1) Mary Lennox – The Secret Garden
Now in all my life, I have never come across a character who’s personality and personal growth has been almost exactly similar to mine. From the start, Mary Lennox was moody, unsociable, selfish, someeeewhat mean and extremely strong-willed. F.H.Burnett does a great job explaining how Mary was a product of her environment, her parents neglected her and left her in the hands of her Ayah (well – a string of Ayah’s) who she developed no sense of attachment and warmth for. However, once she arrives in England, settles down and discovers the garden, she also discovers the garden inside her that needs considerable tending to – with a little bit of help from Martha and Dickon Sowerby. One of the many things I love about Mary Lennox is her spirit and her ability to use her own initiative to look after herself and never take things lying down. She also develops a certain maturity that allows her to understand the emotions and feelings of others but she also knows how to lay it down and be downright honest when she needs to be. The only ones who are praiseworthy are the ones who can bear the blows of the hammer and emerge stronger as a result of it and Mary Lennox certainly belongs to that class.
2) Jane Eyre
Now where do I begin with this absolutely wonderful woman? Jane Eyre like Mary Lennox experiences a tumultuous childhood but emerges stronger (again, like Mary) with a little bit of help from her warm-hearted friend Helen. Jane faces challenges against her moral and spiritual sensibilities at Thornfield Hall, to a casual observer she would come across as a meek and dutiful governess but she stands her ground when Rochester aggravates her and faces him as an equal. Not only that, she refuses St. John’s proposal and challenges the idea of getting married without love and and the impropriety of accompanying St. John to India to aid him in his missionary work. Jane Eyre is a true role model who illustrates that you do not need to be beautiful and charming to be awesome, all you need is your independence, strength of will and confidence in yourself. You are more than the way you look and your social and economic status, you are also a complete person.
Now Jo is a character who is a more universally relatable character. She’s feisty, strong-willed, creative and introspective. She’s prone to reacting harshly i.e. when Amy burns Jo’s manuscript (which, incidentally, is harsh in itself!) and as a result, nearly gets Amy killed; she also fails to realise the importance of strengthening her relations with her great-aunt which costs her a trip to Europe and she also completes a series of blunders in New York by dedicating her writing skills to sensational stories until Professor Bhaer points out that she is wasting her talent. Moreover, she is socially awkward and quite a tomboy. However, these faults only serve to make her a very REALISTIC and endearing character because as readers, most of us can identify with her (I’m guessing!). We learn with her as she grows. She also displays considerable understanding of her own emotions when she refuses Laurie’s proposal (#TeamJoAndBhaer all the way) as she realised they’re both too emotionally … difficult to be able to work together. Love is a subjective concept and to my understanding it’s a feeling of warmth (but you also have to consult your reason if you’re considering a relationship/marriage!) and with Jo and Professor Bhaer that feeling certainly came across. Anyway, at the end of the book, Jo is running a boarding house for boys with her husband (Bhaer) and you can’t help but feel proud of her journey! I’m sure there are many Jo March’s out there sympathizing.
“Anyone as selfish and determined as you is never helpless.” Going after an innocent woman’s husband aside, Scarlett O’Hara is the epitome of determination and entrepreneurial spirit. While many may question her morals, she saved Tara and her family from being cast out of their home, she gave them food, shelter and comfort (and other luxuries not to mention!). I personally don’t feel bad for Suellen, let’s face it, if she married Frank she would have said adios amigos and got the hell out of there! You have to admire a resourceful woman who can create and visualise a dress from a freaking curtain and then use her beauty and charm as a weapon to lure away her sister’s fiance. I’ll admit there are other weapons to use but those were the best weapons at her disposal and boy did Scarlett make the most of it. I’m so glad that Scarlett finally understood Melanie’s worth even if it came at the latest stage possible because it did not seem like it would ever dawn on her at all, I think it was at that moment that Scarlett understood and respected other attitudes to life other than her own that are equally valid. Shame about Rhett Butler though, he was awesome.
