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PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2006 6:40 pm 
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Cerin and I are agreed that Lizzy Bennett would be more fun to hang out with than Jane. Scarlett O'Hara's name cropped up. Someone mentioned Amelia Sedley and Becky Sharp.

I wonder if there is the possibility of a good discussion here, about literary women and their characters. Why is Becky more interesting than Amelia? Is it just because she's wicked? Or is Amelia a sap, as even her creator thought? I think that if you kept your eye on your wallet, Becky would be more amusing than Amelia.

Becky Sharp is a real person in my eyes. Unscrupulous and hard, she is the natural child of her upbringing. Here is no Dickensian "natural aristocrat", none of Dickens' unreal children who grow up virtuous and kind in the midst of horror, squalor and abuse.

There are few literary women as wonderful, to me, as Mrs. Bishop Proudie, as Lady Eustace, as Mrs. Mason of Groby Park. (Not Lady Mason, although she is interesting in a different way.) Villainesses? Or just complex and interesting women? Trollope's women are marvels in my eyes, but not his "girls", the bland, virtuous, uninteresting Grizeldas who wait for the hero to finish growing up and marry them. Only, that's not fair. Even his boring heroines were not that boring. He couldn't help but create real people.

Few virtuous heroines are as interesting, with the exceptions, in my eyes, of Anne Shirley and Lily Dale.

Anne Shirley was created by a woman. So were Lizzy Bennett and Scarlett O'Hara. Were they more "natural" than the women characters written by men?

None of these books are "modern". They all date from eras when women were seen very differently by "society" or whatever you want to call it. They all dated from an era when decent women were nearly as secluded from the real world as if they had been in purdah.

Of modern literary "heroines", I am sadly deficient in knowledge. John O'Hara created Grace Caldwell Tate and Elizabeth Appleton. He created Mrs. Stratton of Oak Knoll and Natalie Eaton. Edith Chapin. Many many others. Some lovable, some not.

I'm beginning to ramble. Is there hope for this thread? I'm not really sure where I want it to go.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2006 9:13 pm 
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I find it easier to answer if I break the topic down a bit and consider female characters created by particular authors.

Dickens's female characters are hopeless. Dora is particularly unbearable, but most of his girls are nearly as bad. Bunch of legless virgins. I blame Dickens's extreme sentimentality.

Most of Jane's heroines are wonderful. Not just the peerless Lizzy, but also Emma Woodhouse "faultless for all her faults", the passionate Marianne Dashwood and the gentle Anne Elliot. OK, Fanny Price is unbearable.... Has anyone read "Lady Susan"? I think it is a piece of Jane's juvenilia (too lazy to check) and was published post-humously. At any rate, an entertaining picture of a ruthless Becky Sharp-type character, written in epistolary form. A pity she did not tackle such a character when she was at the height of her powers!

I love Shakespeare's girls: Cordelia, Miranda and Imogen. But his villainesses are great too: Lady Macbeth of course, also Regan and Goneril. Can't stand Ophelia.

I'll mention one heroine I have changed my opinion of over time: George Eliot's Dorothea. When I first read "Middlemarch" I admired her. Now I find her a prig.

I'm not into 20th Century novels either, apart from pulp crime fiction.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2006 9:41 pm 
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When I was growing up, my absolutely hands down favorite book was "The Three Musketeers". My dad, another Dumas fan, always advised me to imitate Lady Winter, the villainess of the story. Not to the point of poisoning hapless rivals, perhaps ;) but he certainly felt that her energy and resourcefulness shone compared to the gentle Constance who fainted at the most crucial moment.

Perhaps that's the answer - that "virtuous" heroines just don't DO anything, and who cares to read about their moping. It's the villainesses who possess the drive and energy. Apparently, a good woman is a half-dead woman. =:)

IMO Lizzy is more interesting than Jane, because she is a more active character. She has flaws, but I don't think it's the flaws that make her interesting. She speaks her mind, she walks through the mud to visit her sister, she breaks away from the "picturesque" group in the park and refuses dances. Jane is a sweet girl, but mostly passive.

Shakespeare's women are active. Not a fan of Ophelia, either, but even the little Juliette takes charge, although with disastrous results. Molliere's women come to mind, too, with their common sense and hilarious conspiracies behind the backs of their hapless husbands and lovers.

Agree with QB completely about Dickens.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2006 10:27 pm 
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So much is explained. =:)

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2006 11:02 pm 
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LOL - not quite sure how to judge "fun to hang out with", as we mostly only get to know the tragical sides of any heroines. So, I suppose the ones we think would be fun to be with, are the ones who we hear about having some fun!

