Passing the Bechdel Test: What books meet the requirements?
The Bechdel Test is a tool that analyzes a work of fiction to see how it treats female characters. It requires a book, movie, television show (or anything else) to have at least two named women who talk to each other about something other than a man. Seems like it should be easy right? But I found it harder than I expected to find books that met this requirement. Even looking at my own books in the Freefall Trilogy it was difficult, although part of that was because I have so few characters and the main characters are a man and a woman. There are a few conversations, especially in the final book, World on Fire that fulfilled the requirements.
So I wanted to put together a small list of books that do meet the qualifications of the Bechdel test. Because I think it’s important that we have characters who are strong women doing their own thing in their books. I chose books with main characters that are female. Here are a few.
- The books in the Raven Cycle, by Maggie Stiefvater, are a fun YA series who has one of the main characters named Blue Sargent who lives in a house replete with women (who are also awesome psychics, except for Blue herself). Yes there are a lot of conversations with boys and about boys, but she and the other women in the house, Maura, Persephone, Orla, Calla, and Neeve, have a lot of conversations outside of the boys in the story.
- Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, is a great classic example. Another book with a house full of women who have their own lives and conflicts to resolve. Highly recommend this book to someone looking for strong women protagonists.
- An indie book that I love, A Scarlet Fury by Bridget Blackwood, has an amazing strong female lead, as well as a lovely handful of other strong women that all have conversations with each other. Mads, the main character, deals with her tragedy, and the other things going on in the World of Shadows, by talking with other women and girls in the book, such as Rachel, Livia, and Tsura.
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Marget Atwood is a dystopian novel about a concubine named Offred in an alternate history where some women are little more than breeding stock. She’s brave enough to forge a real connection with other concubines, a dangerous prospect in a world where women are subjugated in such a horrible way.
- The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and its accompanying books, is filled with amazing female characters in the story surrounding Camelot and King Arthur as he comes into power. The women in Avalon are all priestesses and they heavily influence the world around them in ways that require them to converse heavily.
- Kushiel’s Dart, by Jacqueline Carey, follows the life of Phedre, a courtesan and eventual spy, who navigates the world of court intrigue both with the help of other women and with opponents who are women.
- Lastly, a great favorite of mine, is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Lizzie Bennett lives in a family of five sisters and a neurotic mother, all of whom she has a close relationship with. I love how she and her family interact.