5) Arya Stark and Sansa Stark – Game of Thrones
Now I want to do a side-by-side comparison of these two characters, it is possible to admire both of them despite these characters having personalities that are on the opposite spectrum of each other! Now I understand and relate to Arya, she doesn’t take any s***, she fights, she’s a tomboy, she’s not in the least bit charming (except to those who find honesty charming) or girly. Sansa on the other hand is a laaady, she’s gentle, charming, soft and romantic. Both these characters have their core values challenged but both rise to the challenge (yes, that includes Sansa too!). Let’s begin with Arya, she is separated from her family and off to God knows where (after losing Yoren), just learning how to survive.. and kill (of course). She befriends Gendry and Hot Pie, learns how to kill from the Hound and is now under the tutelage of Jaqen H’Ghar training to become a Faceless Man and delivers swift justice to that perv Meryn Trant. Not bad for a little girl! Now Sansa, on the other hand, is criticized for being soft and not taking control of her life. I think the context has to be considered here because I find that most compare her to Margaery. Margaery came with the power of Highgarden, the Tyrell army, Loras Tyrell and with ample tutelage from Olenna Tyrell, she was OBVIOUSLY going to be much better prepared in dealing with Joffrey. Sansa grew up in Winterfell which, let’s face it, is the ONLY NORMAL PLACE in the whole of Westeros with the example of her parents set before her. Moreover, when she arrived at King’s Landing, while Arya was being given ‘dancing’ lessons, Ned Stark hid his true feelings about the Lannisters from Sansa so naturally she had no clue what was going on. The only criticism I have against her is when she lied about Arya and as a result lost Lady. Unlike Ned, she learned quickly from her mistakes. When she watched her father lose his head, it was her first true lesson and she adapted quickly. She learnt to keep her mouth shut and comply with the Lannister’s requests but whilst staying true to herself which shows she has both brain and heart. Let’s not forget that Sansa was also urging Joffrey to enter the battle where it’s thickest because he’s brave unlike her traitor brother Robb. I would really love to see Sansa and Arya come out alive at the end with Arya becoming a mini-Brienne and Sansa becoming the queen in the North.
6) Ginny Weasley – Harry Potter Series
Now I know most love Hermione Granger, I love her too, she is an excellent role-model but realistically speaking as much as I respect her campaign for Elfish rights I can imagine that she might be a bit too in my face about it (if the character existed). Realistically, I can imagine getting along with Ginny Weasley. She’s sporty, she’s fun, confident, laid-back, funny, kind, brave and cut-throat honest. She’s basically a super, super cool girl with an endless list of amazing attributes. She’s not afraid to speak her mind but she knows how to take it easy as well whereas I feel like Hermione can be a little scared of being completely honest sometimes. I remember in the book when Luna was getting teased and Ginny stood up to the bullies, when Harry was being a bit of a little bitch (I still love Harry) and Ginny told him to calm his pants and when Ron threw a tantrum when he saw her kissing Dean and she absolutely slaughtered him and I just couldn’t help but admire this fiesty, bold woman. Ginny Weasley is a firecracker, kissed by fire fo’ sho’.
7) Katniss Everdeen – Hunger Games Trilogy
Last but not least – the Girl On Fire. Katniss Everdeen is the ultimate guardian, she would probably be the dad friend in your group of friends. She is mature, responsible, resourceful and minds her own damn business. When her mother broke down after her father’s death, she took the responsibility to provide for her family. She volunteers in her sister’s place (not saying anyone wouldn’t!) and not gonna lie that scene was totes emosh. Moreover, she befriends the elderly and children and sees the worth in Peeta when he can’t see it in himself which shows her compassionate nature. She is also extremely practical, she understands in the first book that she has to be cautious with her words and actions and like our dear Sansa keeps her true feelings to herself until it becomes safe enough to do so in the final book. Katniss basically gets s*** done without making a fuss about it and that’s why she’s one of the top female characters in literature.