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BRAW’s seven most iconic female book characters

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Women, both real and fictional, should be celebrated every day. 

Simply because we are amazing and beautiful creatures, and it’s easy to forget that.

There are times when we read a book featuring a strong, confident, woman and we see ourselves in her. Or we tell ourselves that that is exactly the type of woman we aspire to be and take something from her because she’s so inspirational. 

Here is a list of the seven most iconic and influential female book characters that were written by women that have had that effect on me – and I’m sure many others, too!

  1. Anne Shirley Cuthbert (from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery)
Credit: George Fort Gibbs, Illustration for ‘Anne of Avonlea’

Anne Shirley is the beloved protagonist from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. Orphaned from birth, she spends a portion of her childhood in an orphanage until she is taken in by Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. She is a fiery, imaginative, and passionate girl that always speaks her mind. Although Anne is short-tempered and sometimes makes questionable decisions (like accidentally dyeing her hair green!), she is an inspiration as she never fails to stand up for what she believes in. She is quirky and isn’t ashamed of it. And these are only a few of the many reasons why Anne is one of the most lovable and relatable characters in literature, to people of all ages.

If you’re interested in a book-to-series adaptation of Anne of Green Gables, then I have to recommend the Netflix show Anne with an E – you’ll fall in love with it!

  1. Mikage Sakurai (From Kitchen by Banana Yoshito)

Similarly to Anne, the protagonist of Kitchen by Banana Yoshito, Mikage, has also been orphaned. But not only did she lose her parents, but she also lost her grandmother who helped raise her. Kitchen follows Mikage, who has lived in the shadow of death her whole life on her journey of grief. Despite her loneliness and deep sadness, Mikage knows she has to go on and seeks comfort in cooking: a typically small and daily activity is turned into something so much more than that. Mikage teaches us the importance of finding something that takes our mind off the dark thoughts, even if it’s something as “simple” as a kitchen and cooking, and then to hold onto it. 

  1. Elizabeth Bennet (from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)

AKA one of my favourite Georgian era badasses. Everyone knows who Elizabeth Bennet is, and if not, they have at least surely heard the name. She is so refreshing and charming, mainly because she is such a complex and unconventional character. Lizzie is confident and doesn’t let anyone’s biases bring her down. She stands up for herself and isn’t ashamed to share a piece of her mind. Also, unlike her sisters, a wealthy marriage isn’t everything to her: she wants to marry for love rather than for economic purposes. It can, therefore, be said with confidence that Lizzie is definitely not the product of her time – but that is exactly what makes her such an inspiration and iconic character.

  1. Esperanza Ortega (from Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan)

Esperanza grows up surrounded by luxury. Fancy dresses, servants, gifts – the list goes on. She’s used to constantly receiving attention and affection, getting her way, and bossing everyone around. But Esperanza isn’t used to any other way of living. So upon her father’s death, when she and her mother are plunged into poverty and desperation practically overnight, Esperanza is struck by sudden hopelessness. 

Credit: Edsitement.neh.gov

As the story unfolds, Esperanza learns to make friends from different classes, which challenges her prejudices and biases. She also learns to work herself rather than have other people do it for her. She starts to understand that sometimes wealth can be achieved through a loving and supportive community and isn’t all about money and that despite loss and grief, hope never dies. Esperanza, whose name in Spanish means “Hope”, is the perfect example of amazing character development. She resembles a flawed human who grows up to understand that the world doesn’t just revolve around her; that, actually, the world is a complicated place rather than all rainbows and unicorns. Although in the beginning we perhaps don’t feel that much sympathy for her, we later learn to appreciate the young woman she has become. 

  1. Josephine “Jo” March (from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott)
Credit: Meditate & Delight on Pinterest

If you love Anne Shirley and Elizabeth Bennet, you are going to love Jo March. Similarly to both, she is brave, outspoken and loyal. She is a dreamer but she also knows to keep it real: she hates how women are treated and believed to only hold the purpose of marrying and bearing children. Jo knows women are more than that and wishes they would be treated the same as men: that they would be able to speak their minds, to go wherever they want to go, to learn whatever it is that they want to learn.

In other words, she wishes women were free of their domestic duties. To Jo, femininity doesn’t necessarily mean getting married, having children or living close to your family. Femininity can also mean creating your own path in the world. 

  1. Infelemu (from Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) 

Infelemu is an independent spirit that immigrates from Nigeria to America, a culture that is very different from what she’s used to. Upon setting a foot into America, she is labelled as “black” for the first time, and she quickly discovers how strongly embedded racism is within American society. However, this doesn’t set Infelemu back. As the novel progresses, she becomes more comfortable with rejecting American culture and white standards of beauty. Instead, Infelemu favours expressing her Nigerian self by dropping the American accent and wearing her hair in its natural texture. Infelemu is iconic in how she embraces her Nigerian identity. She knows her roots and she likes them for what they are. She takes pride in who she is rather than conforming to the white standards of American society. 

  1. Claire Fraser (from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon)

Claire is a feisty, independent woman. She is a nurse, so naturally, she is very caring and protective, but that doesn’t mean she’s all that gentle. Claire is both a lover and a fighter. If she needs to, she’ll fight back; she is not afraid of anything or anyone. I personally wouldn’t mess with her. Not just because of her fiery personality, but also because she’s a time-traveller. That’s a whole different kind of power. Nonetheless, even though Claire could be described as rebellious or too stubborn, she has a big heart made of gold and she always means well. 
Outlander has been made into a TV show. If you’d like to watch it, it’s on STARZPlay. It might be of extra interest as a lot of Stirling is featured in the show, including our very own Pathfoot Building and Link Bridge!

Featured Image Credit: Forsa.ie

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