Alternatively titled “girls that changed the way I look at myself and the world).
Hello my loves,
hope this finds you well!
All of us little bookworms have these characters. The ones that make you tear up just thinking about them, the ones that you’d protect with your life, the ones that you relate too just a tad more than people think is healthy. It’s generally not a bad thing -unless you relate completely with Patrick Bateman, in which case I would kindly but urgently suggest you talk to someone about that.
When I was a kid, I would spend hours upon hours reading, running to the library every two days to fill up my little backpack with as many books as I was allowed (at one point, a kind librarian gave me a slip that allowed me to take up to 12 books, instead of the regular 5. I have forgotten her name, but I will forever be grateful for her existence.). I just mean to say, I’ve had my fair share of characters pass by my eyes, but there’s only a handful of them which have left behind such an impression that until this very day, my heart starts beating faster when I think about them.
Let’s just dive straight in, and let me tell you about some of my loves, in no specific order.
First up, we have a predictable presence.
I assume she is on so many favourite lists, as she was a character with messy hair and big teeth, who loved books and learning, who struggled to fit in, but ended up finding friends that would last forever. She always reminded me that it’s alright to speak out, and that there’s nothing to be ashamed of, even when other people think you’re weird.
Now I do love Emma’s performance in the films, but I have to say that she is not exactly who I imagined when I was reading. I saw a girl with way bigger hair, a lot heavier, and more bossy looking than Emma ever did! The closest I can come to finding what I imagined is this gorgeous girl:
Isn’t she dreamy?
In the same line we have:
Now, this wasn’t an immediate love. It took a while before I really took to her – her little crush on Harry bothered me a lot when I started reading the books, but it only took a year or two for me to appreciate her gutsy bravery, big mouth and no nonsense behaviour. She taught herself how to fly on her brother’s brooms when they weren’t watching? Yeah, big love right there.
aka one of the reason’s all my nicknames throughout my life have been “boy’s names”. George (Georgina Kirrin) was all I aspired to be as a kid. With her chopped hair, shorts and shirts, walking around in the sun until her skin was covered in freckles.. I loved everything about her.
Now Enid Blyton has her problems as an author. Misogynist gender stereotypes, racist slurs, bizarre use of language, a very privileged (and very white) interpretation of British society… I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to reading the books because I feel as an adult, the problematic nature of the stories would ruin the memory I have of them! But in my head, George is still the coolest kid on the block, and whenever I cut my hair short, I must say I channel her quite a bit.
Also, her dog!!!!!! AH. Those fond fond memories.
As I’m currently re-reading Little Women (for the first time in English, as well!) my love for her is rekindled and I feel my heart fill to the brim with affection for this kid who dresses up as a man, doesn’t fall for the boy who in in love with her, and ends up marrying and older man who is much more of a friend to her than an actual love-interest. Once again, this is one of those gender-defying, potentially-but-not-explicitely lesbian characters, and I am just SO in love with her. Jo had such a massive influence on my young, wild, short shaggy haired self, and when I read the book now it’s more than clear to me that Louise Alcott queer coded her character, and it’s exhilarating to realise how much comfort her character brought me as a child, stuffing my trousers with socks so the boys would let me join in their football game (that is a whole other story).
Perhaps now you are thinking, “James, you are really reaching here,” but let me drag up this quote for you, from a Penguin Classics introduction of Little Women:
“In an interview with the writer Louise Chandler Moulton, [Alcott] later commented with pre-Freudian candor on her own feelings: ‘I am more than half-persuaded that I am a man’s soul, put by some freak of nature into a woman’s body … Because I have fallen in love in my life with so many pretty girls and never once the least bit with any man.’”
I don’t want to say “she was a lesbian”, but guys, I’m pretty sure Louise was a lesbian. And since she based Jo on herself, a more liberated and happier version… I’ll let you connect the dots here.
Jo March, my love. (and I do love Winona best as Jo, even though there’s some debate on her being a convincing tomboy or not)
After that fair share of tomboys, let us take a step back to the bookish characters.
Would this list ever be complete without the bookish character of all characters?
There’s not really anything to say about Matilda that has not already been said. Roald Dahl’s book has several different fully fledged women, both good and bad, and even though I’m pretty sure Dahl didn’t intend for Matilda to become a – dare I say it – feminist icon for young girls, he achieved exactly that, giving little ones a girl character who is confident in who she is in what she can do, and who isn’t afraid to reject beauty standards and expectations of how women are “supposed” to be.
(was anyone else confused to find out Matilda wasn’t written Mathilda? How quaint.)
Not to mention the musical’s soundtrack is incredibly addictive. Especially the songs “Naughty” and Revolting Children, which got me through the last exam I took. Thanks Revolting Children, you’re all great. A* for all of you.
Of course I have met plenty a wonderful female character in my almost 20 years of reading (loosely counted. I’m good at reading, bad at maths), but these five will always have a special place in my heart, because they shaped me into the person I am today, and taught me to be brave and strong, smart and kind, wild and loud, and mostly, proud.
What are some of your favourite female book characters? Do you have any in common with me?
Lots of love,