I think I’m going to call it. As you are probably aware, my Sunday posts have been reserved for a new idea I’d come up with: talking about elements of fantasy. And while I had quite a bit of fun discussing these topics – especially because my preferred genre, both reading and writing, is fantasy – I realize that it may not be the most popular strain of blog posts.
As I’m really only interested in providing posts that you, my readers, will enjoy, I’ve decided to let go of that idea. But, if you have any questions regarding elements of fantasy – whatever the question may be – I’d be more than willing to answer it for you.
In the meantime, I’m going to leave Sunday’s slot open. If I’ve got a book review to publish, or a question to answer, or a topic I would like to discuss, I’ll more than likely save it for Sundays.
This week’s topic comes from a research project I decided to do for one of my classes. Originally, the project was going to focus mainly in how women’s portrayal in novels have changed in recent times.
In earlier time periods, characters didn’t have much growth. The stories were more action-based. Think Beowulf, or the Canterbury Tales. Even with the stories like the Arthurian legends, where a knight would leave Camelot for an adventure, during which time he’d learn some important moral… the characters seemed to fall flat. The knight would learn this one moral, but besides that, we didn’t really know much about him.
Except, of course, that the knight generally displayed characteristics such as strength, intelligence, honor, bravery, the ability to defeat a mighty enemy, etc. I think this became the standard, so that even when characters actually began to grow and change in stories, they left behind this superiority. Female characters were considered, for the most part, weak and simple-minded, and in need of rescuing. Even in Lord of the Rings, where you have characters such as Arwen and Eowyn, they did some pretty heroic deeds but were still belittled by the men around them.
So when we started to write stories with strong female leads, I’ve discovered that we wrote them in terms of male strength. In the beginning, the women protagonists had to hold up against the legacy of the male hero in order to be considered strong. They had to be rough and tough, able to beat opponents twice their size, have no emotions whatsoever… essentially, they were men.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. I was (and still am, to a certain degree) a tomboy when I was growing up. But our female leads shouldn’t need to be like that all the time. I think that’s why Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series was such a popular figure. She was smart and brave and strong, even though neither of her parents were from the magical world, and yet she was still feminine. She didn’t have to betray who she was just so she could be considered strong.
Hermione’s not the only one, though. This is why I’ve considered expanding my topic slightly for this research project. While there may still be a lot of books being written with male leads (again, there’s nothing wrong with that; my own story has both a male and female lead), it’s interesting to see how these characters are evolving in general. We, as readers, are calling for more realistic characters. Ones that we can relate to- whether we relate on a level of gender or race, or simply on a level of knowing that they’re just as imperfect as we are.
I think authors are beginning to write about people, rather than men or women or black or white. And I think that’s to be applauded.
Say what you will about Martin; his view on female characters is pretty impressive.
Of course, in the grand scheme of things, I haven’t read very many books. Tell me in the comments… do you agree or disagree with my findings?