Some of you might remember my post entitled Where Fiction Fails. I expressed a concern about a lack of strong, beautiful-on-the-inside female characters in fiction. Someone like the Proverbs 31 woman. Elinor Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility came up as a possibility, but her spiritual character might not fit my profile.
I attend a Charlotte Mason book study (Miss Mason was a gentle, wise educator in England around the time of Charles Dickens), and a quote from her book Towards a Philosophy of Education posed an answer to my problem. Listen to this:
Perhaps we are so made that the heroic which is all heroic, the good which is all virtuous, palls upon us, whereas we preach little sermons to ourselves on the text of the failings and weaknesses of those great ones with whom we become acquainted in our reading.
The reason fiction fails to produce a perfect lady is because we readers would despise her. Who is my favorite female literary character? Probably Jane Eyre. Is she perfect? No. She’s a little stubborn, becomes too attached to certain people, does things which might not be wise. Hmmm. Those things could describe myself. Perhaps I can conclude that fiction fails to produce a woman of very high standards because so few of us reach such high standards. How could an author make it seem real? And how could a reader sympathize with such a woman? It’s not the answer I was originally looking for, but it is the best answer I can come up with.