LEADING LADIES IN LITERATURE

LEADING LADIES IN LITERATURE

By Kelly Hayden

Strong women are in. As we gear up to soak up some summer sun with a good book, there’s a good chance the pages will be filled with a fierce female protagonist. Women have taken a lead role in fiction over the past few years, taking on larger roles other than just the love interest, mother, or daughter.

Modern authors are featuring women who use strength and wit to conquer fears, villains, and corruption. Katniss in Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy is one of the most popular butt-kicking heroines in modern literature—so much so that Collins’s novels were adapted for the silver screen. Veronica Roth’s heroine Tris from the Divergent series is rising in popularity as well, and the film adaptation hit theaters in March to much success.

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Both Collins and Roth write strong female characters who fight against the government to save their families and loved ones from a sinister dystopia.  These characters’ intelligence, strength, and confidence make them role models for the girls who read these young adult novels. They are only two of the many women filling pages of best-selling novels promoting strong women.

A female lead topping bestseller lists this summer is Kate Atkinson’s Ursual Todd from Life After Life. Ursula bounces through time living one life after the other in search of a purpose. She works through her role in her life and the lives around her as she sees how her actions affect others. Ursula takes on a role of protecting others and stretching her role as a woman in the early 20th century.

Cheryl Strayed also wrote a positive women role model in her moving memoir Wild. Cheryl sets out to find herself on the Pacific Crest Trail and goes through emotional and physical challenge leading to her learning of love and life.

I cannot speak about heroines without discussing one of the most popular and beloved women to grace the pages and silvers screens across the world. J.K. Rowling has given us one of the largest female characters in the past decades in Hermione Granger. She plays a role of the intelligent and fearless female to accompany title character Harry Potter and pal turned love interest Ron Weasley. Hermione plays a large role in the heroic conclusions of the books. Rowling shows how valuable cleverness is in the character and gives her some nerve as well. As the female of the main trio, it is refreshing she is not focused on for being dainty or feminine. Rather, she is always in step with the boys, or more likely, a step ahead.

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Confident women in literature, though scarce in the past, are not new. One of the most popular is Elizabeth Bennett from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The outspoken and sassy lead has been charming readers for centuries. Popular protagonist Nancy Drew has been inspiring girls and promoting the power of intelligence for decades. These women have impacted literature over the years, but there has never been a movement for overwhelming female leads; multidimensional female leads in literature are instead sporadic occurrences. It is my hope that this new period of female-centric novels is not a fleeting fad like its predecessors, but rather a revelation—a revelation to correct the lack of women in novels.

As summer rolls in, look to one of these women heating up the bestseller lists for a fun read and a little bit of female empowerment. Spend your summer with some of these fierce ladies, and hope that female role models in literature are here to stay.

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