I love the month of March. It’s when spring begins, it’s Women’s History Month, International Women’s Day is the 8th, World Theatre Day is the 27th, and my birthday is the 12th. March is a fun month for me. As my birthday approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot about how the stories that we read when we’re young shape us into the people that we become as adults. With that in mind, I thought it would be a great idea to pay homage to some of the brilliant women in literature that have inspired me.
I’ve been an avid reader my entire life. Reading has always been one of my favorite things to do. I remember being a little kid and begging my mother to take me to the library or to Borders Bookstore (RIP Borders, I miss you) so that I could discover new stories and get lost in worlds that were not my own. I’ve always been a daydreamer and kind of had my head in the clouds (the Pisces energy is honestly very strong here) — even as a kid I wanted to travel and go to new places and meet new people. Reading was a way for me to do those things. I was able to go to all of these incredible places without having to leave my home. Reading has continued to broaden my horizons and provide a safe place to escape when things get hard.
There are literally hundreds of characters that I could’ve put on this list, so narrowing it down was difficult. In the end, I decided to go with characters that really inspired me as a child and teenager, and I think they had the biggest impact on who I am now.
Susan Pevensie (The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis)
When I think of the books of my childhood, the first series I think of is The Chronicles of Narnia. I remember reading it and being instantly captivated by the magical world that the Pevensie family found themselves in, I was also incredibly sad when I went to my own closet and there was no magical door at the back of it. Although I’m the youngest in my family and probably related to Lucy more than Susan, I found myself drawn to Susan right away. In fact, I think Susan was a lot of the things that I wanted to be. She was smart and kind, caring and loving, but also incredibly fierce and strong. I think all of those qualities are important to have, and as a young girl, Susan was a character who taught me that I could be all of those things.
Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Elizabeth Bennet is one of the greatest literary characters of all time. Wait, is that not the quote? Oh, well, it might as well be because it’s true. I absolutely love Jane Austen, and while I love many of her characters, I’ve always felt so drawn to Elizabeth Bennet. I’ve always admired her for her independence, loyalty, wit, and headstrong nature. She also low-key roasts people all the time and it makes me love her even more. Elizabeth Bennet is a comfort character for me, and every time I read Pride and Prejudice or watch one of the film adaptations of it, I find myself feeling just as inspired by her as I was the first time I met her.
Jo March & Amy March (Little Women by Louisa May Alcott)
There’s this weird misconception that if you like Jo then you hate Amy, and I am here to tell you that it is wrong! I love both Jo and Amy and have never understood that hate that Amy gets, though that is another discussion for another time. Jo and Amy, in my opinion, are two sides of the same coin. In fact, that’s part of why they butt heads so much, they’re so similar but they go about things differently. Both Amy and Jo, in my opinion, are some of the greatest female literary characters of all time.
Little Women is such an important story for me. I’ve always wanted to be a member of the March family, and I’ve found so much comfort in their story (the 2019 film is 100% my comfort film and I watch it all the time). The March sisters always made me feel seen and known and for me, they’re more like friends than characters. When I was a little kid, Jo March was absolutely someone that I looked up to. I wanted to be Jo, in fact, I think I still want to be Jo. I also saw much of myself in Amy. “I want to be great or nothing” is like a sucker punch to the gut because I FEEL THAT. They both taught me that I should always be unapologetically myself and to not settle for anything less than I deserve.
Cosette and Eponine (Les Misérables by Victor Hugo)
I could honestly write essays and multiple blog posts about the characterization in Les Misérables and maybe one day I will (eyes emoji here) so I’ll try to keep this brief. Cosette and Eponine, while very different characters are two of my favorite female literary characters.
In my opinion, Cosette is one of the most unfairly treated characters in literature and musical theatre. Cosette is usually seen as the epitome of femininity, while I do understand that and would say that I also associate her with the traditional ideas of femininity, I think she’s actually the epitome of strength. She was forced to live with strangers as a child (poor Fantine, she tried so hard, I love her so much), was abandoned by her father, and abused by her foster family. It would’ve been so easy for her to grow up to be mean and hateful and bitter, and yet she is gentle and kind and loving. It is easy to choose anger, and resentment, especially after going through what she went through. Instead, she shows others kindness and still sees the good in the world. That takes true strength, and I find that completely admirable and inspirational.
And then there’s Eponine. When I think of tragic characters, Eponine is one of the first characters that come to mind. She’s not a particularly good person, in fact, she describes herself as the devil at one point. She was surrounded by darkness, anger, resentment, and selfishness her entire life and those things definitely influenced the person that she became. She learned early on from her parents that in order to survive you need to be ruthless. While she definitely can be ruthless, cunning, and manipulative, she is also loyal, and self-sacrificing. Eponine is also able to find hope amidst the dark life that she lives, and I think that her being able to find any sort of positive thing in her life is a testament to her resiliency. That little shred of hope that she has is what drives her throughout the novel and what causes her to ultimately lose her life. While her story ends tragically, I think that Eponine is a reminder to us all that even in the darkest times we need to find hope and hold onto that.
Who are some literary heroines that you look up to? Let me know in the comments!