Literary heroines

I’ve got several ideas for posts that I’ve been thinking about, one being on reading Sense & Sensibility and The Cookbook Collector back to back (something I recommend as the latter is loosely inspired by the former) and another about all the Elizabeth Gaskell buzz that I’m starting to hear around the internet (and it’s music to my ears buzz!) I even read a bit of Gaskell criticism this evening, from one of the few books on her my public library carries. It was published in the 1980s, sigh. But more on those things later, hopefully.

Tonight I am sleepy and not up for serious literary focusing on serious classic things. So I’m presenting one of my fun side projects lately, writing up lists of my top tens of literary things.

So here’s the list of my top ten literary heroines.

1. Rosalind in Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Not only is Rosalind unafraid to romp around in boy’s clothes and act tough when it’s time to play runaway from the castle, the king my uncle hates me, she’s also funny and witty while sweetly in love, testing her lover through her disguise to see if he’s truly worthy of her. She teases him a lot, while also showing her true feelings privately. She’s strong, playful and passionate (and could be called the Elizabeth Bennet of Shakespeare). A lot of people say Much Ado About Nothing is their favourite Shakespeare romantic comedy with the feuding Beatrice and Benedick, but give me Rosalind (and Orlando, ok he’s slightly less memorable than her) any day.

2. Catherine Morland in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. I come up as Catherine when I take the ‘which Jane Austen character are you’ quiz, although I’m a more grown up mature Catherine now who’s been married to Mr. Tilney for a few years, promise! Catherine is naive, but has a good heart and a very overactive imagination, which is fed by a love of reading long past bedtime.

3. Gwen in Helen Humphrey’s The Lost Garden. I’ve reread this book about five times (I’ve only read Pride & Prejudice more often) because I could relate so intensely to Gwen’s story in WW2, where she feels deeply lonely on an English country estate with the Women’s Land Army, supposed to be growing potatoes and digging for victory, but really just longing for love and a deep and meaningful connection with someone, even a friendship. She feels awkward with the people around her and secretly names the other girls she works with after potatoes (she’s a horticulturalist). She often thinks about Virginia Woolf (who’s death has just been announced in the papers) and when she gets drunk, becomes overly sentimental about Wordsworth and daffodils. My kind of girl.

4. Cecily in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. I adore the imaginative courtship she invents for herself and Ernest in her diary and how, when she finally meets him, she soon tells him all about. She seems a sweet young girl, but she’s got a gleam in her eye that’s all comic imagination.

5. Dorothea Brooke, in George Eliot’s Middlemarch. Next to all these playful women, I also relate to Dorothea’s religious idealism, her desire to do something important and noble and good. I was that kind of girl too, like her I tried to sacrifice myself for my ideals, only to find a more balanced approach to life and love in the end, after a deep strain in trying to do everything I thought I ‘should’. Dorothea doesn’t have a lot of common sense at first (maybe that is a unifying theme in the characters I’ve chosen??), but she’s clever and she longs to know more, to make her mark. She transcends the typical marriage plot, towering over other 19th century heroines as her own person.

Okay, so I’m going to stop at my top five. I’m sleepy and require tea and toast. Also those paragraphs are already long and self revealing enough. And I can’t quite decide on the next five.