If there is anything that we as a society love deeply…it's a hero. Both children and adults alike are drawn to heroes in both reality and fantasy. Children grow up being regaled by stories of the prince saving the princess and adults beam over happy endings in movies where the hero saves the day. Most people would describe the role as hero as someone, who defies the odds, is a champion for the people, and who physically or possibility even emotionally or spiritually rescues others. A hero may even possess unconventional ethics and approaches, but the constant is that a hero looks out for the greater good of others, particularly the minority whose voices have been silenced by the majority. This paper will provide a subjective definition of a "modern heroine" as well as present a discussion of an protagonist I deem a hero in Alice Walker's novel "The Color Purple."
We are all too familiar with heroes we learn about in stories, the movies and other fictional works. More often than not the hero is a male protagonist who saves the day and gets the girl at the end of the story. But being hero is more than just riding off into the sunset and being a hero is not exclusive to the male population. Modern times too, have their fair share of hero's and not all of them are male. The modern day heroine is a woman who is confident, vocal and not afraid to call a wrong and stand for what she believes to be the right thing even when she has to stand alone. A modern day heroine is a trail blazer, defying convention and usually does not adhere to stereotypical "women roles" as a matter of fact, she defines her own roles and rights her own rules for her life. A modern day heroine may not save one particular person as the men in tales of old, but rather, through her life gives people a reason to hope and optimism that positive progressive change is in the midst. They take risks and live authentically and inspire others to do the same. Examples of individuals who I believe fit the description of a modern heroine are below.
Ellen took a bold risk in announcing her sexual orientation, something that could have ended her television and comedic career. As an openly gay woman, Ellen ran the risk of being ridiculed and ostracized by a society that does not always welcome gay people. Despite this, Ellen's career has thrived. Ellen is a modern heroine because she has paved the way for others like her, helping people to understand that their sexual orientation is not an impediment to their success.
The first woman to become Secretary of the United States she broke down barriers and entered the "old boys club" clearing the way for other women to do the same. It had been longed held that women do not belong in politics, especially as senior officials. Speaking six languages fluently, and holding a PhD from Columbia University along with a host of honorary degrees Ms. Albright is a true hero.
A modern day rags to riches story. This media mogul was born a poor black girl in the south and has grown to be one of the most influential people in America. Ms. Winfrey grew to phenomenal popularity as host turn producer of her own show, The Oprah Winfrey show. As an avid humanitarian, she founded and self-funded a school in Africa for girls, giving them the opportunity for an education that they otherwise would not have. Now, Ms. Winfrey is the first black woman to own her own television network. Ms. Winfrey has shown that socio-economic status is not a barrier to success.
My definition of a modern heroine includes without a doubt women who don't fear, women who don't conform, women who succeed despite the odds…that is a hero. The women listed above are heroes. Everyday heroines are everywhere, not only in politics and media but also on the warfront, in schools, in business. I believe the modern day heroine does not necessarily need her work heralded on a national level, but many heroines make strides in their community, in their workplace even in their homes. A modern day heroine may not don a cape or ride of on a white horse into the sunset, but she inspires others to live fully, authentically and empowers people to succeed even when people say they can't because of the color of their skin, their gender or their sexual orientation. Our modern day heroines lead not just by words but by actions and example.
Let's move on to examine Alice Walker's book, "The Color Purple." Complete with many women who could be considered a heroine. "I don't know how to fight, all I know how to do is stay alive" said a young Celie the central female protagonist in Alice Walker's book. To understand why Celie is my heroine in this story one must understand the life she led and the very difficult times she had. Made to quit school to work on the farm, repeatedly raped by her step father, married off to a man twice her age and had her children (the product of the abuse at the hands of her stepfather) sold off to other families and the death of a mother describes Celie's life by the tender age of 14. After years of physical, emotional and sexual abuse first by her stepfather and then by her husband, Celie actually begin to advocate that husbands beat their wives and she advised her son in law to do just that. Abused and mistreated defined Celie's life and Celie was passive and submissive. Never speaking up for her welfare, nor advocating for others. She became, by all purposes a victim of circumstances. Influenced by strong women she encountered throughout her life, Celie begins to take her freedom and independence inch by inch. Celie started small, going from wearing drab dull clothing to more brightly colored clothing with adornments. Once told her smile was ugly, Celie made sure never to smile without covering her mouth after an encounter with Shug, another critical character in the novel, Celie began to smile freely. Never told she was loved, beautiful, smart or worth anything Celie comes to realization that she is special and worthy of love. Timid, demure and naive by nature and most likely by nurture Celie blooms into an independent free-thinking woman. While Celie never became as strong and independent as other women in the story but a clear a remarkable difference in her attitude and outlook was evident by the end of the novel.
Celie, by my definition of a modern heroine clearly becomes one by the end of the story; the emphasis is on the notion that she becomes one, because she develops over the course of the plot into what I would call a heroine. No, she didn't change the world, but she changed herself and by doing that she impacted the lives of those around her. Celie represents in my opinion, the progression and development of all those who eventually become heroines. Most people don't start out as trailblazers but through trial, tribulation, life experience and those they meet along the way become who we know them to be. That process of "becoming" isn't always heralded, society tends to praise all the major successes, but what makes people a success are all the small successes and most importantly failures along the way. What makes people who they are is not necessarily what happens to them, but how they respond and how they rise above. Celie is a modern heroine because she rose from the ashes, she found her…