Saturday, June 20, 2009

My top 15 literary heroines

Finally, my long-promised follow-up to my "Top 10 Heroes" post - only this time it's 15, not 10. My list of heroines seemed to balloon to 15 before I knew it, and could easily have extended to 20.



#1: Fanny Price from Jane Austen's Mansfield Park

I can identify more keenly with Fanny than any other Austen heroine. In fact, we're so alike, that when I was reading Mansfield Park I could easily imagine that I was Fanny, if that makes any sense. I'm never going to be an Elizabeth Bennet - I'm far too shy and stupid - but I've always felt a special kinship with Fanny. Sorry, I know that sounds cheesy, but I can't describe it any other way! Unfortunately, there hasn't yet been a really good on-screen Fanny. At least Sylvestra La Touzel's Fanny bears some resemblance to the Fanny of the book, which is more than can be said for Frances O'Connor's or Billie Piper's performances. 

#2: Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

Arguably one of literature's most delightful heroines. Intelligent, witty, and very pretty. . . Lizzy would make a wonderful friend. She isn't perfect, but her humanity only adds to her charm. (Ugh! Why does that last sentence sound so trite and prosy?) Keira Knightley isn't necessarily my favourite Lizzy, but in my opinion she looks more like Elizabeth than any of the other on-screen Lizzies, which is why she's in the photo here.

#3: Anne Shirley from L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series 

You could say that Anne is the Montgomery equivalent of Austen's Elizabeth Bennet. I've read many, many, L.M. Montgomery books, and I love all of her heroines, but I think it's safe to say that Anne is Montgomery's most perenially popular young heroine. Red-headed Anne is romantic, sweet, hot-tempered, and has an almost limitless imagination. A true "kindred spirit". 

#4: Anne Elliot from Jane Austen's Persuasion

The heroine of my favourite Jane Austen novel - Persuasion. Anne Elliot is Austen's most mature heroine - at the ripe old age of 27, she is 6 years older than any of Austen's other heroines. Anne's personality and appearance is very much in line with the tone of the novel Persuasion - subtle, understated, but with an enduring inner beauty that blooms as the story develops.

#5: Molly Gibson from Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters

Dear, sweet Molly Gibson! How could anyone not love her? :-) Molly is a beautiful person inside and out. She also has a mind of her own, and is never afraid to voice her opinions. Fortunately for him, Roger Hamley came to his senses and realised what an amazing person she was/is before it was too late.

#6: Elinor Dashwood from Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility

One of the nicest big sisters in literature. Sensible, level-headed and caring, Elinor would be a wonderful sister or friend. I can identify with Elinor on a number of levels - particularly her protective, big-sisterly instincts towards Marianne. I often feel exactly the same way about my own little sisters. Emma Thompson's performance as Elinor is, I feel, the strongest - but Hattie Morahan looks more like Elinor.

#7: Marianne Dashwood from Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility

Both of the two elder Dashwood sisters are here. It was impossible for me to separate them on this list. They pretty much tie for no. 6. I thought that Kate Winslet captured fairly well the sweetness and free-spiritedness of Marianne's character.

#8: Margaret Hale from Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South

One of the strongest, most memorable heroines of Victorian literature. Margaret isn't afraid of flaying Victorian conventions. After leaving her home in South of England, Margaret ends up befriending millworkers in 1850s Manchester, and frequently clashing with mill owner Mr. Thornton. Daniela Denby-Ashe was pretty good as Margaret, though it is the Margaret Hale of Elizabeth Gaskell's book that will forever endure in my imagination.

#9: Amy Dorrit from Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit

The heroine of Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit. Claire Foy's luminous performance as Amy Dorrit in the BBC's recent adaptation was wonderful. Her scenes with Matthew MacFadyen (Mr. Darcy in P&P 2005) were excellent. Technically I probably shouldn't include Amy here, because I haven't read Little Dorrit - I've only seen the tv series. Still, if the Amy of the book is anything like the Amy of the series, she deserves to be on this list.

#10: Edith Adelon from Louisa May Alcott's The Inheritance

As is sometimes the case with Alcott, Edith does come across as a little bit too perfect in the book, but Cari Shayne's Edith in the 1997 adaptation is very sweet and very likeable.

