If Other Classic Literary Heroines Went to College
What would Jane Eyre, Jo March, Catherine Earnshaw, and Eowyn study in college? Find out here.
You might recall that a while back, I published a piece called “If Jane Austen Heroines Went to College.” I didn’t know what to expect when it went live, but surprise, surprise, you guys seemed to love it!
Anyway, seeing that the world of awesome, inspiring literary heroines is a vast and ever-expanding one, today I’m turning my focus to some from beyond the realm of Austen. These lovely ladies are the brainchildren of Louisa May Alcott, William Shakespeare, and Charlotte and Emily Bronte. (Poor Anne, her characters never make any lists.)
So without further ado, let’s check out some other fabulous, fictional women whom the Austen gals might just be rubbing elbows with at their college of choice
From: Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
Major: Education (Minors: Fine Arts and Philosophy)
Today’s bookworms would never have met Hermione Granger – first described as having big teeth and bushy hair, then revealed to be the brainiest and most talented young witch at Hogwarts – without the miraculous creation of Jane Eyre. Jane may not have magical abilities, but she does manage to survive years of unfair abuse at the hands of her relatives and a cruel headmaster at school, all while managing to stay true to herself and learning as much as she can. That’s kind of magical, right?
Were she alive nowadays, Jane might put off getting a job as a nanny (and therefore her fateful romance with the roguish Rochester) for a while, opting instead to further her education. Likely inspired by her kindly teacher, Miss Temple, Jane would want to become an educator herself – maybe she’ll get to help a student who is just as lonely as she once was.
But one area of study isn’t enough for the highly intelligent Miss Eyre. She would also have two minors: fine arts, because she has a knack for sketching and drawing, and philosophy, because hers is a story of morals and ethics, therefore she might want to better understand her own.
From: Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte
And now for Jane’s complete opposite, as well as the other most well-known heroine out of the Bronte canon, Catherine Earnshaw. (Wow, these two actually have quite a few connections – if they were roommates, that might just be too big of a coincidence.) Whereas Jane is bookish, empathetic, and possesses a quiet strength, Cathy is free-spirited, spoiled, and would likely be known around campus as a “wild child.”
Catherine really isn’t at college for the learning part – she’s here because her dear old dad made her go. She’d much rather stay at home where she can spend day after day bumming around and causing mischief with her boyfriend Heathcliff (who would definitely be an indie musician covered in tattoos). For now, she studies photography, which she assumed would be an easy major. At least this means once she gets home, she can take moody black and white photographs of the surrounding moors, which she can then post to her Tumblr, captioned by lyrics from The Decemberists.
From: Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
Majors: Theater and Creative Writing
I think it’s safe to say that every young, female aspiring writer identified with Jo March the most out of all the March sisters. Not only was she independent and headstrong, but she could also be awkward and blunt, which only made her more endearing. Basically, she’s the ultimate inspiration for wannabe authors everywhere. Even J.K. Rowling admitted to admiring her as a kid – Google it!
As any Alcott aficionado knows, one of Jo’s greatest loves in life is writing and performing original plays with her sisters and the neighbor boy, Laurie. What better way to turn that into a career than by double majoring in theater and creative writing? This way, Jo can have the spotlight she wants and knows she deserves while also getting her words heard and her ideas acknowledged. It’s a win-win.
(Bonus: Meg and Amy would study early education and fashion design, respectively, and both would join a sorority. Beth would take classes online in music, because of course she would.)
From: Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare
Out of all of Shakespeare’s female characters, Beatrice is often overshadowed by the innocent, romantic Juliet or tragic, eventually insane Ophelia. Too bad, because Beatrice has two great things going for her: she doesn’t die at the end of her play, and she’s HILARIOUS. Practically every word out of her mouth is comedic gold, which only makes you wish harder for her to be alive today when female comediennes like Amy Schumer, Kristen Wiig, and Melissa McCarthy are absolutely killing it.
Beatrice would no doubt use her newfound skills from her film classes to post witty skits of her and her friends on her Youtube channel, mixed in with a few feminist rants here and there. She’d have the greatest time doing so, as long as she ignored the comment section. (You can stay anonymous all you want, Benedick, I know that’s you being a troll!)
From: The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkein
At the end of the day, college just isn’t the right fit for everybody. (Says the one writing for College Fashion – hypocritical, I know, but stay with me here.) Eowyn would decide it wasn’t for her either. Although she was raised to be a proper lady by her uncle, deep down, she has the spirit of a warrior, and she knows it. The military would be just the place to put that spirit to good use.
The marines can be tough, but Eowyn is tougher, and she would relish the opportunity to fight alongside her brothers and protect her country and people. The best part? She wouldn’t have to disguise herself as a man this time.
From: The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
College can be tough, but going to college while also raising a child as a single mother? That’s probably the toughest it can get. Hester Prynne would be well aware of this; that’s why she would study nursing, as the major is likely to lead to a steady, well-paying job, allowing her to provide for her daughter, Pearl.
Single, unwed mothers, especially ones of college age, tend to be looked down upon, even in modern society. That’s absolutely terrible, but Hester would ignore the haters and do what she believed was best for herself and her daughter. Oh, and she’d get that creepy Roger Chillingworth to stop texting her.
What do you think?
TBH, this article could go on and on and on, because literature is chock full of strong women, and those women would have such a blast going to a modern college, where like-minded students and opportunities abound.
Do you disagree with any of my interpretations? Did I miss any of your favorite heroines? Let me know in the comments below, and maybe I’ll write about them in a future entry!
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