Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Top Ten Kick-Butt Heroines

Thank you to The Broke and the Bookish for this Top Ten Tuesday meme (sans profanity)!

10. Margaret Hale from North and South. One of the things that got me about this book right away was its fantastic heroine. Margaret is tough and fights tooth and nail to protect and take care of her family. She's willing to defend a man she dislikes in front of an angry mob, even taking a hit for him. She never backs down, even in the face of death.

9. Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. I actually hesitated to put her name because it felt cliche, but just because Elizabeth is well-liked doesn't mean she doesn't deserve a place on my list. Lizzie does what she wants without following proper societal "rules," but she does what it takes to protect her family's reputation. She's determined to marry for love and won't let any other circumstance prevent her from doing that.

8. Juliet Ashton from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Juliet is the heroine of my all-time favorite non-classic novel. Juliet makes people laugh in the worst of times in England and then reminds them of what's important once the worst is over. She has her priorities straight--she's willing to run into a burning building to save books. She's protective of those she loves and tough with those who don't love her. I secretly want to be just like her.

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara
7. Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind. In some ways I hate Scarlett, but in truth, I really, really love her. She doesn't care what anyone thinks of her, unless they're a man and she wants to get something out of them. She's clever and cunning and does what it takes to get what she wants. She takes care of her own and never looks back. She's tougher, stronger, and more determined than any other character in the story.

6. Aibileen from The Help. Heroine of another non-classic, Aibileen is one of those people you can't help but love. She works long and hard for her family, but she's tougher than she seems. She's talented and strong and everyone knows that God answers her prayers the most.

5. Viola from Twelfth Night. In the face of tragedy, Viola decides to run off and earn her own living dressed up as a man, but she knows when it's time to tell the truth. She's clever and witty and works hard to gain favor, but she can talk her way out of an uncomfortable situation. She doesn't let anyone tell her what to do.

4. Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre. Jane is soft-spoken and calm, but she will never, ever let anyone stop her from living her high standards. When it comes down to an ethical situation, Jane leaves everything she knows and literally walks away into an unknown world. However, she's also willing to stay with the man she loves even when he has nothing.

3. Cathy from Wuthering Heights. I almost didn't put her on the list because I actually really hate Cathy, but in a delicious way. I wouldn't want to meet her, but Cathy has everyone around her finger. She can earn anyone's love, but at the same time, won't answer to anyone and does what she wants. She's a free, wild spirit.

2. Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout is radically different from the other characters on the list because she's just a kid. I don't know that she's a "heroine" per se, but she's a great character. She's a tomboy who stands up to her brother and friend and won't let herself be put into the box of what a "girl" is. She doesn't buy in to the stereotypes of everyone around her and learns to love those who are hated.

1. Jane Austen herself. (Where does it say they have to be fictional characters?) Ever since I read Jon Spence's great biography Becoming Jane Austen, I have been fascinated by Jane Austen, the person. She wasn't particularly prim and proper, as I think we sometimes imagine her--she wrote clever satire about her family from the time she was a kid and could see through all their drama, even though she was one of the youngest. Several men proposed to her, but she kept her independence and never married. She had the courage to publish at a time when female novelists were relentlessly criticized. Jane Austen is my number one heroine.

I realized as I was writing this that a lot of the books I love most don't have particularly wonderful female characters (like Les Miserables--I could go with Cosette, but she's not really a "heroine"--more of an object for affection to be lavished on). This must be changed! So today I started reading Little Women--and check another book off my Classics Club list, killing two birds with one stone!

Who are your favorite literary heroines? 

Photo by Loren Javier on Flickr


  1. I have read embarrassingly few classics, but I have read Little Women (as I mentioned on your other post), so I'm looking forward to hearing how you like it!

    1. I just started reading it and I'm really loving it so far! I think it's a perfect book for the season (since I'm crazy about doing seasonal things). Have you ever read any letters of Louisa May Alcott or anything? I've been thinking of supplementing my reading with something like that.