Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Most Inspirational Characters

Top Ten Tuesday is an original meme created by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish.   Of all the memes out there, it remains my favorite week to week. 

This week's theme, Top Ten Most Inspirational Characters, made me think about first how I define the word "inspirational." 

I've read a lot of books, and there are a lot of memorable (for various reasons) characters...but I would certainly not put all of those memorable characters in the "inspirational" category.  I've said before that I want to be changed in some way when I read a good book...I want it to affect me...if I'm going to invest time out of my life for the book, that's the least it can do ;)  An inspirational character for me is one that touches me deeply...one that I can relate to in an intensely personal way or would like to be able to relate to more...and one that I do not easily forget.  See if the examples below help me make sense here:

1. Father Tim - The Mitford Series by Jan Karon - Father Tim is a kind, middle aged Episcopal priest who lives an easy, quiet way of life and appreciates the world around him and the simpler things in life.  I need lots of help staying calm...always have...Father Tim calms me and helps me focus on what's most important. 

2.  Jo - Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - Jo is full of big ideas, brash, and sometimes obnoxious but always means well.  Jo wants so much to be who she was meant to be...if she could just figure out who that is :)  She pushes through the hard times and rejoices in the blessings and celebrations...and can even find beauty in the most tragic life events. 

3.  Marmee - Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - Marmee is the so-called "perfect" mother who battles her own demons while trying to raise 4 very different daughters in a world that's not quite ready for outspoken, independent young women.  She also holds her household together alone...even when her husband returns, he seems to lean on her strength.  Her daughters don't always understand Marmee's steadfastness...but respect her just the same.

4.  Scout - To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - Most folks admire or are inspired by Scout's dad Atticus...and while he also inspires me, I connect more with Scout. Scout is a curious kid whose "ain't afraid of nothin' and stands up for what is right.  Scout is mischevious as well and doesn't take kindly to being told she can't do something because she's a girl.  Sometimes her tenaciousness gets her in a little too deep before she realizes she may have stuck her neck out too far.

5.  Francie Nolan - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith - Francie is another scrapper...she reads as an escape from a troubled reality and sees education as the key to her future.  Francie doesn't really have any idea what "a better life" looks like but she's ready to go get it.  A smart girl, Francie learns the lessons of life the hard way, but because of those lessons knows nothing worth having is easily gained.

6.  Miss Love Simpson - Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns - Miss Love is a woman who has overcome obstacles that would have destroyed most women during the time in which Cold Sassy Tree takes place.  She is "stained" in other people's eyes, but she sticks her chin up (in public anyway) and rides it out.  She is a perfect example of putting one foot in front of the other day by day...even when there is no guarantee that things will get better.  She is rewarded for her perseverence in the end.

7.  Edna Pontellier - The Awakening by Kate Chopin - A lot of people won't understand why I pick Edna for inspiration because most people see The Awakening as a tragedy.  But I don't.  I believe the ending is to be interpreted more figuratively than literally.  Edna felt different and wanted more...she was ambivalent about what she should do about her difference, so she tried hard to be who she thought she was expected to be.  Edna is a perfect example of what happens when the world tries to squash the human spirit instead of honoring individuality. However, instead of being a victim of the world and dying a slow painful death in misery, Edna took charge of her own future.

8.  Penn Cage - The Quiet Game by Greg Isles - A successful attorney, Penn Cage, has lost the love of his life, his wife Sarah, to a slow drawn out death from cancer and is raising their daugher alone.  He moves back to his hometown to be near his own parents and bears his sorrow with quiet dignity.  Penn loves his family and his child with everything he is even as he finds himself fighting social battles ever present in his southern Mississippi hometown. 
9.  Kathleen Chandler - The Painted House by John Grisham - Kathleen is the main character Luke's mother in this very different Grisham novel...this one is not a courtroom thriller and is the best Grisham to date in my opinion.  Kathleen has always dreamed of being able to move away from cotton farming in rural Arkansas but doesn't spend her days pining away and whining about how hard her life is.  She is one tough mama and takes pride in everything she does and in her family.  She cooks, scrubs and works in the garden to make sure her family has the very best of everything they can possibly have.  Luke has most of the stage time in this novel, but he no doubt gets his "grit" from his mom.

10.  Jack Salmon - The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold - I don't have a lot of patience for women who leave their children...no matter what the reasons are.  I do have a lot of respect for Jack Salmon, and he is an inspiration to all parents...He exemplifies tough to me...he is able to keep his children's lives together as normally as possible after the disappearance and murder of their sister, his other daughter Susie and their mother's abandonment.  I cannot even imagine what kind of pain that is...like a raw, open, throbbing wound I would guess.  I can't even think about it anymore.

Whew!...I'm 'bout inspired out...This one was deep!

Next Week at The Broke and the Bookish: Top Ten Books I Wish I'd Read as a Kid


  1. I debated putting Scout on my list but in the end I went with Atticus. I love Scout but Atticus is the person I wish I was more like.

  2. I love Edna and Jo. This was a tough topic for me too.

    Here is my list:

  3. I agree with you completely about your admiration for Edna of The Awakening! I read The Awakening in one day and was transfixed by it! I agree that she took life by the hand and did what she felt was right for her and although her life was cut short she was completely satisfied that she didn't let anyone stand in her way of her happiness!

  4. Oh..this is a very good list. I had completely forgotton about Jack Salmon and Kathleen Chandler. I liked them quite a lot as well. I may have to re-read the books now :)

    Megan Marie

  5. Gah, I didn't even THINK about Marmee! How could I overlook her?! Thank you for putting down your reasoning behind loving these characters; lists are nice, but I especially love seeing the thoughts behind them!

  6. This is a great list. Scout would top my character list.

  7. Somehow it seems my earlier post went awry during the "post" moment. Sigh.
    So: Love your Father Tim pic, and wonder how you'll find March. I - and so many friends - admired Geraldine Brooks's People of the Book... I'll need to re-read Little Women before tackling March.
    And the Foodie's Reading Challenge and Year of Feminist Classics sound so enticing...
    Already I'm onto a Gilmore Girls Challenge and my own Reading for Compassion Challenge... So many books, so little time.
    Thanks for visiting me.
    Let's follow to keep up?

  8. Your list (my comment)
    1. Father Time (YES! I haven't thought of him for years. But I love the way he weaves prayer into every day life.)
    2. Jo March (I considered her, too but couldn't choose between her and Marmee, so left them both off, ha!)
    3. Marmee (See above)
    4. Scout (I had Atticus on my list)
    5. Francie Nolan-(I love the book and the message)
    6. Love Simpson (You and I think a like; I even looked up to come up with a good quote to include and then got distracted and didn't add her in the end. I LOVE Cold Sassy Tree!)
    7. Edna (I just feel sad about Edna and society that didn't allow women to be themselves)
    8.9.10. Hmmmm (I don't have an opinion on these.
    My Head is Full of Books

  9. Cold Sassy Tree! I've not seen that book since high school. Burns gave me one of my favorite quotations: "I now know the difference between an author and a writer. A writer writes, but an author speaks."

  10. I had forgotten all about Kathleen Chandler and The Painted House until I read your list. I completely agree with you. And as for Father Tim, there are times I wish I could call him up for a chat. You put together a great list. I think everyone is inspiring.