The Unprincipled Heroine

Lyra is quickly defined as the hero of this novel simply because of her status as the protagonist.  This is further established when the Master mentions mysteriously that “Lyra has a part to play in all this,” suggesting that despite or youth and current ignorance, she will be important in future events (28).  Her heroics quickly become clear when she risks harsh punishment to save Lord Asriel’s from the poison, revealing herself to him, and resulting in some injury.   She is obviously brave, and willing to risk herself to help others, clear traits of a hero.  She is also, intelligent, highly inquisitive, and a natural leader of other children.  This allows her to not only lead but to search for answers and truth, often successfully.  On the other hand, Lyra is rambunctious and somewhat of a miscreant, often getting into fights and breaking rules.  Despite it being against the rules, Lyra has “been all over the roof” to play (35).  She is a gifted liar, even later gaining the name Silvertongue for her successful lying.  She is not the incredibly well-mannered, clean, and ladylike girl she is expected to be, instead choosing to rebel and play with servants and their children, running wild through the college and the town.


In same ways, particularly in her more positive qualities, Lyra is the perfect heroine.  Traditionally, heroes and heroines are expected to be young, brave, intelligent, self-sacrificing, and truth-searching.  Lyra has all of these strengths, and so at first seems the perfect traditional heroine.  Even some of her rebellious side can be considered traditional.  After all, most heroes are rebelling against some evil higher power.  Yet Lyra takes her rebellion to a new level, particularly as a female character.  She is certainly not supposed to be running around in dirty trousers, getting into fights with poor town children, yet she does just that, defying many levels of expectation.  She also seems to possess as small bit of cruelty, or rather apathy, a trait not expected in a hero or heroine.  This is evidenced when she explains that she “was going to kill and roast” a hurt creature, and only chose to help it get better when a friend insisted (34).  In the end, Lyra simply does not fit the expected passive female heroine.  She is incredibly active, and improper, instead becoming a new kind of reckless heroine.

One response to “The Unprincipled Heroine

  1. Your post had some really good examples, however I was a slightly confused by your argument. At one point it seems as though you are trying to convince your audience that Lyra does not posses good heroine qualities then later saying she has great traditional heroine qualities. Near the end you sum things up saying she is an active heroine. I agree with your conclusion that she is a active heroine, providing good examples but I would change the wording to make your point clearer throughout the entire post.

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