I started thinking about this when I read Kernel of Nonsense’s post ” ‘Perfect Heroes’ “. Although she mainly concentrates on female protagonists in YA literature, she questions why are female protagonists portrayed as insecure and awkward while the male characters are portrayed as “perfect”. And it gave me an idea on a different topic: the portrayal of female characters in adult fiction. There is always a discussion about young girls being portrayed in literature but never any real discussion about adult woman. Are there any adult female characters to look up to?
I know some of you are already go on the defense and believe that I’m forgetting the likes of Elizabeth Bennet or Jane Eyre and while they are terrific, I was more thinking of contemporary heroines. Adult female
characters who are written in this century. When we’re asked about present day heroines who we admire, some immediately respond Katniss Everdeen and Hermoine Granger. These two great characters are great role models and should be just admired. However, what about the characters who are in their 20’s, 30’s, or 40’s? Where is their recognition when it comes to admiration?
Maybe it has something to do with age. Young girls need someone to look up to and there is no one better to look up to, especially if they match or are around their age. It’s understandable that they wouldn’t feel a deep connection compared to their feelings towards younger characters. But what about adult characters? Why aren’t they gaining as much popularity compared to young adult characters?
Maybe it has something do with how they are perceived. When a woman is the main character of a novel, it is perceived that the book will be centered around a romance, making them the stereotypical woman waiting around for a man. Now we know this is not always true but that is the stereotype that is attached with adult female characters. So it is not surprising to see female characters in YA literature are more appealing than adult female characters. They have adventures and do more with their lives.
But that doesn’t mean we should shortchange adult characters. They may not be fighting an oppressive regime in a dystopian future or having magical adventures but that doesn’t mean they can’t be just as interesting . We read to take a little trip from reality but it is nice to see characters who actually have to deal with the trials and tribulations of real life. Not only finding romance in their life but also with their jobs and life in general. We look up to YA characters with high esteem. It doesn’t mean we can’t do the same with adult ones.
So I thought to myself: which contemporary adult female characters I think deserved huge popularity and high praise? Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of that many but I managed to narrow it down to these three:
- Heather Wells from the Size 12 is Not Fat series by Meg Cabot – She lost everything and was abandoned by people who supposedly cared about her, yet she managed to make a name for herself on her own terms.
- Lou Clark from Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – She is popular but I think she can be even more popular especially what she went had to deal with.
- Jessica Rae Thomas from One Plus One by Jojo Moyes – A single mom who unselfishly does everything for her children…qualities of a great female character.
So this isn’t me whining saying that YA female characters shouldn’t be getting all of the attention. All the years of them being ignored, I’m glad that they are getting the recognition that they deserve. But I’m afraid that with the rise of popularity of YA female characters we set aside the adult female characters that started it all. They can be strong and independent just as well YA characters. I think it is about time to we appreciate them. In this massive book world, there is enough room for both.
Thoughts? Do you any other adult female characters you would add to the list?