I thought this T5W topic would be easy. I’ve always identified strongly with fictional characters, and over the years I’ve allied myself with almost every gutsy heroine whoever butt-kicked her way through a novel. But upon considering the subtleties of this week’s challenge, I realized that few of those characters are comprehensively similar to me. Katniss Everdeen reflects my aggressiveness, but she doesn’t have much sense of humor. Eowyn of Rohan shares my restless nature, but she’s melancholy where I’m spunky. Come on, I can’t be that weird! Where my fictional ENTP ladies at? Seriously, can we write some more? (I considered male characters, too, but none exhibited my alchemical blend of cold logic and volcanic attitude.)
So, in typically analytical form, I established selection criteria. Characters had to embody five hallmark aspects of my personality: cleverness, candor, feistiness, verve, and defiance of traditional female gender expectations. It’s a rarer combination than I expected (If you know of any other books with characters that meet this description, please let me know in the comments; I’d love to read them)! Still, this small sorority has some truly badass members.
Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice)
“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”
About three years ago, a “Which Jane Austen Heroine Are You?” quiz identified me as Miss Bennett by an overwhelming margin. Internet personality tests are usually as accurate as a Magic-8 ball, but I think this one nailed the assessment. Both Lizzy and I are witty and ebullient. We may not be the most beautiful girls in the room, but our personalities sparkle more brightly than Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s jewels.
Our winning extroversion allows us to indulge ourselves as parlor anthropologists, observing and analyzing the absurd behavior of others. We share this study, and a special intellectual bond, with our book-loving fathers. Dad enables our non-conformity to feminine cultural expectations, perhaps because he has no sons of his own. He’s one of the “few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well.”
There’s one other person on that shortlist. Who’d believe it’s aloof, laconic hero brooding in the corner? But vivacity and solemnity make an excellent match. Last summer I finally got my Laddie to watch the five-hour miniseries of Pride and Prejudice. Halfway through he commented “I don’t know why everyone is so down on Mr. Darcy. I think he’s pretty awesome.” I cracked up laughing. “That’s because he’s you!” Leave it to a story nerd like me to mirror, unintentionally, one of literature’s greatest romances.
Zarine ni Bashere t’Aybara (The Wheel of TIme Series)
“I’ll not have you bleeding to death on me. That would be just like you, to die and leave me the work of burying you. You have no consideration.”
Fantasy isn’t my preferred genre, but this series includes some of the most incredibly complex, strong, and believable female characters I’ve ever encountered. One of them is fiery Zarine, who adopts the nickname “Faile”, or falcon. We’re both adventurous, spirited, and slightly crazy by most people’s estimation. Blades are our preferred weapon class: she fights with knives and I was a champion fencer in college. Even our physical descriptions align: tall and slim with aquiline noses. (Can we please have more heroines with big, bold noses to match our big, bold personalities? I get tired of reading about all these girls with small, straight schnozes.)
But resemblance goes deeper the skeletal structure. We’re both prone to jealously, impulsiveness, and a touch of Machiavellianism. Although fiercely devoted to our husbands (both inherently quiet men who sometimes find our passion bewildering) but don’t hesitate to call him out or pursue our objectives alone when necessary. “Falcon” is an apt alias for us: swift, sharp predators who strike before you know what hit you.
Hermione Granger (The Harry Potter series)
“The truth is that you don’t think a girl would have been clever enough!”
Who is that girl in the front row, her hand rocketing into the air every time the teacher asks a question? She shatters grade curves, hauls way too many books around with her, and has nightmares about failing a class. It’s…me, in university? Like Hermione, I loved school and obsessed over getting top marks. I started attending college at age 15, a dually enrolled high school student, and on my very first exam scored the highest grade in class. The “brightest witch of her age”? Perhaps. I always strove for perfection. To this day, it irritates me that one professor gave me an A- and ruined my virgin GPA. I’ll wear that the scarlet number 3.98 on my heart forever.
While many girls conceal their brains for fear of losing appeal among boys (sadly, this pernicious habit carries from the classroom into the boardroom; I’ve seen it in professional circles as well) Hermione and I proudly share our knowledge and devour more at every opportunity. Some people admire our cleverness, some people resent it. The haters can label us however they like–bossy, overachiever, “insufferable know-it-all”– but it’s not our problem, and we don’t apologize for making everyone else look like the slackers they are. People who oppose us quickly learn there’s a temper under our scholarly facade. With the cleverness to back up our arguments, debates often escalate into “blazing rows”.
Sometimes we take on too much and turn into anxious stress monsters. We tend towards over-reliance on facts, so when our formidable research skills don’t reveal a firm answer to a question, we get agitated. Trusting our hearts rather than our heads doesn’t come easily to us. Luckily, we’re brave Gryffindors. We don’t shy away from adventure or challenges. But what tries our courage most is to admit fallibility and say “I don’t know”.
Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing)
“He that is less than man, I am not for him.”
“Truly, lady, you have a merry heart,” people tell us. By my troth, so we do! It matches our wicked sense of humor and bantering tongue. Suitors may prefersweet and docile girls like Cousin Hero, but we speak our minds, heedless of interrupting conversation. Our scathing retorts delight the company. Clever and sarcastic, we like to get the last word (and usually do). Occasionally our jokes reveal private bitterness–careless men have burned us once or twice before–but opening ourselves to love with someone who embraces our liveliness brings out the warmth in our fiery spirit.
“What do you think? Am I everything you feared?”
No, it’s not (just) a shameless plug for my upcoming book. I couldn’t think of many existing characters that met my criteria, but my heroines always contain a bit of their creator. Amaya of Blue Karma drew from teenaged me, all anger and lofty vocabulary words. Skye, although younger in age, reflects more of my adult mindset.
We’re inventors–of ideas as well as material things–but we prefer conceptualization to execution, lacking follow-through. If you hear us talking to ourselves, it’s not because we’re loony. We just have more ideas than our heads can hold, and we’re exploring them aloud. And yeah, sometimes we just want someone to talk to. We hate being alone.
Life is a big, complex game to us, and we’re forever at work on the winning strategy. Empathy is not our strong suit: we have an unfortunate habit of viewing people as subjects and sometimes bait them to see how they react. Despite this rather clinical approach, we find humor in almost every situation and share our jokes to lighten the mood. Not everyone gets them. Not everyone gets us, at least not right away. It takes a little stamina to get to know us, but once you do, you’ll never be bored again. But judge that for yourself when you meet Skye this summer in the first installment of Syzygy