Sunday, August 7, 2011

Favorite Female Characters

Post originally published on my livejournal in Sept 2010

A very interesting post about female characters came up in sounis .  That is when I decided to write a post about my favorite all time heroines.  I will limit myself to describing the whos and whys of my five favorites and then add a list of honorable mentions. I have linked each name either to their corresponding book on Goodreads or to my review of the book.  They are arranged in age from youngest to oldest because other than telling you they are my favorites I don’t think I could rank them in any kind of order.  Irene Attolia is definitely my top choice but beyond that I just couldn’t decide. 

Aravis Tarkheena
“And what business is it of yours if I am only a girl?  You’re probably only a boy:  a rude, common little boy –a slave probably, who’s stolen his master’s horse.”
Aravis is hands down the best of the Narnian heroines.  Maybe I feel this way because she is the most accessible to me.  Susan has always annoyed me.  Lucy is a little too perfect, if I knew her in real life I would admire her but be incredibly uncomfortable in her presence.  I like Polly and Jill but not as much as I like Aravis.   Why?  Aravis is, for lack of a better word, spunky.  She was raised in a society where women were counted as lesser citizens and had no say in determining their future.  When hers is determined for her she desires to end her life.  After an intervention from her talking horse she realizes she has another alternative:  she can run away.  So she puts on her brother’s armor and sword and does just that.  Aravis is also highly intelligent and manages to keep her head, even in very stressful situations.  Most of all what I love about her is that even though she feels remorse for her misdeeds and understands how to make better decisions after her encounter with Aslan, she is still Aravis.  Her personality is not altered in the least.  She is still the outspoken, argumentative, feisty girl she has always been.   

Katherine (Kate) Sutton
God?  You don’t look like any god to me, Christopher Heron!  You look like a piece of gilded gingerbread, that’s what you look like, one of those cakes they sell at a fair!”
Kate is probably not as familiar a character to some.  If you haven’t read The Perilous Gard, you should.  She is just made of awesome.  Kate has grown up playing second fiddle to her more beautiful and vivacious younger sister.  When her sister does something completely witless and offends Queen Mary, it is Kate who finds herself being banished to an obscure castle in the north of England, known as The Perilous Gard.  Here the servants try to shape her opinions of the residents and nature of her new home.   But Kate is intelligent and stubborn enough to make her own opinions and those opinions start to wreak havoc on the way of life at Elvenwood Manor.  As does her tendency to express these opinions in sarcastic statements.  She is a spitfire for sure.  When her new friend Christopher sacrifices himself in order to save his niece’s life, Kate follows him into the underground world of the Fairy Folk.  Here she uses her wits, courage and strong will to save them both.   

Hermione Granger
"Are you sure that's a real spell? Well, it's not very good is it? I've tried a few simple spells myself and they've all worked for me. Nobody in my family's magic at all, it was ever such a surprise when I got my letter, but I was ever so pleased, of course, it's the best school of witchcraft there is I've heard - I've learned all the course books by heart of course. I just hope it will be enough - I'm Hermione Granger, by the way, who are you?"
Hermione Granger is my literary twin so she has to be on this list.  Seriously, how much this girl is like me is actually a bit disturbing.  I too prefer the company of books to people on most days.  Growing up my closest friends were usually boys because I thought the girls my age were generally silly.  I still don’t understand why someone would choose to watch a sporting event over studying or intellectual discussion.  I like to be in control.  I am a planner and tend to think my plan usually is the best one.  I am not a risk taker.  I always want to be the one with the answer.  I have been called a know it all more than once in my life.  I can hold a grudge for an indecently long time.  I also have uncontrollably frizzy brown hair that is usually pulled back in some messy less than stylish way, brown eyes, and large front teeth.  And I unfortunately couldn’t magic mine down to normal size like Hermione could.  I’m a little jealous of her for that.  I can easily slip myself into her character as I read.  This isn’t always comfortable though.  There are times where she is at her most shrill and bossy and I cringe, because I know I have sounded exactly like that more often than I would care to know.  I have learned to control some of this, I hope, as I’ve gained wisdom and maturity.  Hermione takes me back to my younger, more outspoken, self.  I hope that if I were faced with the same challenges she faces I would be just as courageous, strong, loyal and determined.  Though I’ve yet to be called on to assist in saving the world from the forces of evil, so we’ll probably never know.   

Irene, Queen of Attolia
"I inherited this country when I was almost a child.  I have held it.  I have fought down rebellious barons.  I've fought Sounis to keep the land on this side of the mountain.  I have killed men and watched them hang.  I've seen them tortured to keep this country safe and mine."
I LOVE her.  She is the character that sparked the post on sounis because she is something rare, a female anti-hero.  She is not evil.  She is not the antagonist.  She is a woman who has done some truly terrible things for some very good reasons.  And she has done some terrible things for less acceptable reasons.  Nothing about her character is comfortable.  Irene made some hard choices at a young age.  These choices were the best she could make for her people and the security of her throne but they were not good for her personally.  They isolated her and pushed her further and further behind a mask of power, ruthlessness and inaccessibility until that persona gradually started to become all she was.  Irene is brilliant.  She is a master strategist, a fantastic manager and has amazing patience and a fierce control on her temper (mostly-one person tends to set it off).  She has a wry sense of humor.  She doesn’t enjoy her loneliness.  However, her inability to trust and rely on anyone slowly begins to erode her humanity away.  And she knows this and sees it happening.  This is the one area she is powerless to control though.  She can’t let down her guard while directing a war, managing her fractious barons, manipulating her enemies and maintaining her country’s independence.  Someone else knows all that and recognizes that she, Irene the person, is worth saving from herself and offers her a lifeline.  The choice to take it is entirely in her hands but it costs her pride.  She makes the sacrifice of that pride with much reservation.  But this doesn’t change the essence of who Irene is.  She is still powerful, brilliant and ironic.  She can still freeze the blood in a man’s veins with a single glance.  She just has someone to help take the edges off her ruthlessness and allow her to be a woman as well as a queen.  

Harriet Vane
“I seem to be behaving very stupidly.  But the reason why I want to-to get clear of people and feelings and go back to the intellectual side is that that is the only side of life I haven’t betrayed and made a mess of.”Harriet is another intellectually brilliant character.  She has a degree from Oxford University and writes good detective fiction.  Despite this she suffers from a fairly severe inferiority complex.  She is a people pleaser.  This has led her to make some choices she regrets in her personal life.  These choices got her tried for a murder she didn’t commit.  While this made her books very popular it also gave her a notoriety she could do without.  It also shredded her reputation and further eroded her confidence in herself in anything not intellectual.  I really like the way Harriet stands up to the adversity she faces.  She manages to get through her imprisonment with her sense of humor intact.  She doesn’t even carry a grudge against the police for putting her there.  What I like best is Harriet comes through her ordeal knowing herself and is unwilling to make similar mistakes again.  She spends a great deal of time trying to figure out what she wants and I admire her for this.  An easier route was open to her but she refused, for various reasons, to accept it.  It takes a great deal of courage to follow the path she sets off down, and also to admit her faults as easily as she does. 

You can find more of my favorite heroines listed on this Pinterest board.

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