Aliena of Shiring.
"It did not occur to them that a woman could be dangerous. How foolish they were." -Ken Follett, The Pillars of the Earth.
As the main female protagonist of Ken Follett’s epic medieval masterpiece, The Pillars of the Earth, Aliena can be considered to be a strong feminist icon. Set against the backdrop of war, The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of religious strife and power struggles that tears lives and families apart. Born the daughter of Earl Bartholomew of Shiring, Aliena was brought up to be a noblewoman. However, after her father is taken captive and arrested by the ambitious antagonist William Hamleigh, both Aliena and her younger brother Richard are left destitute, at the mercy of their cruel captures.
Ken Follett establishes Aliena as a strong feminist icon in literature through the way she is presented throughout the development of the novel. Aliena is seen to be courageous in the way she triumphantly refuses to remain a victim of William Hamleigh after he rapes her, also, making her a survivor. Moreover, Aliena is shown time and again to fight back against her misfortunes, continually picking herself up after in an attempt to fulfil her father’s wishes. For instance, Aliena demonstrates fierce loyalty when she makes a vow to her dying father, promising that she will devote her life to the effort of reinstating her brother Richard as the rightful heir to the earldom of Shiring. Aliena’s independence in her wool business not only suggests she is unafraid to defy convention but her continual refusals to marry and rely on a man put Aliena to the test once more when she falls for the youthful builder Jack.
Despite her struggles to address the hardships she has undergone with regards to the emotional damage caused by her rape and her having to marry a man she does not love to satisfy her brother, Aliena is able to triumphant in the end. However, even her undying love and devotion to Jack does not come easy when her determination is exercised when she has to track Jack down, by travelling the whole of Christendom with their infant son after she is kicked out by her husband. In conclusion to this, it is my opinion that Aliena is a great feminist role model because she is not only intelligent and witty, but she is unafraid to stand up for herself. Moreover, she refuses to be intimidated by men despite her tragic past. In particular, this is seen when she first refuses William Hamleigh’s marriage proposal by courageously declaring that she despises him because he is “selfish, dull and stupid”.
"The helpless little girl he had raped and tormented and thrown out of her home all those years ago had come back and taken her revenge". -William Hamleigh, The Pillars of the Earth.