International Women’s Day: 8 Inspiring Literary Heroines

In honour of International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate some of literature’s most inspiring female characters.

8. Jo March, of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott:

Jo March: tom-boy, hot-tempered and geeky.  She loves Dickens and Shakespeare, holds out on the boys and isn’t afraid to speak her mind.  She is the epitome of being unladylike—she swears, burns her dress, cuts her hair and wants to fight in the Civil War.  And though she hates the idea of romance and marriage, I’m sure she can relate with many women our age.  All in all, she inspired many writers and readers.

7. Anne Shirley, of the Anne of Green Gables books by L.M. Montgomery:

What readers like most in Anne is her “heedless and impulsive” nature.  She was different than the boring and simple citizens of Avonlea as she was talkative and extremely imaginative.  Anne acted not only as Diana Barry’s friend, but as her role model as well.  Unfortunately, when Matthew passes away, she gives up her dreams of going away to teach to take care of Marilla and work at the local school house.  Her decision to give up a part of her dream undermines the greatness she could have accomplished as a school teacher, but her dedication and loyalty to family is just as important.

6. Jane Eyre, of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë:

Jane is one of the earliest representations if individuality, passion and complexity in a female character, she also manages to expose the sexism and classism of her time.  She suffers greatly as an orphaned and impoverished child and as an adult, but always manages to keep herself grounded.  Jane works hard throughout her whole life and falls in love with a man she cannot marry, the handsome Mr. Rochester.  Though he reciprocates her feelings, she knows they cannot be together because of their class difference.  However, Jane’s relationship with Mr. Rochester is the essence of true love, and that is what brings her back to him after she denies someone else’s loveless proposal, something that many women these days fail to ensure for themselves.

5. Hermione Granger, of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling:

Hermione Granger is intelligent and she fights alongside Harry and Ron throughout the series in the name of good.  Though she starts off as the annoying know-it-all of Hogwarts, she blossoms into an intelligent and beautiful girl who keeps the trio together.  Unfortunately, she isn’t the type to be the hero of her own story and essentially serves Harry as a crutch in times of trouble, however, her character is unfaltering in the face of evil and her dedication and intelligence keep herself and her friends alive time and time again.

4. The Wife of Bath, of the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer:

Originally written in as a one-dimensional and smaller character, Chaucer became enamored with his creation giving her a prologue much longer than her tale.  Though she is quit lewd, the dirty jokes make an argument for female dominance and a woman’s right to control her body.  The Wife of Bath uses rhetorical skill to underscore and attack the sexist traditions of the time.

3. Elizabeth Bennet, of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen:

Elizabeth Bennet is nothing like her sisters—she is not shallow or easily distracted by pretty ribbons and the boys of the visiting regiment, but rather prefers the company of her father and books.  You cannot help with side with this Miss Bennet as she explores the confines of gender and class in Victorian England, all the while falling in love with the handsomest gentleman in literature.

2. Scout Finch, of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee:

Scout Finch is one of the few literary girls encouraged to emote her rebellious spirit, which is quite interesting and controversial in terms of the bigoted society around her.  She lives in a world of hate towards class and race among other things, a world where school bores her despite her great interest in learning.  Scout, being her father’s daughter, sees the tragedy in Maycomb County, and like her father, she tries to do something about it.

1. Éowyn, of the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien:

A noblewoman and shieldmaiden itching to defend her countrymen, Éowyn disguises herself as a man in order to accompany her friends into battle.  This ultimately leads to the best showdown in Middle Earth against the Witch-king of Angmar when he says “No living man can kill me” to which she replies “But no living man am I! You look upon a woman” and proceeds to slay his butt to smithereens.  Éowyn is a true literary (and literally) a hero.

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