There poem it is Lizzie that remains pure

There
are no significant heroine’s in English Literature. The writers in this era of
English Literature wrote female protagonists, but they could not be classified
as heroes in literary standards. The women in these stories are always
constrained by the gender roles in the male-dominated society. The authors do
not give the female protagonists an outlet for heroic action in their stories. The
hero character in a piece of fiction is usually the main character in the
literary work who when in danger, combats the adversity through a feat of bravery,
ingenuity, or strength. This act of heroics often meant the character having to
sacrifice their own personal fears for the greater good in the story.  While the restraining of women in society’s
lead to lack of real female heroes, women were not allowed to express many
things including but not limited to their sexuality, their emotions, and ideas.
There have been many brilliant women in and out of literature that have not
been taken seriously just because of their gender. Literature should have been
an exception, especially when written by a woman, for in a story anything could
happen. Perhaps it’s the influence of modern writer’s where women are strong
and slay their own dragons on this reader, but the authors should have done
more to make their female characters anything other than a typical woman of
their age.

            In Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin
Market” the character of Lizzie some might defend as a hero for sacrificing
herself for her sister Laura. Rossetti can be said to have started the
framework for a early heroine, the problem in her heroic action is that it is a
passive action. Rossetti writes this poem about sexuality, but only about the
women of the time as show by the first line that women can only hear, “MORNING
and evening; Maids heard the goblins cry.”  
In the whole of the poem it is Lizzie that remains pure and resists the
temptations of the Goblin men, this role of an unblemished virgin is a
consistent theme in literature all over the world. While Lizzie runs from the
Goblin men whereas her sister Laura stayed “Curious Laura chose to linger, Wondering
at each merchant man,” this could be showing that curiosity for a woman was
considered bad in the Victorian Era especially sexually curiosity. Women of this
time weren’t even supposed to think of sex before they are married. What
happens next to Laura can be translated in a way that is definitely sexual in
nature and after enjoying the fruit given by the Goblin men, Laura can think of
little else. She comes to find out she can no longer hear the call of the
Goblin men and this longing for their fruit makes Laura start wasting away. Only
when Lizzie sees that her sister is wasting away that she decides to go to the
Goblin men herself get the fruit this was Lizzie’s desperate act to save
Laura’s life. Lizzie had many choices on how to get the antidote like a male
hero would have done. A man in this time would have attacked the goblin men to
demand the cure for their fruit, or would have gone a journey to find a magical
spell or cure for Laura. Lizzie instead goes to the men with offer of payment
for some fruit to take with her and when the Goblin men refuse to sell, and she
refuses to stay the Goblin men attack her. Instead of fighting the Goblin men
Lizzie chooses to remain passive, “Lizzie uttered not a word; Would not open
lip from lip; Lest they should cram a mouthful in;” by keeping her mouth
tightly closed and just let the Goblin abuse her to get what her sister needs
to live this inaction is what many mistakes for making Lizzie a heroine. This
self-sacrifice to be abused for her sister’s sake is at best passive heroism
and not the makings of a real hero in literature. The end of “Goblin Market” is
almost out of place with the rest of the poem. The last few lines of the poem
feel almost irrelevant “Would tell them how her sister stood; In deadly peril
to do her good, And win the fiery antidote: Then joining hands to little hands;
Would bid them cling together, “For there is no friend like a sister, In
calm or stormy weather…To lift one if one totters down; To strengthen whilst
one stands,”” this abrupt ending could lead the readers to believe that
Rossetti had not reached a satisfactory ending on her female hero. That perhaps
Rossetti knew that her character Lizzie could have been so much more than a
virgin passive hero, that she could have saved her sister without going through
the abuse given by the Goblin men.  

