Characters I Connected With
As I’ve been slowly filling in some of the lists in my Literary Listography, I’ve been struck by the wording of some of the categories. There is, of course, the possibility that I am overthinking some of these a little, but I’m finding it very interesting. One example of this is the list for ‘characters I connected with’: not ‘favourite characters’ or ‘characters I like’, but ‘characters I connected with’. As I’ve been filling in this list, it has me thinking about what it means to connect to a character, and so I’ve been adding characters to the list that I have identified with instead of just adding my favourite characters. There’s a difference sometimes, I think, between the characters you identify with and your favourite characters.
I’ve been finding this whole process fascinating, so I thought I would share with you a few of the characters that I have identified with the most throughout my reading life. I’d be interested to know what characters you have identified with too!
George Kirrin – The Famous Five Series
Every girl who was even the slightest bit of a tomboy as a child can probably say that they related to George. For me, it was a strange mixture of relating to her tomboy nature (hating dresses and wanting to do all the things the boys were allowed to do) and envying the freedoms she enjoyed because of her parents (she had a dog and an island). In hindsight, there are many, many ways in which I am not like George at all, despite the fact that I always made sure that I was George when my friends and I played at having Famous Five adventures, but at the time it was to her tomboy nature that I related.
Hermione Granger – The Harry Potter Series
I’m not going to say that I ever identified with all of Hermione’s characteristics. I’m no Gryffindor, for starters, and I would never claim to be as brave or resourceful as her. But, when I was playing wizards and magic in the playground with my friends, I always seemed to end up being cast as Hermione; I’m not sure it was always complimentary. I’m not as clever as Hermione, but I can definitely be as much of a ‘know-it-all’ and, as my friend commented the other day, I was a little nerd at school. I once re-sat an English GCSE exam because I got an A and was disappointed. I’m of the generation that grew up with Harry Potter, and it was actually really exciting to see Hermione, a character who was as much of an annoying know-it-all as I was as a child, grow up to become someone who was still as academically competitive as ever, but was slightly more gracious in her friendships.
Catherine Morland – Northanger Abbey
My Mum was the one who suggested that I read Northanger Abbey when I was a teenager, because she felt that it was a novel I would really enjoy; it is now my favourite Austen novel, and a large part of that is because of the character of Catherine Morland. Jane Austen makes it clear from the beginning that Catherine is not your typical literary heroine, spending the entire first chapter detailing her flaws in a clever allusion to the usual introduction of the flawless heroine in a romance novel. Catherine has a vivid imagination; has difficulty telling reality from fiction; and is really quite gullible. I can’t imagine why I identify with her so much. As time has gone on, I find that I am less like Catherine than I was a teenager; I hope that I am a little less naïve and a little more discerning. But it makes me smile to think that maybe Catherine also grew in those ways as she got older.
Aurora Leigh – Aurora Leigh
I think there are few characters who have encouraged me to be myself more than Aurora Leigh. I identified with her because she is a writer, yes, but there is more to it than simply a love of literature. Aurora has strong principles that she isn’t afraid to speak out about; she is passionate in her defense of poetry and other art; she doesn’t always get things right but she admits when she is wrong. I’m a person who has a lot of thoughts, opinions, and principles; for a while there, I got caught up in the idea that to give voice to these would make me weird and uncool. Seeing a character like Aurora giving voice to her opinions, and being not only accepted for her thoughts but admired for them, reminded me that it is a good thing to have a space to speak out. That was actually one of the reasons why I started this blog: so that I could have a space through which I could still air my thoughts about literature once my MA had finished.
Maggie Tulliver – The Mill on the Floss
I only read The Mill on the Floss this year, but I instantly connected with the protagonist, Maggie Tulliver. George Eliot excels in writing realistically human characters, and I think Maggie is a wonderful example of this: she is kind-hearted and loyal, with good intentions, yet every step she takes seems to be the wrong choice. I think she is a very easy character to relate to in that respect, since most of us know the frustration of feeling that we have said or done the wrong thing at the wrong time. At the time of reading, I was feeling that particularly acutely so it is probably no wonder that I immediately felt incredibly protective of Maggie and just wanted her to have a happy ending. (You can read my review on the novel to see how that worked out.)