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The Search of the Heroine
By Lynne Milum
Copyright © 2006. All rights reserved.

There is no shortage of inspiring stories for those pursuing a hero’s journey. At some point though, girls (and women) will seek role models that align closely with their belief and thought structure. Regardless of what this post-feminist era teaches us of the roles of men and women, we remain different biological constructs including our brain anatomy.

The difficulty, even when finding a strong female character in a heroic encounter, is that the goddess role is emphasized rather than an independent experience. This heroine is often (and far too predictably) driven to fulfillment through her male counterpart. This approach is especially true in Austen’s characters of Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse and Anne Eliott; but also manifests to a lesser degree in Scarlett O’Hara and Jean Auel’s Ayla. Even Hermione Granger with her superior intellect is ancillary to Harry Potter’s greater objective. Of course, the persistent Disney Princess notion of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, et al, continues to distort the female heroic journey.

For me, Meg Murry O’Keefe of Madeleine L’Engle’s "Time Quartet" is the literature character closest to my archetype. She still finds her strength through Calvin O’Keefe – but more in a true heroic cycle switch. Calvin’s love of literature is yin to Meg’s yangish predilection for math and science. He truly plays her supporting role, while remaining that which she lives for.

Meg’s trials are used to confront something bigger than herself – the battle against universal "Nothingness." She and her brother Calvin take on the metaphorical Echthroi and learn that love is the human tool to defeat fear and egoism.

I appreciate the deeper topics that Meg is asked to take on – almost universally, the battle is not with the Echthroi but within herself. She must overcome her own fears and prejudices. In overcoming her selfish tendencies, the evil is nullified – the tyrant topples. These stories depict our perennial battles – not whether we will marry our soul mates, but whether the human spirit can resist annihilation at the hand of hate and self-interest.

I hope I can be like Meg and learn to love in the face of fear and blind hatred. This is the spiritual battle that every individual must fight. Our whole universe is in the balance. Will you give in to selfish impulses, or choose to abandon ego and embrace a nobler vision for yourself and humanity?

 



 

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