Literary Role Models: How Fictional Females Set Real-life Examples
From writing to sleuthing to exploring, the ability of female characters in literature to defy expectation and take their worlds by storm has inspired generations of young women.
Books that feature a strong female character show readers that women of all ages can do great things, defy unjust societal norms and live with high ideals, regardless of limitations they face.
In an article on rtbookreviews.com, entitled “Mary E. Pearson on the importance of writing strong women,” Pearson notes that bold heroines remind us, “that the women around us change lives and history every day.”
Some of the most inspiring females in literature share characteristics that set them apart and provide audiences a timeless example of female strength.
Many heroines exhibit self-confidence and self-reliance. Elizabeth Bennett of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel, Pride and Prejudice, frequently uses her sharp wit to call out the foolish and cruel behavior of others, even though this practice wins her few friends. Although radical in her time, Bennett insists upon forging her own future, refusing to believe her life depends upon finding a husband.
A modern example of an independent heroine can be found in the Nancy Drew series, penned by various authors under the pen name Carolyn Keene. Constantly facing danger, Nancy’s detective work causes her to be gagged, kidnapped and doubted by authorities. However, her self-reliance, combined with whip-smart detective skills, lead her to continue solving cases for the wellbeing of her community, despite the constant danger she herself faces.
Inspiring females in fiction are also renowned for refusing to conforms to the standards and limitations accepted by those around them. Jo March, from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, refuses to follow the footsteps of her romance-seeking sisters. Instead, she dreams of becoming a writer and works doggedly to make her aspirations a reality. A younger heroine, Lucy Pevensie from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series, has an imagination which transcends that of her siblings, and passionately defends her discoveries despite the taunting and disapproval of her siblings.
Finally, strong female characters typically defend high ideals. This trait is especially apparent in the protagonist from Charlotte Bronte’s 1847 novel, Jane Eyre. Without wealth, talent, family connections or beauty to help her make her way in the world, Jane relies on her work ethic and strong principles as she seeks an education and employment. Even when she is faced with losing everything for which she has dreamed and worked, Jane holds fast to her principles, exemplifying true integrity.
Many more admirable heroines exist in literature through the centuries; all of them have served as models and inspiration for young women of every generation.