For April, the Classic Club came up with a question that requires some thinking before answering:
“Who is hands-down the best literary hero, in your opinion? Likewise, who is the best heroine?”
I had to think about this not because I didn't know which character I would look up to, but because it was not obvious why I feel that way.
Helen is a woman on the run - from her husband but also from society at large. She needs to take care of her son, so that he does not end up like his father. She turns her back on her house, her family and her social circle and flees somewhere where she can, once again, be the mistress of herself. She will support herself and her son with her paintings and will remain reclusive, on the lookout for "well-wishers".
Helen of course is not a proper heroine. On the contrary, I really regard her as an anti-heroine. She has no grand vision when she undertakes all these major steps: she is just a character of great spirit, and once she becomes disillusioned with her marriage, she revalues her autonomy, and she sees the vice all around her and she sees how her son is slowly sinking in it. While she knows she's breaking English Law, she just wants to escape all this.
|The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1996)|
Another trait I liked about her is that, despite the turbulence and the blows she receives from everywhere, she retains her humanity. Even when her husband, who has caused all the pain she's experiencing is lying in his deathbed, she feels it's her moral duty to return to their house look after him and make him realise his sins. (Not to worry: Arthur is so delusional, he actually wishes Helen could "come with him" and pray for his salvation...)
What I pick up from her character: the strength to say no and not accept what I don't want -and to move on. It's more than "when life throws you lemons, make lemonade" - I don't want the lemons in the first place. However overwhelming a situation before me is, I have to find the strength to move ahead, and bypass the obstacles. Should I collapse in the process, I have to find the courage to get up, dust myself off and keep on walking...