Friday, February 20, 2009

Feminine Friday

In Feminine friday, Kelly gives me an interesting dillema this friday. "What book do you feel best exhibits femininity or possesses a character who exemplifies positive feminine qualities?"
What do you mean 'what book'? You mean I should chose only one? Oh good heavens...

What books spring to mind immediately? Books that I love? One of my all time favorites is The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Even though this is about a girl, not a woman, I definitely think it offers a glimp of how a child can grow into true womanhood. How kindness and determination under misfortune can shape a character. And how to keep up faith and hope when things seem to have no way out. I love Sarah Crewe's view on 'being a princess' and how she manages to be kind even while having lead a spoiled life.

Another favorite would be Sense and Sensibility. While most people immediately go to Pride and Prejudice as their favorite Austin, Sense and Sensibility has a special place in my heart, specifically because of the two qualities of which it bears the title: sense and sensibility. The combination of keeping to politeness and the demands of society on one side, to do your duty to your own family and to do so with a cheery face even when you feel like your heart is breaking, and a sincere love in your heart for others at the same time, to look at others and see their faults and still be able to love them, all that makes me a great admirer of Elinor Dashwood.

And then there is "Little Women". Few books have been written that so illustrate a coming of age of girls turning into women, becoming wives and mothers. Most people favor Jo. She is the quintessential heroine that so many teenagers identify with. Slightly ackward, wanting to rebel, writing stories, and trying to do 'something wonderful'. I too identified a lot with Jo, especially in her desire to write, naturally. And sometimes I wanted to be like Beth, full of cheerful self sacrifice and quiet caring.
Looking back and rereading the books at least once every year, I think my favorite heroine actually is Amy though. While I spoke of Laurie in this post, I am in awe of the way Amy manages to overcome her faults, the way she learns to put vanity aside but still value femininity, how she learns to handle the little humiliations of life with grace and heaps burning coals on the head of those that hurt her. How she manages to achieve domestic bliss and a serene spirit. Yes... Amy is definitely a favorite.

There are others though, probably not known to any but friends from Belgium or the Netherlands who read this book. Maud in "schoolidyllen" being the most notable one. Her combination of refinement and simplicity, as well as her sensitivity and desire for justice were something I always admired. And I always loved the ending of Hasse Simonsdochter. How she managed after the wild life she had lead with Jan van Schaffelaere not to be hardened and still do what was best for her daughter, to seemingly even becoming happy in a simple life, becoming a good wife.

Well... that was more than one book or one character, wasn't it? Let's better stop here before I start on French literature!

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