|Bonny, reading a favorite story|
A friend of mine tagged me in a note on Facebook, and it was a really great exercise for me to do, as well. As I was writing my answers, I realized how true the old adage "You are what you read," has been in my life.
The exercise also reminded me how CAREFUL and PURPOSEFUL we should be in the books and works we expose ourselves and our families to. I am so grateful that my mother set an example of not just reading often, but that what she read was "virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy." I hope I am setting a similar example to my children.
*PLEASE NOTE: All of the characters below are fictional. Of course, my life has been hugely influenced by the people in scriptures, and by other great men and women throughout time. This list is one of fictional characters only. And I believe that fiction has much to teach us about the truths of life, families, goodness, wickedness, wisdom and intelligence. I believe that reading fiction is VITAL to learning and knowledge.
Here are the Fifteen Fictional Characters that have strongly influenced-- and continue to influence-- my life and heart.
1) Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre
I first read this when I was fourteen years old, and I believe it helped me form my ideals for love, marriage, and putting God above all. I wept and RAN from Thornfield with Jane. And because she could withstand even the pleading of her true love and move on to do what was right, I knew that I could do what is right against all odds, too.
2) Beth from Little Women
My cousin (Hi Michelle!) and I were about ten when we read this book separately, and then we both cried over Beth together! Beth was always so concerned about everyone else, and never once thought of herself. She was the ultimate example of Christlike love and caring for me at that young age, and she continues to teach me how to put my wishes and wants last on the list today.
3) Bishop Monseigneur Bienvenu from Les Miserables
The purposefully-destitute Bishop (because he gives all that he owns to the poor) shows me how much God values each of his children-- even those who rebel and revile against Him. To have the convict Jean Val Jean come to him begging for a bed and food, to give him all, and then to have Valjean steal some of the only things of value he owns, I was sure his greatest gift to Valjean was to forgive him and spare Valjean from being sent back to prison. But when he gives him the candlesticks also, I stand in awe. "Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul I am buying for you."
4) Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables
Anne has always been huge in my life, not just because she makes me smile, but because SHE IS ME. Overactive imagination, clumsiness, silliness, sentimental, goofy, scattered, vain, and ALL. Luckily, I had "a Matthew", too. (My wonderful mother!)
5) Meg from A Wrinkle in Time
Poor Meg was a square peg that just could never fit in the round hole everyone tried to shove her in to. Everyone, except her wonderful family, that is. I related to Meg from the moment she entered my world. My Fourth Grade teacher, Mrs. Oler, introduced us. And while I loved the magical Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit, it was Meg who brought me along to tesser beside her. From her glasses, to her awkwardness, and then to the fierce love and protection she felt for her little brother, she made me believe I might actually have potential, too. (Though not in math-- yet!)
6) Samwise Gamgee from the Lord of the Rings trilogy
Sam feels like the older brother I never had in my family. I consider him the REAL hero of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. His unflinching loyalty, his tenacity, his charity, his soft heart, his wise mind, his humility, his simplicity, his strength. This is just a short list. If you want to know ALL the reasons why I love him so, go back and read the books. You'll find out pretty quickly.
7) Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird
Scout is who I think my little Southern Granny was when she was child. I remember her telling me how she liked to climb trees and pick watermelons with the boys-- especially with her big brother, Wade. She's also told me how she was "mean as a snake" and "so naughty" when she was growing up. Now that Granny is old and living in the world of full-blown dementia, thinking about Scout makes me a little sad, and yet makes me appreciate the Granny I knew. I bet Granny would have taken Boo Radley by the hand, too. ("Hey, Boo!")
8) Miss Betsey Trotwood from David Copperfield
I ADORE Miss Betsey Trotwood!!! At first, I was terrified of her, just like David's mother was. But the way she gathers, cares for, and nurtures the "lost boys" around her (Mr. Dick and David) absolutely melts my heart. And no one else could tell those horrible Murdstones off better than Miss Trotwood! "Let me see you ride a donkey over my green again, and as sure as you have a head upon your shoulders, I'll knock your bonnet off, and tread upon it!"
9) Lucie Manette from Tale of Two Cities
Getting to know Lucie Manette literally changed my life for good. She didn't tell me, she SHOWED me, the very real POWER there is in feminine nurturing. I wrote a paper on what Lucie taught me. If you're interested, you can find it on my "Old-Fashioned Motherhood" blog here: http://blog.oldfashionedmotherhood.com/2007/07/lessons-from-great-literature.html
10) Mrs. Jellyby from Bleak House
Mrs. Jellyby provides the perfect example of what happens to me and my family when I put too many people, activities, and causes above my husband, children and home. Oh. My. DISASTER. I have to go back and re-familiarize myself with Mrs. J. every so often in order to keep my priorities straight. She's a powerful reminder for me.
11) Lady Macbeth from Shakespeare's Macbeth
This is another negative example I use to keep myself in check. Lady Macbeth was The Champion of All Wifely Nagging. And I do NOT want to end up like her. The end.
12) Sophie from Howl's Moving Castle
Sophie is the reason I read this book over and over and over again. I have the same kind of heart Sophie does, I'm also the eldest child, and I also have a tendency to be hard on myself, with a propensity for missing the forest for the trees. Plus, I have a secret wish to be able to sew life into the things I create. (How useful would THAT be in my Shakespeare plays?!) Oh, and Sophie and Howl interact in a similar way to my husband and I. (I'm married to Howl. Shhh!)
13) Heidi from Heidi
Heidi is so pure and trusting, and changed everyone around her just by living JOYFULLY. I loved my childhood, and I can go back and be a child again when I see life through Heidi's eyes. She teaches me to be more grateful and to see everything with wonder and love.
14) Mrs. Stanton from Laddie
Mrs. Stanton changed my life as a mother and homemaker. I learned from her that children need to be taught, trained, and trusted. I love how she was feminine and tender, supporting and loving her husband with all her heart. And yet, I love how strongly and fiercely she defends her family, truth, and the Lord above. Her influence reverberated through everything her children did, and almost every word they uttered. And if their mother was sick, everyone clamored to make things just right for her. I'm working to be more like her every day.
15) Elizabeth Ann "Betsy" from Understood Betsy
Betsy's experiences with her uncle and aunt remind me that "I CAN do hard things" if I will only gather up my courage and TRY.