Lil Ms. Happy
August 22, 2009 10:12 PM   Subscribe

I am in search of a literary character... Here are the stats: Female, happy, feisty, very feminine, straight forward, unmarried in her 30's- and no shame in that position, no bitterness, genuinely happy for everyone else around her, socially not the norm but does not see that she is out of the norm, naively happy... does not have to be a classical character but must be a strong character. Thanks!
posted by MayNicholas to Human Relations (27 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You should check out the character of America Shaftoe in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon
posted by tylerfulltilt at 10:16 PM on August 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

Harriet Vane (by Dorothy Sayers, Peter Wimsey series) comes to mind but she ends up married in later books.
posted by francesca too at 11:32 PM on August 22, 2009

Precious Ramotswe.
posted by iviken at 12:34 AM on August 23, 2009

Mma Precious Ramotswe (although she marries Rra Matekoni later on).
posted by sively at 12:39 AM on August 23, 2009

Harriet Vane is one of my favourite female characters, but I wouldn't call her especially happy or lacking bitterness.
posted by tavegyl at 1:35 AM on August 23, 2009

You should check out the character of America Shaftoe in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon

She's a pretty minor character. However NS characters who might fit the bill better would include Eliza in The Baroque Cycle and Nell in the Diamond age (other then the ages). I don't think these are really what the poster is interested in, though.
posted by delmoi at 1:35 AM on August 23, 2009

I'll interpret the phrase 'literary character' broadly and recommend to you Jane Austen - not her novels but herself. Jane Austen was precisely the person you're describing: a sparkling, frankly brilliant young woman who happily remained unmarried. In fact, she did receive a marriage proposal from a big boring guy she'd known since she was young who happened to be well-placed in society, and, knowing it was the proper and convenient thing to do, she accepted; but the next day she changed her mind and declined hastily. And when she was 38, she advised a younger friend that she shouldn't waste her time getting married if she didn't really want to:
I was certainly a good deal surprised at first, as I had no suspicion of any change in your feelings, and I have no scruple in saying that you cannot be in love. My dear Fanny, I am ready to laugh at the idea, and yet it is no laughing matter to have had you so mistaken as to your own feelings... Poor dear Mr. A.! Oh, dear Fanny! your mistake has been one that thousands of women fall into. He was the first young man who attached himself to you. That was the charm, and most powerful it is... I shall turn round and entreat you not to commit yourself farther, and not to think of accepting him unless you really do like him. Anything is to be preferred or endured rather than marrying without affection; and if his deficiencies of manner, etc., etc., strike you more than all his good qualities, if you continue to think strongly of them, give him up at once. Things are now in such a state that you must resolve upon one or the other,—either to allow him to go on as he has done, or whenever you are together behave with a coldness which may convince him that he has been deceiving himself. I have no doubt of his suffering a good deal for a time,—a great deal when he feels that he must give you up; but it is no creed of mine, as you must be well aware, that such sort of disappointments kill anybody.
There's a very good biography of Jane by Carol Shields.
posted by koeselitz at 2:09 AM on August 23, 2009 [4 favorites]

I think the Ruby Murphy character in Maggie Estep's crime novel series applies. And they're pretty good reads.
posted by overhauser at 2:50 AM on August 23, 2009

I know you asked for a literary characters, but you might enjoy Mike Leigh's film Happy Go Lucky.
posted by hot soup girl at 6:01 AM on August 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

Several characters like this in Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford, which is basically about a whole village full of happy, feisty spinsters.
posted by Bardolph at 6:09 AM on August 23, 2009

Thursday Next, although she's not naive (and is sometimes married).
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:03 AM on August 23, 2009

Wasn't Mma Ramotswe married to Note Mokoti? And then she marries Mr JLB Matekoni. Doesn't sound like what the OP is looking for.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:28 AM on August 23, 2009

Maybe Mildred in Barbara Pym's Excellent Women.
posted by dilettante at 7:41 AM on August 23, 2009

What about the character of Marian, Laura Fairlie's half-sister in The Woman in White?
posted by Dukat at 8:40 AM on August 23, 2009

Aren't such characters a dime a dozen in contemporary detective novels? E.g. Laura Lippman'sTess Monaghan books?
posted by kestrel251 at 9:48 AM on August 23, 2009

Lady Brett from Hemingway's 'The Sun Also Rises.'
posted by Darth Fedor at 9:50 AM on August 23, 2009

Barbara Pym has zillions of these characters: I like Catherine in Less Than Angels the most.

Lady Brett from Hemingway's 'The Sun Also Rises.'

She's feisty, but not happy. And she's phobic about being alone, even for short periods of time, which is why she surrounds herself with sychophants. Not to mention the constant obsessing about the dead fiance.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:55 AM on August 23, 2009

This is a neat question, but I think your prereqs sort of defy the natural evolution of a character: it's hard to think of a character who remains perfectly happy about their state of life for the duration of a novel.

Anyways, what about Sabina in Unbearable Lightness of Being? Ammu in God of Small Things is defiantly divorced and winds up falling in love, but she eludes typical fates of most women in India. Thomas Pynchon is, in my opinion, a terrible character writer, but his Oedipa is a tough female detective protagonist in Crying of Lot 49. Janie in Their Eyes Were Watching God does fall in love, but the novel is far more about her quest for independence and reason than it is about her affair with a man. Alice Hindman in the short story "Adventure" from Winesburg, Ohio is a liberated single lady who goes running naked in the rain.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:24 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just remembered Amy Bloom's absolutely wonderful Away tells the story of an immigrant woman who's lost her entire family and starts anew in the Lower East Side. Such a gorgeous book that I lend it to everyone who asks for a book with a decent, believable, strong woman.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:33 AM on August 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

Flapper/detective Phryne Fisher in the Jazz Age mystery novels of Kerry Greenwood. Although I would not call her "naive" in any sense.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 12:41 PM on August 23, 2009

Maisie Dobbs, in the mysteries by J. Winspear? Although she does realize that her situation as a female psychologist/investigator in post-WWI London is a bit unusual...
posted by purlgurly at 2:54 PM on August 23, 2009

This is great! Thank you all for the suggestions! I will look into each and every one to see which books I would like to read- and I will check out the film mentions as well.

She does not have to be fervently anti-marriage, just comfortable not being married. It is also ok if she at times falters from or questions her stable position but gets inspired by something/ someone to return to her happy state or even strives to become even better.

We can open this up to real people too if you can think of someone.
posted by MayNicholas at 3:07 PM on August 23, 2009

Della Street in the Perry Mason stories would rather be Perry's co-worker than his wife.

Liza Doolittle in Pygmalion decides to join forces with Higgins and Pickering in a bachelor establishment rather than marry an aristocrat (note: this is kind of assed up in My Fair Lady; I recommend the film of Pygmalion with Wendy Hiller and Leslie Howard for a more awesome Liza Doolittle).
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:44 PM on August 23, 2009

I really meant "gentry" there, not "aristocrat."
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:44 PM on August 23, 2009

Sally Lockhart!

Ok, so she's not single in a couple of these books, but if ever there was a fictional character who was comfortable existing outside social norms it's Sally Lockhart. I love her.
posted by Ziggy500 at 12:21 PM on August 24, 2009

I would say Emma from Emma or Elizabeth from Pride & Prejudice. Ok they are not 30, but given the historical setting they are practically flirting with spinsterhood. It's probably because Jane Austen's own perspective as Koeslitz pointed out.
posted by like_neon at 1:55 AM on August 25, 2009

And she's not a literary character but how about Amélie Poulain?
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:29 AM on August 25, 2009

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