I've mentioned on the blog before that I had a phone harasser. Long story short, I got terrifying text messages for about four months and finally had to involve the cops. What I haven't mentioned is that last summer got completely out of control as far as harassment went. A couple weeks after I had finally ended the problems with my harasser, I got another one. This time in real life.
I was walking through a park to find a spot to read my book, when a man approached me. This man was very attractive - fit, tan, well dressed, looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties. This was enough to keep me from gauging him as an immediate threat. He told me that I was beautiful, and wanted to know if I was interested in getting his number to meet up sometime. I was very flattered, after all doesn't everyone want a gorgeous man complimenting them? I thanked him, but let him know I had a boyfriend.
At this point it all went downhill. He wanted to know how serious we were, then he wanted to know if I wanted his number just in case, wouldn't stop being extremely pushy, and at this point was standing way too close for my comfort. I finally escaped and moved to a bench at the other end of the park to finish up my book. About ten minutes later, the guy rides by on his bike to leave the park. I thought it was a little weird that he managed to leave by the same entrance I was at - there are a good twenty or thirty other ways to leave, but I just shrugged it off. Until he rode back by me another ten minutes later, slowing down as he went by my bench. And then again. And then again. Until he rides by, leans the bike against my bench and sits down next to me. I was absolutely frozen. I didn't have a clue what to do. And I was terrified. I was about a fifteen minute walk from my apartment, my roommate wasn't home, and I was wearing heels which are not especially conducive to escape plans. After sitting and staring and getting no response from me, he left. I was so terrified that I honestly didn't think I was capable of walking. And how could I be certain he was gone for good? How would I know if he followed me home? I ended up staying in that park for hours because it felt safer to stay there than to walk home by myself to an empty apartment.
A week after that took place, a man started taking photos of me without my consent while I waited for the train. I was in so much shock I wasn't able to process what had just happened before the train came and he got in a different car. (And don't worry, after last summer I have taken definite steps to be able to defend myself, and have probably spent an inordinate amount of time coming up with plans for what-if scenarious) Needless to say last summer took a huge toll on my psyche, and I'm dealing with the aftermath even today. I'm fine most days, but sometimes seeing a man on the street is enough to send me home instead of going wherever I had meant to be, and I'm not always as in control of my emotional and physical reactions to strange men as I used to be. It's a work in progress :)
Well that's great and all you might be saying, but how does that relate to Fire?
Artwork courtesy of the Inclusive Graceling tumblr
Sometimes there is a perfect meeting of what you need as a person, and what you find in a book. Fire is that character for me. As you read the book, you see Fire evolve from fear to strength. You see her deal with significantly worse situations than I have ever been in, and instead of crumpling under the horror of it all, she gets stronger, and stronger, and stronger.
Character development is one of the most important things to me in a book, and Kristin Cashore manages to completely change Fire from the beginning of the book to the end in a way that both almost makes her unrecognizable. Her strength and assertiveness, as well as her sense of self are so much stronger it's amazing to think back to the beginning of the book and how she acted then. And yet at the same time she is the same person, just stripped down to the really core of who she is. Not only is that just simply impressive and enough for me to declare my undying love for an author, it just happened to be a character evolution that I need to have in my life when I encountered it. In some ways I relate to Fire in a way I haven't needed to relate to other characters, and in some ways she's sort of a beacon of hope that I can evolve into a stronger person once I have mentally and emotionally dealt with everything I need to deal with. Beyond that connection, I just love Fire as a character. She's complicated and tough and loyal and unafraid of her sexuality. She also makes a choice in the book that is probably one of the most heartbreaking decisions a person ever has to make, and I think what she did was awful, but ultimately the right decision for her and for the future. She's also a passionate musician, which is always an added plus in my book, and the time Cashore takes to describe Fire's instruments so lovingly really endeared her to me. Fire demands respect in her relationships, and is unwilling to compromise who she is as a person (at least as she evolves through the book) in any of those relationships, friendship, family, or otherwise. That juxtaposed with her vulnerability, tenderness, fear, but mental and physical prowess solidify Fire as one of the best examples I know of a "strong female character" (read: a complex being)