Books

For­get damsels in dis­tress, these lit­er­ary ladies are strong, sassy and cer­tainly a force to be reck­oned with – whether you love them or just love to loathe them, says Neha Shar­iffi

Friday - - Contents -

Ten feisty fic­tional fe­males.

Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weis­berger

“Ev­ery­one wants this. Ev­ery­one wants to be us,” de­clares Miranda Priestly, ed­i­tor of fic­tional fash­ion magazine Run­way. Clearly a woman who knows how much power she wields, she’s dom­i­nant, de­ter­mined and some­times down­right rude. The clas­sic night­mare boss, she sets im­pos­si­ble tasks for her sub­or­di­nates (in­clud­ing sourc­ing un­pub­lished Harry Pot­ter manuscripts for her chil­dren), re­fuses to re­mem­ber names, and could dev­as­tate even the most pompous of prima don­nas with a mere slant of her eyes. But harsh and de­mand­ing though she is, she’s also goal-ori­ented, fiercely suc­cess­ful and com­mands the kind of re­spect we just can­not deny. As the ice­queen her­self would say, “That’s all.”

Brid­get Jones in Brid­get Jones’s Di­ary by He­len Field­ing

Thir­tysome­thing singleton Brid­get Jones’s quirky char­ac­ter de­buted in jour­nal­ist He­len Field­ing’s col­umn in The In­de­pen­dent. Adapted into a hugely suc­cess­ful 1996 book, the novel pays homage to Field­ing’s favourite clas­sic Pride and Prej­u­dice and Mark Darcy, the charis­matic man in love with Brid­get, is a mod­ern ver­sion of Jane Austen’s dash­ing Mr Darcy. Al­ways on a quest for self-im­prove­ment with her at­tempts to lose weight and give up her vices, Brid­get is an op­ti­mistic, in­tel­li­gent woman with a dis­arm­ing sense of hu­mour. Am­bi­tious and en­thu­si­as­tic yet en­dear­ingly in­se­cure, the crux of the book’s ac­tion re­volves around the fact that the sup­pos­edly unattrac­tive Brid­get has two men vy­ing for her at­ten­tion. This bru­tally hon­est di­ary will make you laugh out loud and we can’t wait for Brid­get Jones: Mad About the Boy, the third book in the se­ries, to be re­leased in Oc­to­ber this year.

Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With the Wind by Mar­garet Mitchell

Vivien Leigh won the Academy Award for Best Ac­tress for por­tray­ing the com­pli­cated, yet much-loved char­ac­ter – Scarlet O’Hara in the 1939 film adap­ta­tion of this clas­sic book. Set against the back­drop of the Amer­i­can Civil War, this book de­picts Scarlet as a woman way ahead of her time. Her char­ac­ter de­vel­ops from a shal­low girl into a strong in­de­pen­dent woman, who en­lists in the army and sin­gle-hand­edly runs her hus­band’s busi­ness af­ter the war. Im­pul­sive and head­strong, wid­owed Scarlet then mar­ries Rhett But­ler while still in love with her child­hood beau. Mar­garet Mitchell cre­ated an un­for­get­table char­ac­ter in her only pub­lished book, which also won the Pulitzer Prize for Fic­tion (1937).

Jo March in Lit­tle Women by Louisa May Al­cott

This hot-tem­pered, am­bi­tious young book­worm and writer is thought to be largely based on Al­cott her­self and the novel is a semi-au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal ac­count of her child­hood grow­ing up with her three sis­ters in 19th-cen­tury Mas­sachusetts. Di­rect, out­spo­ken and clever, Jo’s char­ac­ter speaks to chang­ing stan­dards of girl­hood in the late 1800s and she de­fies the gender con­straints of her time with her re­bel­lious­ness and de­ter­mi­na­tion. While her sis­ters think about mar­riage, Jo is happy to fo­cus on her writ­ing ca­reer. Al­though by the end of the book she finds love and ac­cepts her fem­i­nine side, she’s de­scribed by some crit­ics as one of the first fem­i­nists, be­fore the term had even been in­vented. Girl power! char­ac­ter – even Jane Austen’s her­self, who de­scribed El­iz­a­beth thus: “as de­light­ful a crea­ture as ever ap­peared in print”. Un­like the sac­cha­rine hero­ines of the ma­jor­ity of early 1800s nov­els, she’s com­plex, and brave, de­ter­mined to marry for love over and above the eco­nomic se­cu­rity re­quired of her times. By no means per­fect – the ‘pride and prej­u­dice’ of the ti­tle refers as much to her as to any of the other char­ac­ters – she ad­mits her faults, and it’s im­pos­si­ble to judge her too harshly. Her rich and un­con­ven­tional char­ac­ter is a ma­jor rea­son why this 1813 novel re­mains time­less to this day.

