Female Characters Signifying Change
Female Characters Signifying Change
Literature has been a popular outlet over many years for women to speak out on gender equality. The creation of strong female personalities as allowed woman to create fictional characters that give women hope and motivation. Many of these fictional women have been created in the author’s likeness when analyzed by scholars. There are five most influential female characters in literature that are believed to have brought about sweeping changes in how women’s roles were viewed by society.
The first of which is Hua Mulan from the “Ballad of Mulan”. There is a controversy that surrounds this story in whether she is a real or fictional character. The belief that she was created to motivate women and promote gender equality for the time period. The second woman on list is Hester Prynne. This is the outcast from Nathaniel Hawthorn’s “Scarlet Letter”. This character has been able to influence women ever since the 1800’s on how to raise a child on your own when the odds are against you. Jane Eyre is the next women on the list, who is said to be very close to an autobiography of the author Charlotte Bronte?. A bildungsroman of sorts for young women to read a story of a woman coming of age and the struggles. The fourth woman to make this list is Hermione Granger from the mystical novel “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowlings. This is the only novel on the list where this character is not envisioned to be the main character. That being said, Hermione has intrigued young girls since the late 90s. Amongst all of the wizards and prophesies she proved herself to be bright, capable and the one that consistently pushed Harry to his potential. Last but not least Katness Everdeen, the heroine from “The Hunger Games”. Young women from this generation are able to see a 16-year-old girl after the death of her father take the role in the household that a man once filled.
These five women have definitely guided the choices of women and help to shape gender equality throughout the world. From the 6th century to the 21st century these five have provided motivation in almost every area that woman would want to succeed. In each one of these scenarios a life circumstance arose that gave these women the ability to step up and prove their ability to persevere. This is why these are five most influential female characters in literature that are believed to have brought about sweeping changes in how women’s roles were viewed by society.
“The Ballad of Mulan” is a poem written in the 6th century that was adopted by Walt Disney and turned into the animated movie Mulan. The premise of the story is a young Chinese woman named Hua Mulan that still unwed. The Chinese military was doing a recall of soldiers for the impending war and her father’s name was on the list. The author shows the courage of young woman that understood her younger brother was too young to take his father’s place. Mulan decided to leave in the middle of the night and take her father’s place as his “son”.
The protagonist of this story, unlike the Disney movie, was able to maintain her cover as a man and achieve a high rank in the Chinese army after years of successful battles. The social environment in the poem saw her as an equal because that is what she was portraying. In current times, with the help of Walt Disney, society sees Mulan as a hero. This story has paved the way for women to be just as successful if not more successful in roles that were considered gender specific. Due to the fact that the story is so old there have been rumors that the original author created this character to promote the equality of genders.
In the book “The Scarlet Letter” the life of Hester Prynne is being focused on. She lives during the colonial times in the early to mid 1600’s. She has an affair and ends up getting pregnant. When this is discovered the colony forces her to wear a scarlet letter “A” on her chest to mark her as an adulterer. Her and her child, Pearl, were treated as an outcast. The author shows the strength of this character at the very beginning of the story. Hester is coming out of jail with her baby and has clearly not told anyone who the father of her child was. She is place on a platform where everyone can see her with her scarlet letter. At this time the Reverend of the colony is told to speak with her and to ask her to reveal who the father of her child is. What we know by the end of the story the very one that is questioning her is the father of her child and the one that she had the affair with.
The author provides a situation that would be very difficult for any person regardless of gender to overcome. She had an affair while her husband was in Europe. The man that she had an affair with was allowed to continue to thrive in his profession and keep his dignity. She spent time in jail with her baby. Her husband came back to find that she had and affair and told her not to reveal his identity. All this while supporting her and her child in seclusion as a seamstress. Although everything came out in the end of the story, Hester was looked down upon by the colony because they didn’t have all the facts. In today’s society she could be looked at as a strong woman to survive through all of the adversity and keep her focus on raising her daughter alone.
This book was published in the 1800’s during the Victorian Era. This is the story of Jane Eyre who was raised by her aunt. Her aunt disliked her and she went on to attend a boarding school for underprivileged children. Upon graduating from this school that actually begins to teach there. She leaves that job to be a governess for the private estate of a wealthy gentleman. After falling in love with this gentleman and starting the process of marriage, Jane discovers that he is married and his wife is locked in the attic. The author portrays an intelligent woman that uses her sense of self-worth to walk away from the man she loves.
The culture of the book shows Jane living in a mans world. From her tough upbringing she was able to get an education and make her own choices. The gentleman in the story after losing Jane lost his hand and part of his eye site in a fire caused by his wife when she burned down his estate. Upon finding Jane she was looked at as an equal instead of his servant. Women in society look at Jane Eyre as a woman that had the fire and passion to settle for nothing less then what she deserved.
“Harry Potter” is the story about a young boy who is invited to attend the Hogwartz School of Wizardry and Magic. The book is all about the named character Harry was in the prophecy to defeat a great wizard that threatened the world as we know it. While at the school he met a girl named Hermione Granger. The author portrayed her as an awkward girl with big teeth and a muggle. A muggle is a person who lacks any sort of magical ability and was not born into the magical world. Muggles also do not have any magical blood. She the smartest in her class and works very hard to learn more.
Young women read this book and see Hermione as an example of young girl that defies the odd based on lineage. The author shows the strength that she has to be the glue that holds her house together. J.K. Rowling being a female novelist was able to create a female character that had the strength necessary to be an extremely relevant part of the series.
In this book the life of Katness Everdeen is what is being focused on. The Hunger Games is program that has been developed for population control. At the current date food and resources are scarce so the need is there to provided a solution. The author provides an overexaggerating of a problem that has plagued the world since the beginning of time. Katness is the eldest daughter of a single mother who has another daughter, Prim, who is 4 years younger than Katness. Due to the fact that Katness’ father died when she was very young she has had to step up and be the hunter gatherer for the family. The author has modified the gender role in the case of Katness which allows the reader to use their imaginations and decide what path Katness with take.
When it is time for the games again, each district is required to provide a randomly selected “sacrifice” to the games. The reason for the randomness of the selection is because no one wants to volunteer. When Prim is randomly selected as the representative for district 12, Katness volunteers to take her place. The author has taken a real-world problem and fit it into plot that has been seen over and over again. This takes nothing away from the quality of the novel. The reason is for this is the heroine of this tale. In order to survive the Hunger Games, you have to be liked to obtain sponsors. The better your sponsor the better your supplies and advantage to win. Within the society in the book she was overlooked because of her gender and poverty stricken social status. As she went on she was able to prove her worthiness and her ability to think and overcome her many obstacles. The author has continued to be able to project Katness’ success in the eyes of our young girls today. Seeing the accomplishment of Katness in the book has made her a champion for girls in today’s world.
Bronte?, C. (1924). Jane Eyre. Edinburgh: Grant.
Collins, S. (2008). The Hunger Games. NY, NY: Scholastic Press.
Hawthorne, N. (1950). The scarlet letter. New York: Harper.
Rowlings, J. (1997). HARRY POTTER AND THE SOCERERS STONE. New York, NY: Arthur A. Levine books (scholastics).
Zhang, S. N. (1998). The ballad of Mulan. Union City, CA: Pan Asian Publications.
Mulan’s Legend and Legacy in China and the United States. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2018, from http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/2009_reg.html