I really, really hate good girls in literature. This is amusing because, in reality, I’m as good a “good girl” as you’re going to find. I wear argyle cardigans for god’s sake! I put money in the meter, even when I’m just running in to the store for a minute. I pay my bills and clock in to work on time. I don’t wear skirts that are too short, I don’t drink too much, and I always remember what I did at the party the night before (I probably left before 10 so I could get home and get to sleep).
Deanna Raybourn’s post for the day “In which we talk about people I hate” is about the fictional characters she loathes. She mentions Romeo, and I’m right there with her, and Fanny Price, which I’m on the fence about. One comment mentioned Cosette from Les Miserables, and I nearly flew out of my chair in agreement. And that’s when it hit me: I hate good girls. The too-perfect-for-words good girls are boring, and just plain unbelievable.
Cosette is a whiny twit portrayed as “noble”, when in reality she doesn’t have the backbone that God gave earthworms. The March sisters? Well, Jo manages somewhat, but she still irks me. The rest make my teeth ache. I’m pretty sure that somewhere there are nuns with more moxie. And don’t even get me started on the secondary characters in any Jane Austen book.
I always root for the “not-completely good” girl. Elizabeth Bennett, not-completely good girl (she thinks too much for a good girl of the period). I’m all for the idea that you can behave well, see Elizabeth, and not be a completely good girl. My favorite books these days all feature “not-completely good” girls. Gail Carriger’s Alexia Tarabotti, not completely good (thinking), Deanna Raybourn’s Julia Grey, not completely good (oh, where do I start?) and Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily, not completely good (thinking, again – sense a trend here do ya?). Alexia lives in a Victorian Steampunk world populated by vampires, werewolves, the Templars and mechanized ladybugs, and yet she still seems far more realistic than the March sisters, because, brace yourselves: she has faults. She’s not perfect. She’s not “a good girl”.
I don’t want to read about some paragon of virtue, or somebody’s idea of virtue. I don’t want to read about an unattainable ideal. I want to have some connection to a character, no matter how small.