Wanted: heroine indifferent to her looks.

March 23, 2015 § 11 Comments

Full Bookshelves

Tonight* a coworker and I made an exception for a young female patron – probably seven years old – and allowed her to check out books when normally policy would forbid it.  (Shh, don’t tell…)  Her father was pushy, but the girl was so polite and cheerful when we told her about the limit, that we felt bad saying no.  As my coworker walked away, leaving me to finish checking the books out, the girl’s father whispered to her, “See?  It’s because you’re cute.”

I tried to hide my irritation and temper his remark by smiling at her and saying, “We’re letting you check more out because you were so nice about it.  We didn’t like to have to keep saying no to you, because you were so polite!”  But I couldn’t help thinking the damage was already being done.  At seven years old, she is already learning that her looks are what make her exceptional, and they will get her what she wants.

I am not going to rant about our culture’s obsession with body image and beauty in general.  I’m not going to vent my frustration at the way girls are taught at such a young age to value their looks above their character.  I’m going to stick to the book theme here, don’t worry.

I will simply be keeping an eye out for (fictional) heroines whose looks are not important, to them or their authors.  Heroines who are barely described, who spend no time detailing their clothing or hair, whose love interests don’t fall in love with them because or in spite of their physical beauty.  These heroines may be attractive or plain, but the important thing is that their looks are not significant.

If you know of any (fictional) heroines who fit this description, please let me know!  I think a list of such protagonists would be so useful. 

*I originally wrote this post on a weeknight after work.


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§ 11 Responses to Wanted: heroine indifferent to her looks.

  • What's She Reading? says:

    I would definitely be interested in a copy of such a list as well. Even books with female protagonists that I would classify as being “strong female leads” tend to overemphasize how beautiful or striking she is.


    • That’s exactly the problem I’m always running into! I was trying to run up a list of some of my favorite fictional heroines to see if any of them fit these requirements; Jane Eyre might, but so far she’s the only one I could think of! As I find heroines whose looks are simply unimportant, I will be sure to mention them here, and once I have a list of any noticeable length I’ll post it. 🙂
      Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  • Jim Robson says:

    My wife fits the description – it’s her character that makes her exceptional – but the book about her has not yet been written, so try these: Deborah in Judges; Ruth in the book of the same name; Hannah in 1 Samuel; Mary in Luke; Dorcas, Lydia, and Priscilla in Acts.


    • Thanks, Mr. Robson, for the great suggestions! I agree that all of the women you mentioned meet the requirements. I should have stipulated, though, that I was looking for fictional women. It’s not so difficult to find a real woman whose wonderful character is the most notable thing about her and the most important thing to her.
      Thank you for your input!


  • Squeaky says:

    Whoo that’s going to be a tough one, girl. But you’ve inspired me to do that as well! It’d be very refreshing to read about a heroine like that! 🙂


    • I’m afraid you’re probably right- it probably will take a while before I have a list of any significant size! Please do let me know if you find any examples!
      Thanks for the comment. 🙂


  • Blackie says:

    I would say Hannah Merchant, though her appearance is described in detail. I haven’t seen any comments that it’s put under emphasis in quite that way, however.

    Other than that, she’s not the main character of the books, but Suzy Turquoise Blue came to mind. I’d recommend going over The Keys to the Kingdom books first, though, because I don’t quite remember the details. She’s what’s called a “Piper’s Child” and is brave (sometimes obnoxious) and wears a broken top hat, and has freckles across her nose.


    • You know, I can’t remember if I ever started the Keys to the Kingdom series. I think I tried at least one of the books, but I don’t remember it at all. Oh, dear, my to-read list is growing again…!
      Thanks for the suggestions. 🙂


  • […] Juliet is a smart and pretty independent girl (especially for the time period). Ever since I read this post from Rachael @AwakeandReading I’ve been on the lookout for main female characters who do […]


  • Jen Hazlett says:

    Uprooted by Naomi Novik
    Patricia Cornwell’s earlier Kay Scarpitta’s books
    Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
    A Face Like Glass & The Lie Tree by Frances Hardlinge
    God’s War by Kameron Hurley
    The Color Purple by Alice Waker


    • Phew! That’s quite a list – and all off the top of your head?! Very impressive.

      The only one from this list that I’ve read is Uprooted (so many feelings about that book – another blog post, maybe) but I believe I remember that her looks were indeed a point of discussion. Much of that was I think meant to illustrate her particular kind of magic and her ties to Baba Yaga – her constant inexplicable messiness, for example – but also a significant contrast was drawn between her looks and her best friend’s. I will have to re-read/skim and think about it some more.

      Thank you for your contributions!


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