So, yes, I guess the more active characters sound like they are more fun.

However, I don't think that means the others are less interesting!
On this reading of P&P I find myself quite fascinated with Jane, for her level-headedness and the way she always interprets things the best and kindest possible way. I find myself failing very much in doing that, but I think it's a laudable characteristic. Jane gets fooled a lot, of course. But I admire her for her kindness and restraint in casting judgement.
I just don't think 'good' is 'boring' - even if it might make a person less lively in a conversation, it is still a feature that catches my attention!

I tend to find bad characters less interesting than good ones. For me, to be interested in the fate of a person, I have to like them. And I tend not to like bad people.

Quote:
Dickens's female characters are hopeless. Dora is particularly unbearable, but most of his girls are nearly as bad. Bunch of legless virgins. I blame Dickens's extreme sentimentality.

Well, I think Dora is annoying because she's meant to be annyoing!
I like a good dose of sentimentality, though, and, speaking of David Copperfield, I really loved Agnes! (Even though I did think she could have been a bit more active and spoken up occasionally!) It was David who I could have slapped about the ears most of the time.

Shakespeare's girls - hmmh, I love Beatrice, and (no kidding!) when I think of her, it's as a role-model, and wonder if I manage to be a bit like her! ("She speaks poniards!" :P ;) )

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 7:59 pm 
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The only Dickens heroine I ever managed to be vaguely interested in was Louisa Gradgrind.

Practically every female character Austen ever wrote is brilliant., of course. I love the Dashwood family. But Fanny Price! Ugh!

I also dislike Eliot's Maggie Tulliver. I've never been able to explain why this is, I just do. :scratch:

I'm currently reading Vanity Fair (I read an abridged version when I was about 7 :oops: ) and I find myself disliking both Becky and Amelia intensely. Amelia is just weak. Becky...I normally like the slightly flawed characters, but Becky really irritates me. I'm only halfway through right now, so I'll post more about this later.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 8:51 pm 
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Becky is really a person with no conscience. In modern terms, she is a psychopath or sociopath. She spreads pain and heartbreak wherever she goes and even when she does the ONE "good" thing she ever does, it doesn't work just as she planned.

Amelia is just plain boring. Only Dobbin could love her!

Many people find Thackeray to be a superior novelist, but he's never been my favourite. I've read Barry Lyndon, for instance, and was bored to tears. Thackeray was an odd man in many ways. One thing that set him apart was the fact that he had a very good income and never had to struggle financially. Also, he was a womanizer, to call his activities by a polite name.

Dickens isn't boring, exactly. I think "Great Expectations" is his best novel, with David Copperfield next. Pip is such a REAL boy, unlike Oliver Twist! But by and large we must not look to Dickens for anything approaching realism. And, as well, many of the social evils he rants about were things of the past by the time he wrote his novels.

There is a TV version of Bleak House showing on PBS every Sunday evening. Gillian Anderson (of the X-Files) is playing Lady Dedlock. A bunch of familiar Britactors are in it. It's well done, but confusing to an astonishing degree, and I've read the book several times. Although, admittedly, not lately. My husband has given up. He'd have to keep asking me "Who's that? Why are they doing that?" and I'd get mad because if I answered him, I missed something!

Dickens made much of his "sufferings" as a child.

Yet Anthony Trollope, who suffered much more and for longer, never moaned about it.

I guess it's easy to see that I think my dear old friend Trollope is the superior writer, and the superior human being.

And, more to the point, he created MUCH better and more believable women. Find me a better creation than Mrs. Proudie, or Lady Glencora, and I'll . . . . eat a peanut butter sandwich. :D

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 9:26 pm 
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There is a TV version of Bleak House showing on PBS every Sunday evening. Gillian Anderson (of the X-Files) is playing Lady Dedlock. A bunch of familiar Britactors are in it. It's well done, but confusing to an astonishing degree, and I've read the book several times. Although, admittedly, not lately. My husband has given up. He'd have to keep asking me "Who's that? Why are they doing that?" and I'd get mad because if I answered him, I missed something!


:D

And I thought I was the only confused one! :help: I've read Bleak House more than once ... although not for several decades ... but almost the only thing I could remember were the names of the central characters and the Jarndyce and Jarndyce legal conundrum.

Still, I enjoyed it immensely ... even staying up three hours past my bedtime!

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 11:26 pm 
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Frelga wrote:
When I was growing up, my absolutely hands down favorite book was "The Three Musketeers". My dad, another Dumas fan, always advised me to imitate Lady Winter, the villainess of the story. Not to the point of poisoning hapless rivals, perhaps ;) but he certainly felt that her energy and resourcefulness shone compared to the gentle Constance who fainted at the most crucial moment.


