Author Hilary Boyd discussed strong female heroines in literature. Boyd's latest release, Thursdays in the Park, is available on Kindle.
literary heroines I love are certainly not perfect. Far from it. In fact they’re
flawed and complex, running the whole gamut from murderous, violent,
manipulative, immoral and narcissistic, to honest, brave and finally extremely
sympathetic. One, Roald Dahl’s Matilda in the children’s book of the same name,
resorts to magic powers to get what she wants. Another, Lisbeth Salander, in
Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon
Tattoo trilogy, is so damaged, so super-smart, so technically savvy she
almost defies belief. Three of them, Scarlet O’Hara in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, Jodi Brett in A.S.A
Harrison’s The Silent Wife and Lisbeth
Salander, are actually prepared to kill to protect themselves. All of them -
except Matilda, who’s only six - have fiendishly challenging love lives. But
these heroines are extraordinary – brave, spirited survivors against all the odds.
Scarlet. Oh my God, she’s such a brat. But despite her backstabbing and stupidity
over weedy old Ashley – she loves that milksop over Rhett?? - she knuckles down
when she has to, stops whining and does what it takes to survive. She’s
magnificent. Whereas her rival, the blameless Melanie, who never puts a foot
wrong, is so one-dimensionally perfect you want to stab her.
Brodie, in Muriel Spark’s The Prime of
Miss Jean Brodie, doesn’t actually kill anyone, but she can certainly be cruel.
And as a teacher, she’s every mother’s worst nightmare. She exerts extreme,
almost sinister psychological control over her girls – the Brodie set – but
it’s in a genuine effort to shake up the girls’ education and prospects. Jean
kicks against a repressive system with great courage. Misguided and cavalier,
the fragility of her ego is breathtaking and very moving.
what Roald Dahl’s Matilda would have made of Jean Brodie? Not sure who’d win
that battle. Matilda has a genius-level brain and magic on her side – despite
being only six years old. But it’s actually her honest and brave determination
to annihilate the bullying adults in her life that makes her such a perfect
heroine. How great to have a child show other children that they can stand up
for themselves. Love her!
finally there’s Jodi Brett in The Silent Wife – which is a brilliant book. Jodi’s a bit of a nutter. I’m not sure
how A.S.A Harrison did it, but she made a woman who’s virtually a doormat to
her philandering husband – turning a blind eye, laying out his pajamas every
night, cooking him elaborate meals – retain such dignity and be intensely endearing.
must also raise a cheer for the feisty nineteenth century mob, such as Jane
Eyre, Dorothea in Middlemarch,
poor old Tess, Anna Karenina and Emma Bovary – the last three coming to a very sticky
end for standing up to an unjust, male-dominated world with spirit and courage.
These heroines were trail-blazers, setting a precedent for all the other
powerful women in literature who’ve come along since.