#11: Catherine Morland from Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey

The young, naive, and somewhat gullible heroine of Jane Austen's charming Northanger Abbey. It's difficult not to like Catherine, even though she may not be the wisest, most mature Austen heroine.

#12: Lucy Pevensie from C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia series

Lucy's innocent, childlike faith and wonder is one of the most inspiring elements of the Chronicles of Narnia series. Georgie Henley was only 8 years old when the first Narnia movie was filmed, but she did an awesome job, stealing the show as little Lucy Pevensie.

#13: Josephine March from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women series

The heroine of Louisa May Alcott's semi-autobiographical novel - bookworm, tomboy, and author, Jo. Strictly speaking, Jo is one of four heroines from Little Women - but she is the most human of the four March sisters, and the character with whom the reader usually identifies the most.

#14: Eowyn from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings

One of the very few major female characters in The Lord of the Rings. Eowyn's spirit and courage was one of my favourite aspects of LOTR when I first read the books. And I adored the romance between Eowyn and Faramir. :-) Miranda Otto's Eowyn isn't quite how I imagined Eowyn to be, but it was still a strong performance.

#15: Jane Eyre from Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre

I feel bad about having Jane Eyre way down at no. 15! Just bear in mind that this list isn't necessarily in any particular order - Jane is last, but not least! Jane Eyre is a passionate, yet outwardly restrained young woman. The book Jane Eyre is an amazing read - the story of a friendless orphan's search for love, family, and fulfillment. Zelah Clarke's (Jane Eyre 1983) and Ruth Wilson's (JE 2006) portrayals of Jane were both very good.

Current Mood: Busy


Barbara said...

My favourite literary herione is definitely Anne Elliot. She has always been underestimated and looked down upon by her family, but still she was never looking for "paying it back" to them.

Alexandra said...

Love your list! I am going to have to get mine up sometime this week. ;-)

BTW, I just watched North and South! Oh. My. Goodness. I LOVED it!!! And John Thorton...siiiigh. He is my new favorite costume drama hero!!! Thanks for the recommendation! ;-)

LadyBug-Laurie said...

What a wonderful list and 15 of them too! You express each character's beauties very well and in a way that echoes my own thoughts about them.
Finally someone who admires Fanny Price as much as I do! Too many people misunderstand her I think. We definitely do need another adaptation, I'm so tired of these adaptations that want to make Fanny into something she isn't. She's not Lizzie Bennet and that's alright! :)
A good selection of Alcott heroines, that's very nice to see. I had quite forgotten Edith Adelon, she is lovely.
I too love the romance between Eowyn and Faramir much more than Arwen and Aragorn's story (which doesn't feature that much in the books).
Thanks for your list, love it! :)

Miss Jen said...

Loved this post, Elise!!!
I'll come back and give
you a list of my favorite heroines!

Love & Hugs~ Jen

Naomi K said...

I've been waiting for this post ever since your "heros" one - some of my favorites too!

Theresa said...

Awesome! I only managed nine, and you got fifteen!

Aurora said...

This is such a neat idea! I loved to read your list and feel I shall have to make my own later.

The Editrix said...

Alexandra - yay!! I'm glad you liked N&S. Then again, how could anyone not like it? ;-)

Laurie - I'm just as glad as you are to have found a fellow fan of Fanny Price! I loved the Eowyn/Faramir romance much more than the Aragorn/Arwen one, too. I was disappointed when they didn't include much of it in the movies.

Thankyou everyone for commenting! I enjoyed reading your comments. :-D

caroline said...

I must have very similar taste to you. I have read and enjoyed all of these. I read the inheritance last night for the first time and the whole way through it really reminded me of Mansfield Park - so I'm not suprised you like Fanny and Edith.

I would have to include Polly Milton from an Old Fashioned Girl in my top heroine list and Dorothea Brooke from Middlemarch. Oh and maybe George from the Famous Five - she is so strong, determined and flawed.

beast'sbelle said...

Wonderful post, Elise!! This makes me want to read the books all over again.

Wouldn't it be nice if they made a new adaptation of Mansfield Park that truly captured Fanny's personality from the book? Billie Piper's interpretation was at least a little better than Frances O'Conner's (I actually haven't watched all of the latter's performance...too much trash in that version). But she's so much better in the book!!