I, like many of my fellow English Majors, am a self-proclaimed book nerd. This is a title I am very proud to hold. Us book nerds are everywhere, selling out book stores and creating blogs around our favorite series. We all have our favorite books, and within those, we have our favorite characters. As we grow up and read more, we find fictional individuals who we quickly connect with, and that can sometimes be the most magical part of reading.
The first character I saw myself in was Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. The daughter of an attorney with an older brother and a love for reading, I smiled each time I connected to the way she saw the world. As I got older and read more, I found more pieces of myself in the novels I was reading. A life-changing read for me was The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Charlie quickly became one of the most important characters I’d ever encountered. He was quiet, anxious, and unsure of how to venture into the world. Yet the protagonist that is most important to me, that I connect to the most, is Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.
I first read Pride and Prejudice in the eighth grade. I went into it unsure, never having read books from that era. Sure, it took time to get used to the language spoken in it. Yet once I did, I was amazed. Every time I put it down, I couldn’t wait to pick it up again. The characters were vivid and the plotline captivating. Yet the one part keeping me so engaged was the main character, Elizabeth. The second-oldest of five daughters, Elizabeth came from a humble family, including her mother who was patiently waiting for her to marry. Yet she was strong-willed and refused to give up her own standards. She rejected proposals of men she unliked, vowing to only marry for love. A book nerd herself, Elizabeth was smart and witty, having an incredibly complex personality that I couldn’t help but be drawn to.
Having a strong and independent woman in this novel had an incredible impact on me. I was at an age of struggle, my early teen years being filled with confidence issues and hesitance to explore the world. Yet when I discovered Elizabeth, I discovered a new piece of myself. I understood the way she thought and felt the way she felt. I felt less alone knowing that — even if she existed hundreds of years before me — Jane Austen and I saw the world in a very similar way. I felt thankful to her for writing such an amazing book that shaped me in a way I never thought possible. The book, and most importantly Elizabeth, showed me how strong a woman can be. She showed me the type of person I was, and the type of woman I could grow up to be.
Reading is an escape for so many people. Whether we’re stressed, sick, or simply trying to pass the time, turning to a book is always the best choice. When we find characters we see ourselves in, we automatically feel more attached to the book. It makes us feel validated, less isolated and valued. It is important for us to find a representation of ourselves in the media we are exposed to. As we keep writing more diverse characters, we are allowing more people to find themselves in these books. It is a magical experience, and everyone deserves to discover a protagonist they passionately love.