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Who is your favorite female lead character? And why? (And yes, of course, you can name more than one . . . I always have trouble narrowing down these things to one name, why should I force you to?)

Good question but difficult to answer, for I worship the style and language more than characters. Off the top of my head at this moment would be Vianne Rocher from Chocolat by Joanne Harris. While the priest pits himself against Vianne, who opens a chocolate shop in town, and contrives to thwart the festival planned for Easter Sunday, she has fulfilled a grandmother’s wish, encouraged an unhappy woman to start living for herself, consoled a man whose dog passed away, and welcomed a group of gypsies whom the town despise. The novel just pulls my heart-string with its brimming humanity and warmth.

On the same note but with more edge is Aliena from The Pillars of Earth by Ken Follett. The doomed heiress has proven to be one of the most noblest and admirable characters in literature. Living the life of an incessant revenge’s victim, she stood her ground but not without qualms. William whom she rejected to marry, had ruined her father, raped her, taken her castle, burned her wool trade and exiled her brother, but every time the villain thought he had crushed her she came back again, rising from defeat to new heights of power, wealth, and strength. She’s a true fighter.

Last but certainly not the least, inspired by my inner biased voice, is Anna from Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. She’s probably the one female character in any literature I’ve read that most resembles my scope of love. Don’t get me wrong, I do not have a tinge of an intention to kill myself, nor plan to exile myself from the society. I share the governing principle of her life–love is stronger than anything, even duty. She is powerfully committed to this principle. She rejects Karenin’s request that she stay with him simply to maintain outward appearances of an intact marriage and family. Anna’s greatest worry in the later stages of her relationship with Vronsky is that he no longer loves her but remains with her out of duty only. Her exile from civilized society in the later part of the novel is a symbolic rejection of all the social conventions we normally accept dutifully. She insists on following her heart alone.

6 Responses

  1. Anna Karenina is on my short list of favorite heroines, too, and the reasons you gave strike a chord in my heart, as well. I also love the heroines in Jane Austen’s novels whose hopes were eventually fulfilled. My two favorites in this group are: Elizabeth Bennet because of her liveliness of spirit and quick wit which I wish were possible in real life, and Anne Eliott because of her capacity for love and loyalty in the face of discouraging circumstances.

  2. Anna Karenina a favorite of mine for exactly the reasons you describe so beautifully.

  3. Aliena from Pillars . . . She most definitely was one of my favorite characters from Follett’s novel. I can see why she is one of your favorites. How could I forget her so easily?

    I was partial to Kitty, I admit, like many others I imagine. I think mostly that was because I could relate to Kitty more than I could to Anna in Tolstoy’s novel. Anna Karenina is a great character just the same and definitely one of literature’s finest.

  4. Greg S:
    Elizabeth Bennet and Anne Eliott are the popular among readers who participate in this meme. I think I’ll have to re-read Pride and Prejudice! 🙂

    Great minds think alike. 🙂

    Literary Feline:
    Finest but also the most poignant. I’ve got Ken Follett’s latest novel and am looking forward to reading it. 🙂

  5. I related to the main character in Sarah Waters’ Affinity. Victorian London was oppressive to women.

  6. Good call Jef. In fact one of the characters in my recent read, The Aerodynamics of Pork, a lesbian cop, reminds me of the paramedic in Sarah Waters’ The Night Watch. I have yet to read Affinity but have it somewhere on my shelf. 🙂

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