What It Means To Be Strong

largeI have often wondered what it means to be strong. The talk is often of strong female characters, such as Beatrice Prior in the Divergent Trilogy and Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games Trilogy. But these female characters, I’ve noticed, are often emphasized as just physically strong.

Yes, sure they may be emotionally strong in some aspects, but what is emphasized are their physical strengths: they can run fast, jump high, swim farther out than anyone else. There are so many books written about emotionally strong women and girls, yet only Tris and Katniss are ever seen as “strong female characters.”


In my opinion, being strong isn’t about strength. It’s not about running fast, jumping high, or swimming far. I’ve found that, yes, physical pain hurts (and it sometimes hurts A LOT, don’t misunderstand me), but emotional pain hurts a lot more. And the worst thing about it is that it never fades, it’s always there. If you get a cut today, looking back on the pain of it twenty years from now will just be a memory of the pain, an echo; but if somebody close to you dies, or you get hurt emotionally… twenty years from now, looking back on the pain, it will still be there, right where you left it. It’s not an echo of that pain, it’s the same pain that was there on the day the person died, or the day you got hurt, just stifled and ignored.

True strength is not physical; it is emotional, pure and simple. Those who have survived times of emotional crisis and hardship, are, in my world, infinitely many times stronger than those who have survived simple physical pain.

You can quote me on that.

———–*spoilers below this line*———–

for The Hunger Games Trilogy, Divergent Trilogy, and The Book Thief

What I am saying is that Katniss and Tris aren’t the only strong characters in books. In so many ways, Peeta is stronger than Katniss; he lived with an abusive mother, and just after the second Hunger Games, his parents and family were cruelly taken from him. Katniss lost her father and her sister, yes, but at least she was left with her mother; she was not the only surviving member of her family. In the same way, Four is much stronger than Tris ever was. She had a good life, and her parents were good people. Four was abused by his father, tricked into believing both his mother and his mentor were dead, and eventually had to decide which parent he wanted to win in a war caused by them fighting against each other. That, to me, shows much more strength than Tris ever showed. Yes, Tris’s parents died, and her brother betrayed her, but she was able to reconcile with her brother, and her parents simply… died. They did not force anything on to Tris; she brought it all upon herself. While she fought with violence, and, in the end, died, Four tried to end everything by diplomatic means.

7620335_f260In my opinion, Liesel Meminger, from The Book Thief, was so much stronger than Katniss or Tris ever were. She had her whole world ripped away from her at the beginning of the book when her mother left her with the Hubermans, and later at the end of the book, when everybody she knew, except the Mayor and his wife, died. And she was just a poor, innocent little girl trapped in the midst of a war. She wasn’t fighting for anything or for anyone, and it wasn’t her decision to take a Jew into her family’s house; even though that wasn’t why they were bombed in the first place. And yet Liesel was able to move away from it all, move on from the pain and the loss, and grow up and start a new life, even though she had lost everything she had known twice by the time she was fourteen or fifteen. That is what I call true courage.

What I’m really trying to say, in a very long, roundabout way is this:

True strength is not physical; it is emotional, pure and simple. Those who have survived times of emotional crisis and hardship, are, in my world, infinitely many times stronger than those who have survived simple physical pain.

And again: you can quote me on that.


5 responses to “What It Means To Be Strong

    • Exactly what I was trying to say! Some characters are not strong, they just won’t cry when they get a cut. Others are so strong and they don’t say a word.

      – Sabrina

  1. Pingback: 2014 In Review | Books and Bark·

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