Though there are thousands of lessons we could learn from the millions of female protagonists in existence in books, this list aims to encapsulate some of the most important lessons that we can learn from women in literature across a multitude of different genres.
Here are eight bookish heroines, and the lessons they teach us.
1. Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte)
What didn’t Jane teach us? (This is my favorite book so I might be a little bias). Where most of us are fools for love, Jane makes the most difficult decision of her life with her head, rather than her heart, in the name of what she believes to be right.
Never forgetting her morals, Jane leaves her true love when she becomes aware of his incriminating past- and present- despite it breaking her own heart. Jane’s example encourages the reader to do what is right, even if it is the most difficult thing to do.
2. Citra Terranova (Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman)
We are introduced to Citra in Shusterman’s utopic (sort of) sci-fi novel Scythe. In the sequel- Thunderhead – Citra performs her work in the way she believes is most moral, regardless of it taking more time and effort and exposing her to ridicule.
Similarly to Jane Eyre, Citra encourages the reader to do the right thing, but particularly in your line of work, where you’re more likely to be influenced by others’ method of doing things.
3. Sophie Hatter (Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones)
When Sophie Hatter is turned into a rheumatic old lady, she makes the most out of her situation. Without being hysterical or vain about her lost youth, she quickly adapts to life as an older woman and goes on adventures, regardless of her increased age.
Sophie teaches us to place importance on things other than our appearance and to focus on doing the most with life that we can, however old we are.
4. Jo March (Little Women by Louisa May Alcott)
Jo, the fiery, bookish, boyish March sister, though pressured to fit into the feminine mould society at that time so dearly coveted, never conforms to others’ expectations and refuses to be anything other than herself: unashamedly, unabashedly, Jo.
Jo’s strength of character and sense of self-encourages the reader to be happy with who they are, even they don’t ‘fit in’, and to never change themselves because of someone else’s expectations.
5. Nombeko Mayeki (The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson)
Nombeko manages, first, to gain employment in Soweto, South Africa, thanks to her mathematical ability. Forced into a more undesirable employment situation, Nombeko uses her passion for reading and learning to become valuable to her employer and, eventually, her knowledge aids her in (you guessed it) saving the king of Sweden.
Nombeko reminds the reader of the value of reading, learning and knowledge, and the impact that can make on the quality of our lives.
6. Claire Fraser (Outlander by Diana Gabaldon)
Claire, hurled back in time to 17th century Scotland, uses the knowledge gained from her botany lessons, and her experience as a wartime nurse, to make her way in her new life and earn her place at Castle Leoch.
By example, Claire teaches the value of being adaptable and resourceful and encourages that we should make the best of whatever situation we’re hurled into.
7. Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery)
Despite getting into trouble and ‘scrapes’, Anne tries to be a better, more careful person every day in the hopes of being an asset to herself and her guardians, Marilla and Matthew.
She admits where her character falls short- for example, her vanity -and attempts to make amends for these character flaws, whilst never dwelling too long on her good qualities. Anne teaches the reader to never give up on trying to be the best version of yourself, no matter how many times you fail.
8. Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)
Elizabeth Bennet, at the time of Pride and Prejudice‘s publication, would have encouraged the Georgian reader to: marry for love, and not simply for money; to stand up for themselves, even if they were made to feel small and; to judge others based on their morals and actions, rather than their appearance and wealth.
Pride and Prejudice, as a novel, has stood the test of time, and so have the lessons Elizabeth Bennet taught us.