Relatable

Seriously, does anybody here have a female character who’s an adult woman, not a kid or a teenager, that they identify with? I read like a maniac, and all I can think of are García Lorca’s Bernarda Alba and Jane Doe from the previous post.

A million male characters feel perfectly relatable. But for female ones, I have to scrape the barrel very deep, and still there’s nothing.

20 thoughts on “Relatable

  1. Pretty much all of mine are in fantasy and science fiction, so not sure how much that helps. The one I identified with the most would be Rowan from Rosemary Kirstein’s “The Steerswoman” series, but there are a lot of other partial matches – Melantha Jhirl from George R R Martin’s “Nightflyers”, Naomi Nagata from The Expanse (book not TV series) – although here it was more of an our-self-destructiveness-works-in-similar-ways situation rather than the character herself resembling me. In any case, even if I didn’t enjoy SF for how it works as a genre, I’d still keep reading it just for having women that aren’t always aliens. If you’re feeling suffocated by emotiveness, I’d say a crash diet of Isaac Asimov short stories featuring Susan Calvin might be just what you need.

    Rather curious about some of the male characters you identified with, by the way. For me it’d be Camus’ Meursault, Marguerite Yourcenar’s Zeno, and just about every Jules Verne protagonist

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    1. Oh, there are so many. Fermin de Pas, a manipulative, social-climbing priest beset by physical desire, from Clarín’s beautiful 19th-century Spanish novel La Regenta.

      The first-person narrator of Juan Goytisolo’s Count Julian whose main motivating force is the hatred of his homeland.

      Rafael Chirbes’s corrupt patriarch Rubén Bertomeu in Crematorium and his unemployed carpenter Esteban.

      Philip Carey from Maugham’s Of Human Bondage.

      Von Koren in Chekhov’s The Duel.

      Even in many ways the priest Padre in The Siege of Krishnapur.

      What they all have in common is that they are very obsessive and find it hard to connect with people. But they can also be charming and manipulative.

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    2. Ditto. Before Bujold went all woke in her later installment (s?), her Cordelia was one of the vanishingly few women in fiction that I could relate to. It is pulp space opera though, so probably not Clarissa’s genre 😉

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    3. Mine are all in science fiction and fantasy as well. It’s an interesting phenomenon. Those genres in particular seem to have the best adult female characters.

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  2. I’ve enver read things to identify with characters (more to see how other people behave).

    Female characters that I some kind of identification with….

    a character in the second book of a sci-fi trilogy (just one short section where she describes how she came to realize just how many lies there are holding society together and holding it back at the same time and how long it would take to make any difference whatsoever….)

    Miss Marple, what I like about her stories is that she doesn’t rely on clues (I love mysteries but I’m not a fan of clues) she figures out who the murderer is based on her knowledge of human nature and then figures out the rest.

    that’s about it….

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  3. I don’t know that I read books to “relate” to the characters per se. But there are some great female characters that I have affection for. I love Jane Eyre. She has a bit of steeliness to her that I always appreciated. I personally don’t like the character Lucy Snow in Bronte’s Villete but I can see Lucy appealing to you. I have also always liked Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse.

    Also, I don’t know if you read any nineteenth century mysteries. But the Women in White is great and one of the main characters–Marion Halcombe–is a delight. She is a bit overly tamed by the end, but still a fun, active character. Along the same vein, Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon is a highly enjoyable novel and the titular Lady Audley is a great villainess.

    I also rather like Lady Macbeth and always half wish she had gotten away with her crimes. 😉

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    1. “I also rather like Lady Macbeth and always half wish she had gotten away with her crimes”

      Maybe the only Shakespeare character I really like (in that I find her interesting enough to hack my way through the ancient incomprehensible prose to appreciate her…).

      She’s also hugely important in Verdi’s Macbetto (a key work in his output and maybe the first real musical portrait of a character in Italian opera).

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      1. I haven’t read it. I’ve read very little Shakespeare, to be honest. But I know the Hamlet monologue by heart because we learned it in high school (in the original).

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        1. “read very little Shakespeare”

          Like most American teens… I effin’ hated Shakespeare in high school. the language was well beyond the comprehension barrier (without a lot of historical and language preparation which we didn’t have).

          I might as well have been Swahili with a few well-known English quotes thrown in… imagine being expected to understand Old Church Slavonic (Старославянский язык) in high school with no previous preparation….

          Still, Lady Macbeth… interesting, understandable motivations and guilt and remorse…

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I liked it. Or at least the comedies. I was kind of bummed that we only did excerpts in high school.

            My Dad taught me to read out of the old McGuffey readers, and the KJV Bible– this included memorizing big block quotes like the intro to Ecclesiastes (among other things). Now imagine a diminutive three year old squeaking out “Vanity of Vanities, saith the preacher! Vanity of vanities: all is vanity! What profit hath a man of all his labor, which he taketh under the sun…” (and on for about eleven verses). It was a good party trick, or something 😉 Anyway, that early exposure to KJV made Shakespeare a lot easier. I’m trying to replicate it with my kids, but with less success. I haven’t got the knack of getting them to want to memorize long poems and huge block quotes. We do practice reading aloud from the KJV psalms just for the diction, though. Here’s hoping…

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  4. Perhaps female characters in books one would like to know? Jane Eyre, Lizzie Bennett, Nike Etland, Cordelia Vorkosigan, Meg O’Keefe, Kivrin Engle, Linda Martin, Jo March… Probably more.

    Is “identify” the right word?

    I don’t particularly want to read about a clone of myself, but I also don’t want to spend loads of time with Mrs. Clinton or a hopeless woke snowflake. Where does that get fun? Or the boy version. But I also read for plot, setting and voice, so what do I know?

    I’m told Flannery O’Connor is aces at drawing human portraits. I’ve only read a couple short stories, but they have real sticking power

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    1. Oh, I forgot some of those. Jo was the only tolerable character in Little Women– I read a lot of Victorian novels around that age, and got to where I could spot the “angelically-dies-of-consumption” character in the first chapter, and that poisoned LW for me. I love Jane Austen, but I somewhat sheepishly admit my favorite character in all her books is Mr. Palmer 🙂

      The problem with Flannery O’Connor is that I vividly remember ALL the characters, but I also hate them.

      I liked Jane Eyre and Lucy Snowe, and found both relatable to a limited extent.

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        1. I am just the opposite. Most of the enjoyment I get out of novels is character. My husband and I both enjoy a bit of SF and space opera, but I read for the characters, and he reads it for the concept/worldbuilding/idea stuff, so there’s very little overlap in books we like.

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  5. Reply to “Relatable”

    I wrote you an email about this post and sent it to your Clarissa’s Blog address. I have not had a reply so I finally spent a long time finding this post and I am reposting it here.

    A while ago, you asked whether there was a female character in fiction that readers could identify with. Not being female, I did not think much about it, but I realized yesterday that there is one: The title character in Erica Jong’s Fanny, Being the true story of the life of Fanny Hackabout Jones. (I may not have the title exactly right.) Erica Jong’s other novels, I would describe as fun but forgettable, but Fanny has always resonated deeply with me, both the character and the story. If you are familiar with it, I would be interested in your comments, either via email or on your blog.

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    1. I apologize, David, I haven’t been reading emails in that mailbox. I’m a little out of it. But this definitely sounds interesting.

      God, I need to go check that mailbox.

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