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Heroine

The meaning of the term heroine is relatively self-evident, simply being a conjugation of the term hero into a feminine form. The term, though, may have relatively recent origins, due to the historical fact that until the time of modernism, most literary works have tended to focus on male protagonists. As such, the term heroine would not have become a meaningful one until it became common for women to be protagonists.  

What is a heroine?

You have probably come across the word heroine a lot of times. But if you have ever tried to give it a precise definition, you have probably run into some difficulties. At the most basic level, a heroine can just be defined as a "girl hero". The word heroine is related to the word hero in the same way that the word waitress is related to the word waiter. 

A hero is a male main character of a narrative who has admirable qualities, and who is expected to evoke the reader's sympathy. So, a heroine is the same kind of character, except that she is female in gender.     

Usage examples

Here are some examples of the literary term heroine being used in real sentences. 

"The young adult novel features a passionate heroine as the lead character; this will surely appeal to girls in the high school age range." 

"Through her disregard for gender norms, the heroine of the play helped young women realize that they had far more potential than they had previously believed." 

"It was interesting to see the heroine of the movie fulfill a social role that has historically been reserved for men." 

If you are still unclear about the meaning of the term heroine, here are a couple rules for the purposes of clarification. 

1. Sometimes, heroine is used to refer not just to a specific kind of female character type but just to any female lead character in a narrative. This is probably because historically, it has been relatively rare for stories to have female lead character—with the result that any such character may automatically qualify as a heroine. Examining the roles and evolution of heroines in literation is a popular subject in dissertation writing.

2. In fact, the term hero is also sometimes used to just refer to any male lead character. But this may be more common for the term heroine than for the term hero. This is probably because the term hero reaches further back into history and has connotations that the term heroine may not. 

Historical context of heroines

It seems that the word "heroine" has only existed in the English language since the year 1650. This is because historically, most narratives have tended to focus on men (because of gender roles and stereotypes): for whatever social and cultural reasons, men were seen as the ones who really took meaningfully actions, and about whom heroic stories could thus be told. The concept of the hero is an ancient one. The concept of the heroine, though, seems to be tied to the beginnings of the modern era.

This is also why a heroine is more likely to just generically refer to any female lead character. It is almost as if the very fact that the woman is a lead character is itself enough to make her exemplary: it shows other women that they too have stories, just like men, and that it is possible to tell these stories. Also, the concept of the hero is connected with the old tradition of the heroic epic, where only a certain kind of man deserved to be called a hero. The concept of the heroine, though, does not necessarily come with this cultural and historical baggage.  

If you want to learn more about the historical significance of heroine, you can buy dissertations on their roles in fiction and evolution.

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