Friday, February 14, 2014

Discussion Question: Why Such Violent Heroines?

Over the next few weeks I plan to post several discussion topics on a related theme…
Why Must the Heroine….. 

This week I am wondering why violent heroines are often portrayed to be conflicted about their violent natures and the type of work they engage in or activities involving violence while other violent heroines are rarely shown as second-guessing their violent tendencies.
Some examples of tough, resilient, violent heroines who are conflicted about their behaviors are Caelena from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, and Tris from the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. 
Examples of the same type of heroines, tough, resilient, and violent who seem quite comfortable with their natures and behaviors are Rose Hathaway from the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead and Ismae from the His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers.

After talking about this with Pam, we have come up with several possible explanations. 

First, while we the readers like tough, independent, strong heroines we don't actually want them to choose to kill, instead we prefer that they only kill in self-defense.  So authors make it very clear that the characters were forced into these situations and then rose to the challenge for self-preservation.  Then we get to watch the heroine "recover" from her violent acts.  *POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN NEXT PARAGRAPH*

In Hunger Games, Katniss only kills once without an immediate threat and in Crown of Midnightthe assassin only pretends to kill people.

Second, when presented with a violent female character the author will often find a way to highlight her femininity by choice (Caelena who is obsessed with shopping) or through coercion (Katniss who becomes the muse for the well known fashion stylist Cena).

Third, in the few instances where the heroine doesn't second guess her violent behaviors she is almost always acting in the service of another.  Ismae is acting on behalf of her God Mortain and Rose is acting to protect Lissa and other vampires she was born to protect.

What do you think?  Are there other ways the authors try to soften violent female characters or other explanations they develop to explain their violent acts.? Or maybe you don't actually think of them as violent, simply regular people who engage in violent acts.  Finally, what are some other violent heroines who have stood out for you and why?
Posted by:  Sheri


  1. What an interesting post. You are right that the females are almost always "forced" into being violent. I'm reading a book right now where the main character is a teen killer. She chooses to do it and it does make the book really unique. Great post!

  2. I love this discussion question! So interesting. I think that "violent" characters tend to resist that mold because they are supposed to be the heroes of the story and therefore the "good guys". Everybody likes to root for the good guy so I think that's why the authors tend to write them that way. A great example of a "bad guy" as the main character is Cracked by Eliza Crewe which Pam just read. The main character is badass and also bad in general. I loved this! It was such a great change of pace and a really refreshing story.

  3. I never thought about it that way! I've read Throne of Glass and I realized that Celeana wasn't your typical assassin. I've also read The Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep and Gin really is the epitome of an assassin. But she's really easy to like because she truly cares about her friends and would do anything to protect them.

    Great post!

  4. This is an interesting post topic! I quite enjoy the kick-ass strong female protagonists but sometimes I like the little more realistic girl who is vulnerable because I connect to them more.

  5. I definitely noticed that with Katniss' character in my re-read of The Hunger Games this past fall. I didn't really remember it from my first time reading it, but the second time around she seemed very...apologetic. And I thought that she was almost portrayed as being more violent as she actually was, specifically in the first book of the series. *SPOILER* She doesn't actually directly kill anybody...she makes the beehive fall, but it's 100% in self-defense, and the bees were the ones that attacked them, not her.*END SPOILER* I was disappointed that she was less bad-ass than I remembered her. I know that's not exactly what you were talking about, but it's still sort of like the author taking the easy way out when it comes to a heroines violent tendencies. Later on in the series, I feel that she does sort of come more into her own with being okay with being violent, but she's still always very "I didn't meant to do this," except for, I would say, when she kills whats-her-face at the very end of the last book.

  6. I always love a kick-ass heroine because I like to see women portrayed as just as capable, dangerous and fierce as men. I also think it makes for a fun book. But these characters also need to be likable. And I don't think readers would take well to a female character who killed for fun and had no remorse and no development. Or maybe they would, depending on the book. But it's better when there is a reason, so you can have all the fun and keep a somewhat clear conscience!