Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Admirable Heroines and Positive Reinforcement

Last week while I was out of the country, Tracy Wolff guest blogged over at Damned Scribbling Women and talked all about her strong heroines and what she learns from each of them. Check it out. (Comment over there and you could win a book!)

I just loved this post. I've been thinking a lot lately about whether people who read books with positive reinforcement of positive traits - doing the right thing even when it's hard or taking a chance that pays off - would be more likely to do the right thing in real life. Do you think we are subtly influenced by the stories we read? Can we learn from the fiction around us? Can books actually make us better people?

When I'm reading most books, I'm not actively thinking about how they are affecting my moral compass. Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos was one memorable exception. I remember I felt like seeing Cornelia make what I felt were the right choices made me more likely to make good choices. I admired her. Perhaps that is a unique distinction. There are many heroines I like, respect, relate to, or all of the above, but the number of fictional women I actively admire is a small one. Admiration is a strong motivator. I want to be like Cornelia. And I couldn't care less about the fact that she is a fictional construct of Marisa de los Santos's imagination. She's real to me.

Your thoughts? Can books make us good? Or, conversely, convince us that bad behaviour is acceptable by their example?


Kate Diamond said...

I don't know, but it's definitely making me think of my first romance-reading experience. The hero and heroine were FINALLY starting to get it on, and she said "Stop! We should wait for marriage." Then the love scene turned into a discussion about the protagonists' mutual virginity and how, if you love someone, you wait.

Now, I have no problems with this philosophy when it belongs to living, breathing human beings. But even in 7th grade, I remember feeling really cheated by that turn of events in the book.

And by the time they finally got married and did it? One measly sentence about nature bearing witness to their love. BOO!

(I certainly wasn't compelled to follow the heroine's virginal example... check it out. I actually related back to your original question! Well, kinda.)

Yet this remains one of my favorite romances of all time, because I'm so sentimentally attached. Perhaps I imprinted, like a baby duckling?

Vivi Andrews said...

Hmmm, interesting, Kate. I agree that I don't get my sense of morality from books (reading romance as a teen sure didn't turn me into a pubescent sex machine), but those characters had the integrity to follow their own morality and even if your values don't line up directly with theirs, is it possible you have that same underlying integrity backing up your right & wrong?

And now we've officially gone down the rabbit hole into random philosophy babble. But it's my blog, mwah-ha-ha, and I can philosophize if I wanna.

I guess my thought is: the definition of the "Right Thing" might vary, but the will to do it may be reinforced by seeing others with that will. Yes?

And, I definitely have books I imprinted on. Can't get enough of them though I wonder what I would think of them if I read them for the first time now...