Friday, October 5, 2012

Characters Worth Reading About

Today I'm going to write about something different because I'm enjoying expanding my blog horizons to include more personal entries that go beyond what I hang on my walls. 

In my 'get to know me' entry from the last week I mentioned that I'm a feminist and I thought that today I'd like to expand on that. Namely, what helped shape me into the feminist that I am today. Now, I'm still really coming into my own ideas about things. I'm reading about women's issues pretty much everyday (especially with the upcoming election) and I enjoy expanding my mind and figuring out what I stand for. 

Upon some reflection, I have realized that one of my earliest major influences on what I felt about feminism and my own place in society as a female were books. I read some great books with some great heroines that were inspiring, smart, and strong, which are traits that I feel some of the more recent popular novels are lacking.

When I talk about novels that are lacking a good heroine, I of course mean Bella from the popular Twilight series. Now, I'm not going to waste the time and rag on Bella or that horrible Anastasia Steele from the Fifty Shades trilogy. (Maybe another day when I'm feeling particularly feisty.) I'd rather focus on female characters that embody traits that go beyond being a submissive, clumsy, dependent idiot whose life revolves around their male partner. 

Like, Anne of Green Gables... (and I always loved that her name was spelled with an 'e,' as she always made sure to mention, which is what my middle name is.)

The Anne series went on for eight books and took her from being an orphan adopted by a brother and sister to a college graduate, teacher, wife, and mother. 

While everyone was always surprised at such brazen behavior coming from a girl (like hitting a boy over the head with her slate at school or taking a dare to walk on the ridge pole of a house), Anne always marched to the beat of her own drum. She had aspirations and shortcomings (she always hated her red hair and aspired to be the classic definition of beauty). She was definitely ahead of her time and it was entertaining to read about how the rest of the town reacted to her out of the ordinary behavior. 

And at the age of thirteen I was acquainted with Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. 

Elizabeth Bennet was another woman ahead of her time. Being that she lived in the early 19th Century, her greatest hope of a good life was marrying well (especially since her family wasn't too well off). But, she didn't let the temptation of wealth and consequence alter her convictions. I'm pretty convinced that she would have been perfectly happy to have never married and never debased herself by throwing herself in the way of any man (like some of the other frivolous ladies in the novel were wont to do... such as her sisters). 

She walked alone through the woods and mud (*gasp*!), turned down proposals, educated herself, verbally sparred with men and never allowed herself to feel inferior. 

And I'm convinced that she would have eaten Bella Swan for breakfast and then curtseyed afterward. 

There's other great novels out there like Jane Eyre (that really only showed her independent gumption during the latter part of the novel), Little Women, and even The Hunger Games trilogy of recently.

I was actually pleasantly surprised with The Hunger Games heroine, Katniss. It was nice to see a strong female character being idolized by younger fans (hopefully it'll even out all this goofy Bella nonsense). It was refreshing to read a character who, although had boy problems of her own during the novel, it wasn't a critical part of the novel. It was about her fight-to-the-death journey in this dystopian world and not her journey down the wedding aisle. 

So, with the exception of the last novel I mentioned, there aren't many strong women characters that are at the forefront of literature anymore. And it's a shame. C'mon, ladies! Let's reject the meek Bella Swans and Anastasia Steeles and embrace characters we can actually learn a thing or two from.

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