The Difficult Heroine

Today’s post was written by Sarah.

The time is upon us for a random Pink musing. I admit I had some trouble coming up with what to write about. I considered doing some research on Common Sense societies, or maybe digging into Vauxhall a little and the intriguing time in-between the social seasons that Crimson Rose is set in. Nothing really captured me and inspired me to write. Then, ta-da, riding to the rescue is our dear Bubble Bath Reader herself. She suggested a post Lauren has on her website discussing the Difficult Heroine (you can read her original post here).

Mary is most definitely a difficult, or even anti, heroine. Most readers cannot stand her based on her behaviour in Black Tulip and Emerald Ring. She’s cutting, selfish, vain and conniving in ways that border on Machiavellian. Then, wonder of wonders, she’s the star of her own novel. Really, really, Lauren, what were you thinking? She was thinking that Mary is a fantastic character, that’s what she was thinking! By the end of Crimson Rose, you have either learned to love (or at least respect) Mary or you still can’t stand her. There are very few people who are indifferent to her, just like Vaughn… okay, no rabbit hole of the anti-hero, let’s stick with the women, go away Vaughn!

Another well-known anti-heroine Lauren mentions is Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind. What a story, what a character! Scarlett, in my opinion, is Mary but ramped up about 10 times. I love this early description of her, ”the green eyes in the carefully sweet face were turbulent, willful, lusty with life, distinctly at variance with her decorous demeanour.” She is every word I used to describe Mary and then some, and seriously can we talk for just a second about Vivian Leigh’s beautiful portrayal of her in the movie? No one does a resting b*tch-face like Vivian. Again, the more you dig into the book the more you can appreciate Scarlett’s motives. She will do, and just about does, anything to protect her beloved Tara. She also has some redeeming moments, thank goodness (or Margaret Mitchell). I will always respect her for looking after Melanie, despite the fact that Melanie “stole” Ashley. Not that I ever understood Scarlett’s fascination with Ashley, but that’s a different discussion. She’s a brilliant businesswoman who is not afraid of hard work and, much like Mary “she would make an excellent monarch… but no one had had the consideration to provide her with a kingdom.”

There are other anti-heroines mentioned on Lauren’s post: Amber from Forever Amber (haven’t read it, sorry), Milady de Winter from The Three Musketeers (love her), Madame Bovary (hated her), and our own Penelope from Blood Lily (who I won’t get into out of respect for our re-read, you’ll just have to wait for her). I’d like to add the Marquise de Montval to this list. I always wanted to know more about her. There is one other difficult heroine I’d like to talk about; Elphaba Thropp from Gregory Maguire’s Wicked. If you haven’t read the Oz quartet from Maguire I would recommend them, but be prepared to have your preconceptions rocked. He takes a well-known tale and turns it on its head, then spins it around a ton of times just to confuse everyone. Actually, he does that with all his books, almost ALL of his characters are the antithesis of what we’ve come to expect. Elphaba is no exception. She is born into difficult circumstances and is an outsider from the get-go; she’s GREEN for heaven’s sake! She is in university during a time of great change and political upheaval and she, inadvertently, causes the death of someone she loves dearly. The upshot of all of that is her transformation into the ‘Wicked Witch of the West’. Although I did enjoy the musical, please don’t base everything you know about this character on it, to truly get to know Elphaba (and Galinda and NessaRose) you really need to read the book.

There is, in my opinion, one other anti-heroine in Crimson Rose, but I won’t spoil her for you; although, you may know who I mean.

Who else would you consider to be a difficult heroine, someone you came to like despite her being, shall we say, challenging?