Kat­niss Everdeen in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

In a world where im­pres­sion­able tweens’ air– waves are be­ing dom­i­nated by the ques­tion­able likes of Mi­ley Cyrus, Suzanne Collins chose the per­fect time to create the dig­ni­fied and em­pow­ered teenager Kat­niss as a pos­i­tive role model for young women. The fam­ily bread­win­ner fol­low­ing her fa­ther’s death, Kat­niss is prac­ti­cal, coura­geous, quick-think­ing and dis­plays her heroic self-sac­ri­fice when she takes her lit­tle sis­ter’s place in the deadly Hunger Games. Her dogged de­ter­mi­na­tion and in­ner moral com­pass give her an edge over the other com­peti­tors and not even ro­mance can de­ter her from reach­ing her goal.

Lis­beth Sa­lan­der in The Girl With the Dragon Tat­too by Stieg Lars­son

The tat­toos, pierc­ings and spiky hair are al­ways the first things peo­ple no­tice and Lis­beth Sa­lan­der is of­ten mis­judged. How­ever, a so­cial mis­fit with a lack of emo­tion, ex­treme in­tel­li­gence and

El­iz­a­beth Ben­nett in Pride and Prej­u­dice by Jane Austen

The witty, down-to-earth Lizzie Ben­nett is ev­ery­one’s favourite

fore­sight, Sa­lan­der of­ten re­minds the reader of de­tec­tive Sher­lock Holmes. She is fiercely in­de­pen­dent and wants to pro­tect the pow­er­less and pun­ish those who ter­rorise them. A ge­nius hacker, she uses this skill set for some ex­cel­lent in­ves­ti­gat­ing with Blomkvist, pub­lisher of a po­lit­i­cal magazine. Orig­i­nally writ­ten in Swedish, this crime novel was pub­lished posthu­mously and Stieg Lars­son’s widow re­quested pub­lish­ers to print the unedited ver­sion. It was later adapted into films in both Swedish and English. Fe­male char­ac­ters didn’t get much cov­er­age dur­ing Shake­speare’s day, but Lady Mac­beth is an ex­cep­tion. She makes for a de­li­ciously vil­lain­ous per­son­al­ity, whose manic, OCD-style hand-wash­ing (“Out, damned spot! Out, I say!”) re­mains one of the 17th-cen­tury Scot­tish play’s most iconic scenes. While in some sense a car­toon vil­lain, plot­ting and con­spir­ing and urg­ing her hus­band to fur­ther his ca­reer through mur­der, she is also psy­cho­log­i­cally com­plex. Her evil machi­na­tions and sub­se­quent trauma make her one of the most sought-af­ter char­ac­ters to reprise by posh-ac­tor types like Natalie Port­man, who has been cast to play Lady Mac­beth in Justin Kurzel’s new­est film adap­ta­tion of one of Shake­speare’s dark­est tragedies.

Holly Go­lightly in Breakfast at

Tif­fany’s by Tru­man Capote

With a crois­sant in hand, a glam­orous woman in an LBD stands ad­mir­ing a win­dow dis­play at Tif­fany’s. Of course, it’s Holly Go­lightly. One of the most iconic cre­ations by Tru­man Capote in his fa­mous Breakfast at Tif­fany’s, Holly is beau­ti­ful, charm­ing and un­con­ven­tional. Holly’s char­ac­ter breaks the mould from the stereo– typ­i­cal women of the 1940s. Her pro­gres­sive and non­tra­di­tional val­ues of suc­cess and free­dom make her a strong in­de­pen­dent Au­drey Hep­burn por­trays Holly Go­lightly in the 1961 ro­man­tic com­edy based on Capote’s novella Breakfast at Tif­fany’s woman, whose mys­te­ri­ous past de­fines her. The nar­ra­tor, she calls Fred (af­ter her brother), is an older man who cares deeply for this young care­free soul who re­fuses to be tamed. Played by Au­drey Hep­burn in the 1961 adap­ta­tion of the novella, Holly has be­come a house­hold name that is even men­tioned in movies like Kate and Leopold, Ocean’s Eleven and the Gos­sip Girl TV se­ries.

Emma Bo­vary in Madame Bo­vary by Gus­tave Flaubert

Far from the ideal of an 1856 French gentle­woman, Madame Bo­vary is child­ish, flip­pant, self­ish and vain. She was a shock­ing char­ac­ter in the era that the book was writ­ten and brought with her many con­tro­ver­sies that saw Flaubert put on trial and nar­rowly es­cap­ing con­vic­tion. Emma’s silly ro­man­tic il­lu­sions lead her to make poor decisions through­out the book, show­ing her up to be morally cor­rupt and self-cen­tred. As her good for­tune un­rav­els, she turns to re­tail ther­apy for so­lace, lead­ing her to fall deeper and deeper into debt. Flaubert’s first pub­lished novel, Madame Bo­vary is con­sid­ered one of the most in­flu­en­tial nov­els ever writ­ten and we all love to hate this scan­dalous 19th-cen­tury shopa­holic.

Meryl Streep plays

pow­er­ful ed­i­tor Miranda in the screen adap­ta­tion of The Devil

Wears Prada

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