Today on International Women’s Day, two members of our reading club lists some of the memorable women they have met in the pages:
TANMOY BISWAS‘s list:
Becky Sharp (Vanity Fair, Thackeray) ) & Arabella Donn (Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy)
Climber. Up to better life, materialistic gains and new man who would satiate her wants more, no matter whatever happens or whoever is lost.
What I end up being:
Charlotte Lucas (Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen) & Edith Hope (Hotel Du Lac, Anita Brookner)
Compromising plain dullard. Hoping against hope to find happiness with buffoons or married men ; ‘he has always come back.’
What in spirit I am:
Constance Chatterley (Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D H Lawrence)
Nymph indulging in sylvan naked bliss of sexual consummation with the full blooded animal of a man.
‘We fucked a flame into being’.
What I fear I’m becoming:
Mrs. Dalloway (Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf)
Stuck in middle class comforts. Throwing parties. Shopping. Remembering lost glimpses of passion. Mourning the loss. Mourning the placid, insipid life. Yet always coming back to it in the end.
What I am:
Miss Frost (In One Person, John Irving)
Trans woman the narrator falls for and celebrates.
‘Dear boy, don’t put a label on me. Don’t make a category before you get to know me… I’m just a woman with a penis.’
SIDDHARTHA DEY comes up with five more:
Bathsheba Everdene, the sweetheart (Far From the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy)
She is one of the first female characters in English literature I loved. Probably because of the fact that she is so ‘real’. The most flesh and blood among all of Hardy’s celebrated heroines. Not an idle dreamer like Eustacia, not a neurotic like Sue, not a passive sufferer like Marty, not a blatant time-pleaser like Arabella. Charming, confident and resourceful, yet fragile and naive at times, Bathsheba will make any impressionable reader desire her, let alone the three men who fall for her in the novel and the hundred more who might, as Sergeant Troy proclaims.
Holiday Golightly, the enigma (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote)
Holly Golightly eludes labels. You will never fully understand her motives and aims, no one does. In spite of that, (or maybe, because of that) she will keep you hooked and enthralled with her constant socialite chirp and mysterious lifestyle. Yet, beneath the glitz and magnetic charm lies a tragic life, and as the tragedy unfolds towards the end, you are moved to tears. At least, I was.
Dorothea Brooke, the learner (Middlemarch, George Eliot)
She is probably my favourite. Dorothea is someone you relate to. From her youthful idealism that leads to a disastrous marriage to her finding transcendence within the mundane, Dorothea’s journey is everyone’e journey. Dorothea’s lessons encourage us to bring out the very best of ourselves, despite our follies and mistakes.
Sheba Hart, the frail (Notes on a Scandal, Zoë Heller)
You are in your 40s, happily married and also mother of two children and a teacher in a reputed public school. And then the disaster. A 15year old student takes interest in you and your world is shaken. The trepidations, the denial, the guilt, the eventual giving in, the upheavals, the obsession and then the discovery and the doom; all these, while the boy is only having fun. Sheba is a woman at her most vulnerable. You feel sad for her, and for such frailties in all of us!
Viola, the man (Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare)
Come on! You cannot talk about women in literature without referring to Viola! With her resilience, native wit, acute understanding, tremendous sacrifice and above all the extreme sangfroid under trying and potentially dangerous circumstances, she makes you question your own manhood (unless, of course, you thought a dangling piece of flesh between your legs is sufficient)! Viola embodies in her the very best of the two worlds: the male and the female. It’s fitting that barring one scene, she is dressed in a man’s attire for the entire play and is named after a flower which is also called ‘pansy’ (a common slang for effeminate men). Viola is the ultimate celebration of androgyny!
Let us know your favourites in the comments.