not the man. Gatsby “represented everything for which I (Carraway) have an unaffected scorn.” Like every Hipster worth his Bamboo Leaf Sea Salt, Nick is caring, concerned, and eschews the trappings of “The Man”. He does get lost in the glamorous world of Gatsby et al.for a time(It happens, man. Cut him some slack!). However he is never completely lost. In the end, he makes the very Hipster decision to move back out West and pursue a simpler, more focused life away from the moral depravity and power driven East. An evolutionary Hipster step up from Heathcliff, yes?
Number 3: Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter
OK, forget the fact that poor Hester was deemed a fallen woman for her adulterous affair and illegitimate child in Puritan Boston. Hester is the only woman on this list, and she stands as the preeminent 17th century Puritan Hipster fashion icon, nonconformist, and amazeballs textile artist. She embraces a very simple garb. She wears a dress of somber hues. I bet you could have totally found it at ye olde thrift shop.However, like all great Hipster girls, she has an item of personal flair- her very fancy, elaborately embroidered scarlet letter A. She refuses to give the name of her baby’s father, even though she’s put through the wringer by all of the most powerful men in Boston’s government and religious community (which are, of course, one in the same), but she refuses to be bullied. She is the epitome of female power and self-possession. As time went on, Hester had to make a living. She was an outsider living on the outskirts of town (Hipsterness…hello!), but made her living sewing and embroidering garments for others. All the Puritans were like, “Dude! I need Hester to make me that lace shawl and pair of gloves!” They just didn’t want her to sew stuff for weddings…go figure. Hester lived a non-conformist Hipster lifestyle fighting the Puritan current. I’m pretty sure all the ladies at her trial that wanted to stone her really were jealous of her Hipster chutzpah and swag. Sorry, biddies, we can’t all be Hipsters.
Number 2: Walt Whitman from Leaves of Grass
Walt Whitman is arguably one of the most famous American poets, and simply by being a poet he is already Hipster approved. He is a protagonist (in my book), because he is the main character of many of his poems. Song of Myself is totally himself, yet totally ourselves. He is known as the father of free verse, so he totally circumvented the mainstream of poetry and invented something new. Also, have you ever seen his beard? Most hipsters would die for those whiskers that go on for days. He also is often pictured wearing a very jaunty hat, and he loved nature. Mr. Whitman embodies all of the independent spirit of not buying in to the establishment and forging his own way. Hipsters would be proud to be friends with the Good Gray Poet. They would probably fight over who got to borrow his hat and get some facial hair advice.
Number 1: Guy Montag from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Our number one Hipster literary protagonist has got to be Guy Montag from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. In a world where firemen don’t put out fires, but burn down houses with books inside them, Montag is a fireman with a nagging desire. He wants to read those banned books! He gets in all sorts of trouble because of his nerdiness, and eventually has to go on the lam. His intellectual hunger is the primary component of his Hipsterness or Hipsterocity. Most Hipsters want to be perceived as being well-read, and Guy Montag (while he has to keep it a secret) has a burning zeal for literature (no pun intended). Ray Bradbury doesn’t give a really definite physical description of Guy, but I’m pretty sure he wears skinny pants and some sort of cardigan (with patches on the elbows) when he’s not in his fireman uniform. He ends up going to a camp where others like him memorize whole books to keep them alive and subvert the system. I figure this is probably just a Hipster hangout where they drink Pabst Blue Ribbon, jam on some ukuleles and djembe drums, and help each other memorize books like The Bell Jar and The Catcher in the Rye. Yeah, Guy Montag is pretty much the king of the literary Hipsters…just sayin’.
You may find some protagonists that belong on this list, and to tell you the truth a whole bunch more came to my mind as well. I just tend to be long winded. So, let me know if you come across any literary Hipsters in your reading. Just remember that a Hipster will never tell you that they are a Hipster, so you just have to read between the lines.