I'm not big on the whole "National (Whatever) Day" thing considering every day is a National Something Day. I wonder if there's a National Walk Your Dog Day. But I did see one article that made me think, and truly appreciate women in this culture that seems to be regressing back to the idea of women as property. (That's an aside that's neither here nor there, just thought I'd throw it out there.)
This article on Flavorwire lists 10 kick-ass female literary characters, some of which I agree with, and some of which are arguable. I disagree with Hester Prynne, only because I really hated that book. She may have come out with her head held high, but I never really read her as a strong woman. I also admired Jane Eyre, but didn't particularly enjoy her as a character. Considering she falls for a man who lacks any real redeeming qualities, it bothers me that the book garnered so much critical attention. Granted, it was very daring for its day, but meh. I preferred Wuthering Heights.
So let's see, who would I count among my top 10 kick-ass strong literary women? Let me ponder this.
1. Fanny Price, of Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.
Why: Fanny is, in my opinion, Austen's "new" model of the True Woman. In an era when women were married off for money or family alliances, had no say in their own lives, and were expected to be meek and submissive, Fanny shines as an example of having a will and mind of her own while remaining true to herself and faithful to her family. She refuses to get in the way of her cousin's happiness even though his happiness would cause her grief, and she also refuses the hand of a man she knows to be a rake despite the knowledge that she disappoints her uncle. I admire her strength, standing fast until her knowledge of her suitor is exposed, and it is fitting that she then gets what she truly wants: she gets to marry her love.
2 & 3. Hope Leslie and Magawisca, of Hope Leslie by Catharine Maria Sedgwick
Why: Well, Goodreads' summary of the book says it best. At the center of the novel are two friends whose actions and attitudes illustrate female strengths and values. Hope Leslie, a spirited thinker in a repressive Puritan society, fights for justice for the Indians and asserts the equality of the sexes by defying the patriarchs and choosing her own husband. Magawisca, the daughter of a Pequot chief, braves her father's wrath to save a white man and risks her freedom to reunite Hope with her sister, who as a child was captured by the Pequots and has chosen to remain with them. Sorry I didn't write it, but I really liked the way they put this. These two characters stand up for what they believe in during a time when it was dangerous for women to speak out, especially for Native American women.
4. Isabella Linwood, of The Linwoods by Catharine Maria Sedgwick
Why: CMS makes a second appearance on my list because of her penchant for writing strong female characters. Her literature was based around a reformation of the True Woman, her stories about strong women replacing the old True Woman. Isabella is one of my favorite female characters because of her strength in defying her father, a Tory, and defending her brother, a Rebel. She puts herself in mortal danger through her political activity, and for that she replaces her weak-minded friend Bessie as the new True Woman. Also, I love this book so much because of how subversive it was in its commentary about women and society.
5. Sophie, of Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Why: Sophie is one of the most powerful female characters in literature simply because she keeps going on, driving the story and her own life. She is turned into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste and yet she goes on a journey to get her own body back. She saves her love, and she saves others who have fallen under the power of the Witch. She is a character toward whom other characters gravitate. She has attitude and spunk and she gets her sh*t done! Also, in sequels to the novel, she does a great job at keeping her family safe and rescuing them from harm. Gotta love Sophie, she is one kick-ass chick!
6. Jill, of The Deverry Cycle by Katharine Kerr
Why: Jill, through all of her incarnations in this epic fantasy series, always manages to show her inner strength. She finally comes to terms with who she is (a powerful Dweomermaster) and devotes her life to the Dweomer, giving up the man she loves and the life she used to lead to become someone dangerous. She is a character I have admired for a long time, and have always felt her strength as an inspiration to myself.
7. Guiwenneth, of The Mythago Wood Cycle by Robert Holdstock
Why: Guiwenneth, and her forms that appear throughout the cycle, is a warrior woman who is so attractive to the men in the books that they follow her into Ryhope Wood, getting lost in its interior world and living through some of her myths. I've always admired her ability to take care of herself, remaining strong in the face of death and fear, and protecting those she loves from danger. Even though she is herself a Mythago, she is one of the most substantial Mythagos created from the wood and reappears in very significant ways. I appreciate her as a strong and kick-ass woman.
8. Antigone, of Antigone by Sophocles
Why: Antigone is possibly one of the earliest strong female characters because of her challenge of politics and morality in ancient Greece. This play is required reading in many schools, especially the ones I went to, and hats off to those schools! If young girls pick up on even a portion of her determination, it's a good thing. Her fight to bury her brothers properly, and defiance of the king of Thebes, lands her a death sentence. Instead of fighting it, running away, weeping or falling apart, she faces her fate and dies with dignity and power. Her death shows how important her fight was.
For my last two, I'm going to agree with the article I linked.
9. Lisbeth Salander, of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
10. Katniss Everdeen, of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Who would you put in your top 10?