Monday, August 30, 2010
When we think of heroines, brought to mind are images of Scarlett O'Hara's fiery green eyes or the resilience of Meggie Cleary in THE THORN BIRDS. Where does Mary Howard, a child of abuse who never quite captured a firm grasp on happiness, fit into this myriad of the world's perception of "strong women"? Though my interpretation of Mary Howard yields a perceptive woman, she is not altogether witty, nor is she what contemporary audiences would consider a model of feminist ideals.
I did not choose the life of Mary Howard to illustrate a cliche female lead that against all obstacles saves the day. Mary Howard is a woman I tried to keep in the context of her time, without imposing contemporary values and philosophy on her. Enduring the tyranny of her father the Third Duke of Norfolk and her father-in-law King Henry VIII is a heady task for the strongest women of our day, let alone hers. Mary Howard's life is a portrait of survival. She was an intelligent, talented young woman who dreamed and persevered while maintaining her loyalty and belief in humanity regardless of the despicable betrayals by those closest to her. She may not be the most entertaining; she certainly didn't save a cotton plantation from ruin or inspire a timeless love story. But Mary Howard did not compromise her values despite the manipulations and intrigues that surrounded her. She lived. And to me, that is the mark of a true heroine.