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How to Take Inspiration from the Best Literary Heroines

Updated on June 26, 2013

Literary Heroines as Role Models

I love literature, and as a girl always wanted to be just like the brave, smart girls and women I found in books. Literary heroines through the ages have a lot to offer us as role models--though just like real women, they also have their flaws and foibles.

Read on for the best literary heroines from which to draw inspiration for everyday life.

Charlotte Bronte, the author of "Jane Eyre"
Charlotte Bronte, the author of "Jane Eyre" | Source

"Jane Eyre" Film Trailer

Jane Eyre

Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre" was one of my favorite novels growing up, and remains one of my favorites today. As a child, I admired the feisty young orphan Jane surviving at Lowood, where she is sent by her cruel Aunt Reed, and as an adult I admired the strong woman Jane becomes.

In "Jane Eyre," Jane has few options as an unmarried woman with no connections, so she takes a position as governess at the remote Thornfield Hall, teaching the ward of the hall's master, Mr. Rochester. Despite their class differences, they fall in love, with Jane demanding that Mr. Rochester see and treat her as an equal. However, Mr. Rochester has a dark secret locked in the attic of Thornfield Hall, and when Jane discovers the truth about him she flees from their engagement, choosing to be homeless and alone rather than bend her morals.

What traits can we take from Jane?

  • A passionate nature
  • Belief in love
  • Belief in equality
  • A sense of self-worth
  • Intelligence
  • Emotional and moral strength

"Gone with the Wind" Trailer

Margaret Mitchell, the author of "Gone with the Wind"
Margaret Mitchell, the author of "Gone with the Wind" | Source

Scarlett O'Hara

If you haven't read Margaret Mitchell's "Gone with the Wind," you may view Scarlett O'Hara as a simpering Southern belle. If you have, then you know that Scarlett is one of the most tenacious, determined female characters in literature.

Scarlett's story is both epic and simple--in love with the idealistic, intellectual Ashley Wilkes, she survives the Civil War and saves her beloved plantation while pining for him. At the same time, she fails to see that her true match and equal--and the love of her life--is Rhett Butler, a man who would do anything for her but also has his pride.

What traits can we take from Scarlett?

  • Determination
  • Bravery
  • Passion
  • Vivacious
  • Devotion to family and home

Of course, Scarlett is also self-absorbed and can be cruel--so she's not the perfect literary heroine, even if she is a compelling one.

"Anne of Green Gables" Trailer

Who's Your Favorite Literary Heroine?

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Anne Shirley

Anne Shirley is one of the sweetest, most wholesome, and yet most relatable literary heroines. She changes the life of everyone she meets, always for the better. When the Cuthberts take her in at Green Gables, they don't intend to keep her--they actually wanted a boy to help on the farm--but she wins them over. Her adventures are of the everyday sort, but her personality imbues them with charm and whimsy.

What traits can we admire in Anne?

  • Loyalty
  • Imagination
  • Loving nature
  • Intelligence
  • Friendliness

"Little Women" Film Trailer

Jo March

Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" is a perennial classic that gave us one of literature's most beloved heroines: Jo March. Jo is a tomboy, full of life and the ambition to be a writer, who is growing up during the Civil War in New England. With her father away at the war, she relies on the love and support of her mother and her three sisters as she grows into a young woman.

Jo's adventures, like Anne Shirley's, are of the more simple domestic sort--squabbles with her sisters, young romance, and a difficult aunt. It's Jo's headstrong personality that makes the story so interesting and lovable.

What traits can we find to admire in Jo March?

  • Ambition
  • Loyalty
  • Intelligence
  • Work ethic
  • Selflessness

Literary Heroines to Live By

With so many great books at there, you're sure to come across a literary heroine who inspires you, moves you, and makes an impression that lasts for years. Who's your favorite literary heroine?

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    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Little Women and Gone with the Wind my best choices here

    • SaffronBlossom profile image

      SaffronBlossom 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      I love those books so much too! I read "Anne" about once a year and am always excited to find someone else who feels the same way. :) The author's diaries are really fascinating as well...she wrote them from about age 15 until she died. So glad you enjoyed the hub!

    • Abby Campbell profile image

      Abby Campbell 4 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Oh, how I love "Little Women" and "Anne of Green Gables!" Jo March and Anne Shirley are my absolute favorites. Some of my friends even refer to me as Anne. I think she's much more proper than I ever have been, but I can see why they would say so. I can be a little quirky, but I still have strong convictions... just like Anne. Thank you for this fine hub, Erica. :-)