There’s sometimes a lot of pressure on, especially, young people to marry, or to at least settle down with a partner. Very often, the amount and kind of pressure depend on culture and other social factors, but in most societies, there’s at least some pressure to pair up. You know what I mean, I’m sure. The not-so-subtle hints (‘So, are you seeing anyone?’), and the ‘help’ that well-meaning friends and family members offer (‘There’s this girl I work with – you two would be great together!’). It can be hard to withstand.
And yet, plenty of people do. It’s not that they don’t want to enjoy someone else’s company, but they have no desire to share their lives that way. They value their independence, and they have their own lifestyles. So, they simply don’t go ‘on the market.’ I’ll bet you know people like that, and there are plenty of them in crime fiction.
Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, for instance, is a confirmed bachelor. He’s quite set in his ways, and he isn’t interested (especially at his age) in making all the changes and adjustments people make when they share their lives. He considers himself, ‘mercifully past all that.’ He doesn’t mind ‘assisting’ at other budding romances, and he has an especially soft spot for the Countess Vera Rossakoff. But marriage? Possibly children? Non, merci.
Fans of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe will know that they, too, remain bachelors. It’s not that they don’t notice women (Even Sherlock Holmes can’t help but admire Irene Adler). But they have no interest in getting married. And, although both accept the fact that others fall in love and marry (they even assist in a few stories), they don’t choose that path themselves.
Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher is a private investigator living in 1920s Melbourne. It’s a time and place when women are expected to ‘find a man,’ marry, settle down, and have children. But that’s not the life Miss Fisher wants. She’s very independent, has her own money, and has no interest in changing her life to suit the needs of a marriage partner. One might say she has the luxury of remaining single, because she has money. She has an active love life, and she’s had more than one love interest. But her relationships are not intended to be permanent or exclusive. For Phryne Fisher, her independence is too important to willingly give it up, as is expected at that time.
James ‘Qwill’ Qwilleran is Lilian Jackson Braun’s creation. He’s a journalist who used to live and work in Chicago, but who now lives in Moose County, ‘400 miles north of nowhere.’ He inherited a large fortune, and he’s used it to set up a fund to support deserving people and causes. Not only does that make him popular, it also makes him Moose County’s most eligible bachelor. But he has no interest in marrying. He’s dated a few women, most especially the town librarian, Polly Duncan. They spend quite a lot of time together, and in some ways, they act almost like a married couple. But Qwill doesn’t see himself as marriage material. When people ask him why he and Polly don’t marry, his standard answer is that their cats aren’t compatible.
Fans of Elly Griffiths know that her Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist associated with North Norfolk University. She has a successful career and a small, but loyal, circle of friends. She’s also a single mother to Kate. So there’s not really a lot of time in her life to think about marriage and settling down. She does have feelings for Detective Inspector (DI) Harry Nelson, who is Kate’s father, but he is married, and unlikely to divorce. She’s had other relationships, but her work and her life in Norfolk are too important to her to give up for a marriage. Besides, she likes the ‘space’ and independence she feels as a single person. And she’s settled into her ways and routines.
There’s also Geraldine Evans’ Inspector Joe Rafferty. He’s from a large, Irish family, and his mother would like nothing more than to see him married to a ‘proper Irish Catholic girl.’ In fact, in more than one novel, she tries a few tricks to pair him up. But for much of the series, Rafferty isn’t interested in marrying. He’d like to steer completely clear of commitments, although he does enjoy female company now and again. Rafferty enjoys his bachelorhood, although it does put him against his determined mother. And that friction makes for a witty and interesting story arc. What’s also interesting is that his police partner, Dafyd Llwellyn, has completely different ideas. He is much more interested in what you might call domesticity.
Many people feel the pressure to marry or at least find a partner, especially as they move through their twenties and thirties. But at least in crime fiction, not every character gives in to that pressure. And that can add an interesting layer to a character. Which single-and-content characters do you like best?
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Natasha Bedingfield’s Single.