Female Protagonists by Female Authors - by Faiza Zameer

Exploring a strand of 19th-century British literature that defied the norms

Since childhood, I was encouraged to develop the habit of reading. I read all sorts of books from fantasies, short stories, poetry to suspense and thrillers. I would spend hours and hours reading one book after another.

When reading a book chapter after chapter I would become so engrossed in reading that I would feel the same intensity of emotions as the characters if they cried, got hurt, or were upset, tears would roll down my eyes. If the characters were victorious I would cheer for them and celebrate their victories.

Slowly and slowly I would imagine the scenes set by the writers in my mind. The lines of reality and imagination would blur and I would see myself walking in school corridors, see roaming faraway moors, or would find myself entering dirty back alleys along with the characters. The stories that we read make a large part of our lives and they reflect our hopes, dreams, and fears. Reading helps us to develop opinions and ideas about other individuals and groups.

When we read about people who resemble us, behave like us, and have similar experiences we can identify with them and this also serves as a source of inspiration. But if the case is the opposite we feel that it undermines our importance and trivializes our identity.

I have come across literature mostly older literature that shows females to be tepid, subservient to men, weak, helpless, and sentimental.

In that era majority of the authors were male but there were female authors like Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Dickson, and Louisa May Alcott who wrote novels that did not follow the conventions set for women of those times and their work showed an inclination towards feminism.

Persuasion” written by Jane Austen and ''Jane Eyre'' written by Charlotte Brontë defied the standards of that time.

Both the heroines Anne Elliot and Jane Eyre were not the conventional type depicted in most books of that era and managed to go against typical standards set for women of that time.

Their personalities were influenced by education. They used education for personal development and to deal with many hurdles they faced and eventually discovered their identities.

Anne Elliot is a twenty-seven-year-old middle daughter of Sir Walter Elliot and the late Lady Elliot. She has been portrayed as a strong, mature, and sensible woman. One of the reasons that she is considered strong is because Anne was persuaded by Lady Russell to reject the proposal from Captain Frederick Wentworth who she dearly loved. To do something which you don't want to do is an act of courage.

Anne goes out of her way to help others and is always present when needed. An example of her helpful nature is her nursing her "sick" sister back to good spirits and helping Captain Benwick forget his sorrows.

By the end of the novel, Anne finally manages to overcome all the challenges that life threw her way and gets married to Captain Wentworth.

The protagonist of Jane Eyre created by Charlotte Bronte is shown to be an ideal character and the novel has undertones relating to feminism. She has shown Jane Eyre as a young woman with strong morals who is interested in learning and loves to read. She is admired as a teacher. She goes on to become a governess to the young ward of Mr. Rochester.

As a governess, she faced several challenges which she eventually overcame by not deterring from her values. Although this did cause problems for her as she sometimes had to go against the norms and standards of society.

Thus, Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen broke the norm and straightened how women were represented in old literature. Quite a feat for those times.

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