Happy Women's Day

Women in Literature

Literature is a mirror through which we can see not only ourselves, but also the way in which our society has changed over the years. Women in literature show what the contemporary attitudes were towards them, how they were perceived and what they were supposed to be like and act like in different time periods. While many articles and books have been written about this subject, mostly about the faulty ways in which women were treated, we rarely think about the positive aspects of these different time periods and the positive characteristics of these women in literature. 

Women in literature have evolved from mere sexual objects (Greek mythology) into real, flesh and blood creatures with human emotions and faults. Literature has also become more inclusive and it’s obviously not something only men should enjoy anymore. 

Today is Women’s Day and I have a challenge for you! Instead of focusing on all the things that were really horrible back in the days, let’s read some really interesting novels and short stories, and try to find something in each of these works that can inspire us even today. Let’s look at the women of these stories and point out some of their most amazing traits and characteristics! To make it easier for you, I picked out some of my favorites. Feel free to add your own!

Gustav Klimt: Danae, 1907

Earlier I mentioned Greek mythology, so why not start with Danae’s Myth? This story has fascinated me ever since I saw Gustav Klimt’s painting simply titled ‘Danae’. There is something very elemental and raw in this strange story about a girl who is locked in a tower by her own father. You can find this story in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

John William Waterhouse: Miranda, 1916

Fast forward to Elizabethen literature. Men are considered superior, while women are seen as a mere necessity to procreation. Yes, a lot of bad things can be said about the role of women during that particular period. So, here is my favorite Elizabethan piece: Shakespeare’s The Tempest. If you haven’t read it already, be prepared that the women (or shall I say woman) in this play are quite passive… Still, can you find something interesting about the way they are depicted?

Joseph Mallord William Turner: Snow Storm, 1842

Victorian literature brings about a big change. Women are portrayed as protagonists more and more often, even though they are still considered inferior. Also, this is the era that some of my favorite women writers were born. During this period, more and more women pick up a pen and make their contribution to the literary canon. My two favorite books from this period are Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Obvious choices, I know. But if there is a slight chance that you still haven’t read these novels, then know that it’s still not too late!

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The 20th century brought about some big changes as women developed into strong independent creatures. As they gained more and more freedom to express themselves, different topics started to surface, such as racism. One of the novels that defined the 20th century is Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. Here, you can follow the story of Celie, an African-American teenage girl who struggles to define her own true self and resist the self-concept that is forced upon her by others.

Created by Lisa Fotios, from Pexels

There are already an (seemingly) almost endless amount of amazing books written in the 21st century. It’s quite hard to only choose one book here. All sorts of issues are addressed, and one that is gaining more and more popularity is mental health. In a society where we are becoming increasingly isolated from one another, issues such as loneliness, alcoholism and depression are harrowingly present. Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a painfully charming book about a woman who struggles with her own alienation from society. This was seriously one of the best books I have ever read, and I think it does hold up a mirror to the society that shuns and pushes away people who find it hard to fit in.

Read my review of this book here.

So there you go, a short journey through the ages. Which one of these did you like the best? What are some of the aspects of the different eras that you found interesting? What did you think about the women? 

Let me know in the comments below!

Happy International Women’s Day to all the ladies out there!

You can download my International Women’s Day Greeting Card HERE!

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