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            The character Louisa Gradgrind in
Charles Dickens story “Hard Times,” is the only female main character who could
have in many ways become a hero in her own story. Her heroes story could have
been like the mythical phoenix rising from the ashes from her emotionless life
instead at the end of the story she is left unmarried, and alone save for her
friend Sissy, who has helped her regain her heart, and Sissy’s children, who
are probably one of the few true joy’s in her life. Louisa has been raised by a
father to not be creative or live by emotion only to consider the cold raw facts,
but this does not derail her “wonder” of things. This is a telling fact in the
story that from her youthful age Louisa resents the education of facts, which
she finds thoroughly unenjoyable and which represses her imagination and
emotions thus distorting her heart. The first spot in the story where Louisa
could have acted like a female heroine, is when her father brings up the
marriage to Bounderby. “Father,’ she returned, almost scornfully, ‘what other
proposal can have been made to me? Whom have I seen? Where have I been? What
are my heart’s experiences? …’What do I know, father,’ said Louisa in her quiet
manner, ‘of tastes and fancies; of aspirations and affections; of all that part
of my nature in which such light things might have been nourished? …You have
been so careful of me, that I never had a child’s heart. You have trained me so
well, that I never dreamed a child’s dream. You have dealt so wisely with me,
father, from my cradle to this hour, that I never had a child’s belief or a
child’s fear.'” Mr. Grandgrind sees this as high praise that his methods are
working, but the reader sees this as something horrific. Louisa was saying she
was never allowed a proper childhood which is supposed to be filled with dreams
and imagination games. She also says she know nothing of real love even Louisa
herself may have found these facts terrible of her own life. Louisa should have
denied this marriage even though this goes against how she was raised, but a
hero must follow their heart despite what their world is telling them. Unfortunately,
Louisa doesn’t know how to follow her heart because she was raised to be
completely detached from the emotions and typical experiences that give people
attachments to others and the reality of love is just beyond Louisa’s grasp, so
making any form of heroic action is out of the question here. In the confrontation
of her father and how he had messed her up with his educational methods of
raising his children, “All that I know is, your philosophy and your teaching
will not save me. Now, father, you have brought me to this,” this moment should
have been her phoenix. The realization of her father’s failings and her
awakening to the importance of imagination and fancy but instead she faints.
Dickens should have written that instead of fainting she should have remained
strong and standing showing her father that even though she was messed up she
would overcome her emotional handicap that he instilled in her and her brother
Tom. If Louisa had been given the opportunity by Dickens, she could have been a
great heroine by overcoming such a harsh and unemotional upbringing by breaking
free of the confines of a woman in this society, but that would have been too
radical for the time it had been written.

            In
“Northanger Abbey” by Jane Austen the main character Catherine Morland is supposed
to be set up as an unlikely hero in her own life. In the introduction to the
novel Austen comments on how completely normal her life is and how she would
never be like a hero from a Gothic novel, “No one who had ever see Catherine
Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be a heroine.” This is
the only work where the author says that her protagonist is a heroine and from
this first sentence the author notes how things should be in the ideal life of a fictional heroine, but then
writes how things are for the flawed character of Catherine Morland. Catherine
is obsessed with Gothic novels, but unlike the heroines of Gothic novels she is
deficient in experience and perception of other people. While Catherine is an
avid reader of novels, she is no good at reading people since she has not been
anywhere outside of where she grew up, and being so sheltered is what causes a
great many problems she creates for herself or the encounters she has through
the novel. Catherine’s failure to recognize the obvious emerging relationship
between her brother James and her friend Isabella shows her inability to read a
situation outside of a novel; she also fails to distinguish Isabella’s true
nature until long after it has hurt her brother, “Isabella, embracing
Catherine, thus began: – “Yes, my dear Catherine, it is so indeed; your
penetration has not deceived you. – Oh! that arch eye of yours! – It sees
through everything.”” It is apparent that Isabella assumes that Catherine
is perceptive but as the reader we know that Catherine is not very perceptive,
is even obtuse at times, and here she has no idea what Isabella is talking
about. She is of an innocent nature and at best just naïve that she cannot
fathom the motivations of people, and she cannot read people’s behavior. This leads
to her most significant embarrassment of herself in front of Henry, the man whom
she loves, when he finds out she suspects his father of murder, “– Dear Miss
Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained.
What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we
live… Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?”  Henry wakes Charlotte from her imagined world,
this choice of who was to wake her with reality was not an accident. Jane
Austen chooses Henry not just because he was a man but because he was her
romantic interest the one man who could talk real sense into her. By the end of
the novel, she has become a much better judge of character, having learned from
her mistakes with Isabella and her assumptions of General Tilney. Ultimately,
it is her integrity and caring nature that win Henry’s heart and bring her
happiness by her marriage to Henry. In the story Catherine
tended to be naïve and at times a ridiculous in her assumptions, although she
is sweet and kind and these traits though admirable do not make her heroine.
She is constantly mistaking and substituting things from the fiction she reads
and translating into the experiences she lacks in real-life. This stems from
having a highly over active imagination which again leads to many assumptions
and mistakes throughout the story. Catherine is not a heroine Gothic or
otherwise, she shows no real heroic action, even when she thinks she is
uncovering the truth of General Tilney.

            The women in these stories are all
similar in several ways other than they are all protagonists of their own
stories, they are all written as very innocent typical women of the Victorian
Era. Marriage is also the key to all the works and how they relate to a woman’s
happiness. Lizzie and Laura’s tale is a cautionary tale of the importance of
virtue, guarding it and its relation to a marriage. Louisa is stripped of her individuality
making her a plain vessel that will do whatever her father wanted her to do if
it was presented logically which makes her go into a loveless marriage. Finally,
Charlotte can’t seem to do anything without a man like many Austen novels the
end goal is a marriage, while unlike that of Dickens Louisa, Charlotte at least
loves the man she is to marry. It seems to be that the authors all felt that a woman’s
purpose in life was not to be a hero at all, but to wait patiently for a man so
they could be a wife and mother the highest calling for any woman in the
Victorian period. All of these women could have been true heroines in their
stories, they could have saved themselves, if not for a society that deemed it
unfit to think outside the box of a domestic life