I love a good story. It doesn’t matter if it is in a book or on screen, if it has a strong heroine, I’m there.
Putting together any issue of Femnista is a challenge but also a delight. Part of my excitement is in seeing what my writers come up with. Picking a topic like “Literary Women” gave them the difficult task of choosing a favorite heroine from literature (just one?!) and approaching her in a new and unique way. If you think you have read all there is to say about some of these literary women, think again.
Literature, in large part, can be seen as dominated by men. After all, every well-read girl has a litany of literary men she would marry in a second. How many of us have lovingly daydreamed about Mr. Darcy or Sir Percy or Rhett Butler? But if you look past the cravats, many of their stories have women who are equally terrific. It’s just that much of the time we do not focus on the role they play in the life of the hero. Without Elizabeth, Darcy would have always been a stuck-up stick-in-the-mud. Where would the Scarlet Pimpernel be without Marguerite? Poor Rhett would not even have a story to be in if it weren’t for Scarlett O’Hara!
When we think of “literary heroines,” our minds turn to classics first and all else second… so often we forget that modern heroines also count. Elena from The Vampire Diaries was in a book first… and unlike the dark-haired, good-natured television Elena, she was selfish and blonde in the teen book series. Or how about The Help? It is a best-selling novel with an entirely female cast. In it, a spunky girl with bad hair but a lot of spunk sets out to reveal how badly treated the “hired help” is in 1960’s Mississippi. But the book isn’t just about Skeeter… it’s also about the brave black women who risk their lives to tell the truth of what such a life is like. It is about their heartaches, trials, and triumphs.
Sometimes, I think in our modern set of ideals we neglect to respect and even admire different literary women for their strengths in the time period in which they live out their lives. It would be cruel to judge Gwendolyn Grandcourt by a modern standard. Since she is stuck in the Victorian era, she has no choice but to make the most of her situation. Her courage is different from that of Hermione Granger, but is she any less wonderful as a character?
In one of my favorite (fictional) holiday movies, an older man says to the heroine, “You are the leading lady of your own life. Stop acting like you’re the best friend.”
When we look at the many admirable qualities of our favorite heroines, it is easy to dismiss our own virtues as less impressive. They aren’t. Ours is a story we write ourselves. God is in control, but our choices define who we are and will become. Like the very best of literary heroines, we should not end our journey the same as we started it. We can pursue happiness at a great cost to others like Anna Karenina, or give up our life (in a metaphorical sense) for the betterment of others, like Lily Potter. In all things, we are writing our own adventure.
Look up to your favorite literary women. Emulate them. Respect them. But never forget that you’re also a heroine in a story that is still being written. ♥