Immediately, I wanted to join in this discussion. This is actually a tough one for me, which bothers me on a number of levels. I confess that most of my favorite literary figures are men and written by men. The feminist in me balks at this, so I decided I needed to take the challenge and gather up my favorite fictional females.
OK, starting in reverse order with Number 10...
10. Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games
Katniss probably shows up in a large percentage of the blog hops for this one, so it's incredibly cliche for me to include her as well. However, I really do like her as a character so I'm jumping on the bandwagon. I love that she's stubborn, independent, focused, and a major badass. Plus, I like that she doesn't moon over the love triangle or over-analyze those relationships. She's a great example for the YA readers.
9. Meg Murry in The Wrinkle in Time Series
Yet another YA choice, I decided to add Meg to my list. She was definitely a literary hero to me back when I read these books. She's smart, bookish, and awkward and yet manages to cross time continuums, save her family, and fall in love. As a smart, bookish, awkward girl reading this, it was inspiring to me.
8. Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird
Who doesn't love Scout? She's curious and sweet, a little tomboy who loves her big brother. She doesn't always understand what's happening, but she has a good heart and absorbs a lot of it. We sort of get to experience her growing up, and there's an endearing juxtaposition of maturity and naiveté.
7. Francie Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
I haven't written a review of this one yet, though I will do so soon. It actually reminds me of To Kill a Mockingbird, for we follow a young girl's perspective. But there is a lot more character development with Francie, and the story covers years of her life.
6. Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's
First, I want to emphasize that I am referring to the Pulitzer Prize winning novella, not the movie. Having said that, I also want to say that the movie is remarkably faithful to the original story and tells it beautifully. Holly is so easy to love, for characters, readers, and movie-watchers. She is quick-witted and flighty, and we see just a hint of the hurt and vulnerability underneath. If you haven't read the novella yet, you really should.
5. Mariam in A Thousand Splendid Suns
I chose Mariam as my literary hero, but Laila is also worthy of being mentioned. This book is remarkable for its relationship between two women who face intense suffering. They are both married to the same abusive man, but it creates no jealous or bitterness between them. Instead, they draw strength from one another, and their story is absolutely inspirational.
4. Mina Murray in Dracula
I doubt many people would pick her out of this story, but I loved her. Mina really was a badass, particularly considering the era in which this was written - 1897. Unlike Lucy, she is not the damsel in distress of the story. She is actively involved in chasing Dracula, offering intelligent and brave participation. She's like a 100-year precursor to Buffy.
3. Ethne Eustace in The Four Feathers
I feel like I've always lauded Ethne as one of my absolute favorite literary heroines. I adore this book, and Ethne is a big part of the reason. Although she acted rashly and pridefully at the beginning, she spends the rest of the novel in pursuit of redeeming herself. She has extremely high standards for herself, but doesn't act like a martyr for it. I think you have to read it to understand what I mean.
2. Isabel Archer in The Portrait of a Lady
I love Isabel! She is admired for being intelligent, independent, and adventurous. She is always hungry to learn and listens carefully to other people's perspectives. Rather than following the path of her sisters, she strikes out on her own and embraces the uncertainty. Even when her life takes an unexpected turn, she holds her head high and works through it. I could read this book over and over again.
And the winner is...
1. Wife of Bath in The Canterbury Tales
I couldn't resist listing her as my favorite. Keep in mind that this was written in the 14th century! The Wife of Bath gets more attention than just about any other character. She comments on other people's tales throughout the collection, but her own is one of the most memorable. She's not bashful about her sexuality or her sense of humor. I'm sure there are a number of feminist objections one can make, but I still like her and think she's pretty awesome.