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Thread: Strong female characters

  1. #1
    Registered User cynara's Avatar
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    Strong female characters

    I am aware that this is probably a trite and over asked thread but I'm looking for advice on novels with intricate strong female characters. I'm an enormous fan of Scarlet O'Hara, and I'm looking for similar attributes. I dislike overly moral, staid attitudes, I want well developed characters. I rarely read anything published post 1950 (probably closed minded of me, but i've got years to appreciate modern literature.) I've read Anna Karenin (greatly enjoyed), Vanity Fair (too cynical for my taste), most of the Bronte's novels(enjoyed), Edith Wharton (very fond of), Jane Austen (found characters too perfect) and several others. So now that I've shown a bit of my preferences I would very my appreciate advice and opinions.
    I cried for madder music and for stronger wine,
    But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire,
    Then falls thy shadow, Cynara! the night is thine;
    And I am desolate and sick of an old passion,
    Yea, hungry for thelips of my desire:
    I have been faithful to thee Cynara! in my fashion.

  2. #2
    Registered User Zee.'s Avatar
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    I find most female characters in novels to be extremely irritating. I also find that you either have the goody, good, all rounded, moralistic character that makes me grind my teeth in to sawdust, or the character whose flaws are either that she is again, irritating, or a massive whore.

    I've also yet to read a female character that is not only extremely strong, but free. I'm a little over reading traditional female roles.
    Last edited by Zee.; 07-18-2009 at 10:01 PM.

  3. #3
    spiritus ubi vult spirat weltanschauung's Avatar
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    dostoyevski's the idiot
    georges bataille's story of the eye
    saramago's blindness
    de laclos' dangerous liaisons
    ...

  4. #4
    Hitchcock Enthusiast Mathor's Avatar
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    The truth is, for whatever reason, I've found that most females in classic literature have been pretty stifled, or kind of lacking of emotion, or defining the womenly role in the book.

    I think Jane Austen's female characters were a bit more vibrant than you see in literature over the years, but most often you found that the male characters in the same novel were more outspoken, had more to say, and altogether were more interesting.

    I think a lot of this had to do with just civil rights of the past, and I hope that in the future female roles will be more fun and entertaining. I get kind of sick of the classic guy talks and girl responds to his narrative, which seems to be the way classic literature has portrayed girls. . I'd like to see a truly feminine character that is strong in her femininity and strong in her place in society.

    EDIT: right as i said it i thought of one.

    Holly Golightly in Breakfast At Tiffanys by Truman Capote
    Last edited by Mathor; 07-18-2009 at 10:14 PM.
    I'm losing all those stupid games
    That I swore I'd never play

  5. #5
    Registered User cynara's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by limajean View Post
    I find most female characters in novels to be extremely irritating. I also find that you either have the goody, good, all rounded, moralistic character that makes me grind my teeth in to sawdust, or the character whose flaws are either that she is again, irritating, or a massive whore.

    I've also yet to read a female character that is not only extremely strong, but free. I'm a little over reading traditional female roles.
    I think your a little harsh, there's definitely literature with dynamic female characters but I do find myself agreeing partly with you. I think if I had to choose between the overly morale female character and the whore i would usually choose the latter.
    I cried for madder music and for stronger wine,
    But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire,
    Then falls thy shadow, Cynara! the night is thine;
    And I am desolate and sick of an old passion,
    Yea, hungry for thelips of my desire:
    I have been faithful to thee Cynara! in my fashion.

  6. #6
    The Poetic Warrior Dark Muse's Avatar
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    The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
    Women in Love ~ D.H. Lawrence (some might disagree but I highly enjoyed the female characters in this work and personally found them to be quite strong)
    Their Eyes Were Watching God ~ Hurston
    The Awakening ~ Kate Chopin
    To the Lighthouse ~ Virginia Wolff
    A Room With A View ~ E.M Forster

    This one his after the 1950's but I still highly recommend it, it is set in the 1800's as a way of examining society of the day, and the restrictions upon both men and women. Very interested as well as well developed female characters.

    The French Lieutenant's Woman ~ John Fowles
    Last edited by Dark Muse; 07-18-2009 at 10:26 PM.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~ Edgar Allan Poe

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    Registered User Zee.'s Avatar
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    I love reading about female bandits in literature. Female villains, "bonnie and clyde" type characters.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by weltanschauung View Post
    dostoyevski's the idiot

    ...
    Nastasya and Aglaya were not exactly "strong" women.

  9. #9
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    L'Amant by Marguerite Duras
    As You Like It Shakespeare
    Romeo and Juliet Shakespeare
    Lady Percy from Henry IV part 1 By Shakespeare (though she makes an appearance briefly in part 2)
    In truth, most of Shakespeare's great heroines - certainly are stronger characters than their male counterparts.

    Lucrezia from Mrs. Dalloway - one of the most powerful characters I have ever read about, and certainly one that has made one of the most devastating impressions on me, though her actual part in the book is rather minimal.

    Hagar from The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence

    Isabelle-Marie from La Belle Bête by Marie-Claire Blais

    Tess from Tess of the D'Urbervilles

    Lena Grove from Light in August

    The controversial Mrs. Bentley from As for me and My House (controversial, as the novel has a lot of metaphorical ambiguity, and she is not a reliable narrator in the slightest) By Sinclair Ross

    Whylah Falls by George Elliot Clarke,

    Lives of Saints by Nino Ricci

    The Electrical Field by Kerri Sakamoto

    Eugene Onegin by Aleksandr Pushkin



    I tried to add a few non-cliché names into the mix, to mingle with the others that will probably get named and renamed.

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    In addition to what others have recommended: practically anything by Virginia Woolf, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez, For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway.

  11. #11
    The Poetic Warrior Dark Muse's Avatar
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    Good Morning, Midnight by Rhys is an interesting look at a female character, but it is debatable how strong one might see her, but the story is told from the woman's point of view, and her own thoughts.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~ Edgar Allan Poe

  12. #12
    spiritus ubi vult spirat weltanschauung's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wat?? View Post
    Nastasya and Aglaya were not exactly "strong" women.
    in "your" opinion

  13. #13
    Hitchcock Enthusiast Mathor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    Lena Grove from Light in August
    That's the best one of the lot!
    I'm losing all those stupid games
    That I swore I'd never play

  14. #14
    Howards End has two great central female characters. JBI mentioned a couple of Shakespeares, I would like to throw in Othello, Macbeth and Much Ado About Nothing - all feature some really great and strong female characters.
    Only an idiot has no grief; only a fool would forget it. What else is there in this world sharp enough to stick to your guts? - Faulkner

  15. #15
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    Brideshead Revisited maybe, although Julia in not really a major character.

    Far from the Madding Crowd features a strong woman, but in a tragic situation, all be it because of her own over-estimated strength.
    Tess from Tess of the d'Urbervilles could be called a strong woman, altough she ends tragically. (Both by Hardy)

    Dumas Musketeer-trilogy features strong women who work behind the scenes. Particularly the last part (The Vicomte) features women's politics as a major force at court.

    Saramago's Siege of Lisbon featured a woman who knew what she wanted. This is modern, though, so it's a little bit more logic that she would be strong.

    There are a number of Dutch ones, but they are not translated...
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'âme ne se vide à ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scène VII)

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