Quite so! I have no patience for those protagonists who have no pep and verve. I much prefer the risk-takers; the ones with more twists in the soul.

And while generally in agreement about Dickens, Miss Haversham - and to a greater degree, Estella - fascinated me. Only a side character, yet pivotal for Pip - and the way she was twisted out of shape, her soul deformed to sadism by Haversham, the way she took pleasure from causing Pip pain - I can't say I enjoyed it, but I did ponder it very much. Of course, she came to nothing in the end, story-wise.

I must think about the books I've read - but I've got a dreadful memory. I really can't recall things spontaneously - I'll have to cast an eye over my bookshelves.

And Lady De Winter was a frank inspiration for my most complex RP character.

EDIT: Ah! I clicked 'submit' and immediately Granny Weatherwax came to mind - and also Nanny Ogg. Even Magrat. Three marvellous witches! Women of spunk, though they differ in so many ways - one crotchety, stubborn and secure in her knowledge of her power; one so very involved in the human condition, enjoying her drink and her food and her gentlemen friends (even at her advanced age!) and the third such a mismatch. And all three are outsiders. They walk to their own beat.

I think, in the end, that's what engages me every time. One who walks alone, and trusts her own judgement.

EDIT 2: Grammar


Last edited by Impenitent on Mon Feb 06, 2006 1:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 1:10 am 
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Oooh, yes, the Witches ROCK! :D

I'd love to be able to stare people down like Granny! =:)
They are all great, but (even though I haven't yet mastered the staring bit) I think I have most in common with Granny. ;)

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 1:53 am 
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Oh, yes, Nanny Oggs and her Bananana Surprise! I've got dibs on her in the Discworld Guild. :D

Thanks for reminding me, Impish. I think Pratchett writes some of the best female characters in modern literature. Agnes (Perditta X) is one of my favorites - an overweight heroine, no less. Can anyone think of another overweight woman who was anything but comic relief? And Cherry Littlebottom, and Polly Perks - there's a modern Éowyn, and one who is not prone to riding in desperate search of death.

And I really want to meet that character of yours. I always thought Lady Winter was treated very unfairly by Dumas.

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‘There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.’
‘It’s a lot more complicated than that -’
‘No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.’
Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 2:03 am 
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Ok, I've read that at least ten times on various boards in the past few days, got to ask now: what's "dibs"? :help:

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but being a cheerful hobbit he had not needed hope, as long as despair could be postponed.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 2:28 am 
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It's a children's word, Hobby: to yell "Dibs on the blue ball!" means you get to play with the blue ball (if you call dibs first).

So to "have dibs on" something means you've got first claim.

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 2:46 am 
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Yes...as in, "I've got dibs on the chair next to Primmie at the moot!"

;) :D

I agree, Frrrrrrrellga - Pratchett writes women extremely well! And he writes the most engaging kind of protagoniste (that's the feminine 'e' ending, that I've just made up). Agnes is very, very good; I've only read her in the one book (the opera one - I've forgotten the title now. A pox on this sieve-like brain of mine!) and hope very much he has plans for her - I suspect she'll make one of the triumvirate now that Magrat has other responsibilities. You'll know, of course, having read them all, BUT DON'T TELL ME! I need to be surprised! :)


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 9:20 am 
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The Phantom of the Opera parody is called Masquerade.

"Look at that Chandelier! That's an accident waiting to happen!"


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 9:57 am 
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Of course! Masquerade! And absolutely marvellous, it is. Thank you Alatar! :)


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 5:59 pm 
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I LOVE Granny and Nanny Ogg. :)

Has anyone read Alexander Smith McCull - a new author. Male (I guess), but his lead characters are women and he writes VERY well about them. Very insightful, and good characters. Really good.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 10:13 pm 
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Masquerade is my favourite Pratchett book so far! :D

Thanks for the explanation, Prim and Imp! :hug:

Never heard of this author I'm afraid, Mahima! :)

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but being a cheerful hobbit he had not needed hope, as long as despair could be postponed.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 4:38 pm 
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Mahima - I've only read The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency so far, but I absolutely loved it. :D


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 5:31 pm 
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Hey Melly!! :)

Try the rest too. I've also read "Sunday Philosphy club" (different heroine) and "Morality for beautiful Girls" (continuation of No. 1....)
He is good.

I am right now re-reading Terry Pratchetts' "Witches Abroad" :D
heh-heh-heh

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