One of the most prominent features people seem to focus on is character strength. What makes a character strong? As a concept I think strength is quite a complex one in terms of discerning the characteristics that makes someone strong.
However, before looking at specific character strengths, I think it’s important to question the meaning of strength.
noun: the quality or state of being strong; bodily or muscular power; vigour.
In simple terms, strength related to the sense of being physically strong. However, we all know that there’s more to it than that. Strength does not solely relate to the physical strength of a person. Strength can also be found in ones emotional and mental health.
I think the perception of strength in the media is an interesting topic. In this current day and age there has definitely been a surge of films, books and TV shows that center on a strong female entity. I think the perfect example would be Katniss Everdeen. Physically she’s a very dominant force as displayed by her skills with her bow; she’s a survivor and an individual who essentially raised her younger sister and adapted her strengths and will to whichever situation she’s in. The qualities in Katniss is one that is explored in several characters e.g. Tris from Divergent and Arya in Game of Thrones. However, is there a danger in this overemphasis in the need to have women who are capable of fending for themselves, of women who are headstrong and independent? Don’t get me wrong I love reading or watching a woman who can stand on her own but at times I feel like this focus on those characteristics, ones that are also usually associated with men, can overshadow the subtler, quieter bouts of strength that women display every day.
I think a clear example of this subtlety is in the character of Sansa Stark. I’m more familiar with TV Sansa than I am with the books but I remember when watching the first few seasons of Game of Thrones all the comments I read regarding Sansa were along the lines of ‘she’s so weak, and naive…Sansa you fool.’ I get it; I was also frustrated with some of her comments and actions. However, can you really blame her for her naivety? She’s been told from a very young age that her role in society is to be a lady, to be submissive, a tool to use in order to strengthen the bonds between two nations by marriage. She knows her purpose in society and when things take a turn for the worst it’s her position as a lady that keeps her alive. Emotionally and mentally I honestly believe that Sansa is the strongest character in Game of Thrones. She’s tormented on a day to day basis and not every woman could cope with it and not fire back. In keeping up this ladylike appearance, Sansa ensures her own survival. That is her strength. She’s placed at the heart of the political game and in keeping up this appearance of being a weak, naive child she gains so much; she learns how to manipulate the stakes for her own benefit because people aren’t afraid of her influence and don’t realise that she’s taking everything she witnesses on board. That is essentially what makes her dangerous. There’s a subtlety in her strength and by embracing her role in society she ensures her survival, something that would not have happened if she had adopted Arya’s aggressive, rebellious approach.
What I love about Sansa’s character is the way that her ladylike manner is utilised as a way of demonstrating his strength. It’s the fact that instead of imposing the typical male heroic archetypes onto a female character; Sansa has a quiet confidence to her, one that serves to highlight her own strength.
I guess the point is that sometimes you don’t have to be loud and you don’t need to be a leader to be strong and that acknowledging your own emotions and limitations also demonstrates your strength. Again the purpose of this post is not to criticise or judge this image of a strong, independent female character. I just think that sometimes we need to recognise and remember that asking for help isn’t a weakness and the smaller, quite bouts of strength and confidence is just as important.
What are your thoughts on this topic? How do you measure ones strengths?