Recently it's been brought to my attention that a good number of my very favorite heroines are incredibly stubborn girls. Downright bullheaded at times. I began thinking about why I seem to respond so favorably to characters who can almost be relied upon to buck the norm--their society, their family, the very path their lives seem to be taking. Particularly when this recalcitrance blinds them to a few key, sometimes obvious realities and their degree of importance in their lives. I realize (and completely understand why) this oftentimes troubling quality in a character can really rub some readers wrong. I'll frequently recommend a favorite book with one of these gals in it and it gets returned or reviewed negatively because they could not stand the main character and her inability to back down or admit she was wrong. So. In these instances, why do I like them so much? Instead of being turned off, why do I actually relish their refusal to compromise?
One of my most beloved stubborn girls is Alanna of Trebond from the Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce. Her determination not to give up on her dream of becoming a knight no matter what she has to do to achieve it leads her to be obstinate on an almost continual basis. But what if she weren't? They would have packed her off to the nearest convent before she had a chance to heft a sword and then where would her country be when the diabolical sorceror decided to kill his way to the throne? In a pickle, that's where. Alanna, to her confusion, finds herself surrounded by a group of true friends, a couple of whom would like their relationships to be more. I love her because she recognizes how valuable these friends are, while still maintaining her independence. I love her because she struggles to find the right balance in her life between honor, duty, and love and because she doesn't give up. I will never tire of Alanna.
Next comes Rachel from Archangel by Sharon Shinn. Here's a girl who makes or breaks the book for readers. Clearly, she makes it for me, but I understand why some readers find her impossibly irritating. From a young age, control over her own life was taken out of her hands and she eventually finds herself a slave, forced into subservience in the homes of the people she despises. When the Archangel-elect comes to collect her, she does not view him as savior, but as another impediment to her self-determination. The book is filled with combative, combustible scenes as these two forces of nature are thrown together against their will. I haven't experienced anywhere near the degree of suffering and frustration that Rachel does throughout the course of the novel and yet I admire her so much. Yes, Gabriel is remarkable in many ways, and yes he has his people's best interest at heart, but Rachel...Rachel is unfailingly real to me. She is intractable to a fault and I love, love, love how fierce she is. But she's also loyal and kind-hearted and just as honorable and good as Gabriel. She's just incapable of bending her will to anyone else's and the righteous indignation in me cheers her on madly.
You've heard me go on about Moira J. Moore's Hero series and how funny and well-developed I think they are. And, yes, I'm wild about Taro--the leading man. But I remain firmly attached to Lee--his female partner. When Lee first finds out she's to be paired with Taro, she is, in a word,dismayed. She is also more than willing to believe the rampant rumors about his pompous nature, his philandering exploits, and his utter self-absorption. Lee comes from a very humble background and, being eminently practical and extraordinarily unsentimental, she takes a remarkably long time to see what's really in front of her eyes. Too long, many readers say. And, once again, I hear where you're coming from. But for whatever reason, I find myself so very fond of Lee. I realize she's deluding herself in many ways and I think my fondness comes from understanding where she's coming from. To believe in Taro--the real Taro--would change the fabric of her life. It would change all her comfortable rules and whip the safety net out from under her where trust and relationships are concerned. She's not ready for that. But she's getting there. Bit by bit, book by book, she's getting there. And I just love watching the whole thing play out.
In the end, I guess I'm just a ridiculously firm believer in the kind of heroines Robin McKinley (an excellently stubborn girl herself) refers to as "girls who do things." I don't know how many times I've used that phrase to describe why I connected with a character. It's why I connect with each of these and they are just a sampling of a whole ream of stubborn girls that I gleefully admire. Their bravery and determination combined with their many flaws endear them to me. I see bits of myself in them, bits of where they're wrong, and bits of the way I would like to be. And on those days when I'm about as far from brave or determined as a girl can be, when my flaws are staring me in the face and laughing, reading about these defiant, unyielding, stubborn girls makes my spine stiffen with resolve. And that is why I love them.