Fictional Flaws

This week in team training, we did a writing exercise that involved choosing fictional characters we relate to and identifying the things that help and hinder them in reaching their goals. While I’m certainly different from all of the women I chose, I think about five million female writers relate to these women and can learn from their success or lack thereof. So today in self-improvement for bookworms, I present my analysis of the five fictional women I thought of first.

Hermione Granger: Bravery

Hermione Granger is strongest when she weaponizes her intelligence in stressful situations. But to do this, she has to first learn how to be brave and function under duress. In the Sorcerer’s Stone, Hermione freezes up in times of crisis, such as with the troll on Halloween and the devil’s snare in the third-floor corridor. (“‘There’s no wood,’ honestly.”)

Even in class, she’s paralyzed by fear of rejection and responds in a know-it-all way that shows her insecurity. When Hermione feels like she belongs, she’s more socially adept.

By the Deathly Hallows, she’s learned to manipulate Death Eaters while under torture and take care of the needs of sometimes-enemies while saving her own and her friends’ lives. Hermione’s Achilles heel is fear, and the solution is practice being brave. Hermione is everyone in this.

Leslie Knope: Focus

Leslie Knope is insanely productive, with the power to mobilize people for good, but sometimes she focuses on things that aren’t important. Like, did she really need to make a mosaic of each woman’s face for Galantine’s Day? Probably she should have slept.

Leslie also struggles with denial, of her own flaws and of change in relationships. For example, Anne Perkins does get to move, and Leslie would be much better at taking care of parks if she didn’t continually steamroll over Wamapoke interests.

Leslie is most powerful when she focuses on a worthwhile goal, such as cleaning up the Pawnee River, and takes many perspectives into consideration. Goodness knows I’m guilty of denial in relationships and often am too thorough with tasks that don’t matter, so focus is a thing to work on.

Jo March: Temperance

Jo is determined and passionate, and her dedication to writing and following her heart is admirable. But in the end, doing whatever you want isn’t always the best path forward. Jo blossoms when she learns to manage her temper and channel her energy toward her goals.

While I don’t think of myself as impulsive, people who aren’t me have different feelings, and the evidence indicates I do sometimes act without considering the impact on others. Like, a week or two ago, I stopped driving on a then-deserted street to take a picture of a street sign with my niece’s name on it. And my patient boyfriend explained that I had been inconsiderate and reckless because cars, and please let’s not obstruct traffic next time.

Anne Shirley: Connection

Anne has ideals and dreams, but she’s not initially good at realizing them because she’s disconnected from the world and people around her. She thinks everything needs to be starbursts and marble halls and has to learn what love, family, and romance mean to her in reality.

I zone out a lot when people talk to me, and I’m often so set on my goals that I miss the present. I also struggle to relate to people sometimes because they don’t think my ideals are realistic. And honestly, I don’t know what they look like in real life either. Does anyone?

Maggie Tulliver: Self-Assurance

Maggie Tulliver is from The Mill on the Floss, and she’s most empowered when she makes her own choices in the name of self-respect and doing right. Despite her poverty, she supports herself so that she doesn’t have to live under her brother’s rule, and she judges Philip Wakem on his own character, not his father’s actions.

Her downfall is with Stephen Guest, whose admiration she appreciates enough that she briefly ignores her own moral compass, only to be ostracized when she does the right thing. Maggie is desperate for love, but she’s strongest when she doesn’t try to make others like her.

Altogether, my fictional role models struggle with imbalance and fear, which I suppose is just a fancy way of saying they’re human. But all the same, looking at how they relate to their weaknesses is helpful.

What fictional characters help you learn about your flaws?