In the literary world, a “Mary Sue” is the perfect female character. Someone who is so beautiful she’s desired by all men, and so smart everyone respects her opinion. Her skills and talents are almost super human. She is the perfect heroine, and the perfect woman. It’s often said when a book features a Mary Sue, the author is fulfilling a wish and inserting a character based on herself. We don’t know about that, but we know how to spy a classic Mary Sue.
How to identify a Mary Sue
It’s not difficult to spot a Mary Sue in the literary wild. She is the woman every man wants and every woman wants to be. She’s feminine and classy but can ride a motorcycle or wield firearms and power tools like no one’s business.
Behold some of classic Mary Sue behavior:
- Beauty: Usually with exotic features
- Brave: Mary Sue is a brave, brave woman. She may have (slight) moments of fear, but her quick wit and awesome skills bring her the confidence she needs to prevail.
- Kind: Mary Sue is kind and compassionate. Many notable acts of kindness.
- Tragic backstory: Despite being raised with no parents, in object poverty, or with no limbs, Mary Sue beat the odds and overcame her disadvantages to become powerful or successful, while making very few (if any) enemies.
- Intelligence: Mary Sue is so smart everyone respects her opinion.
- Likable: No one hates or dislikes Mary Sue except misguided jealous people.
- Accepted: If Mary Sue is an outcast in the beginning, she becomes accepted by everyone by the end.
- Nothing to worry about: Mary Sue won’t starve and she won’t be homeless. Good things come to Mary Sue. Always.
- Triumph in the end: Mary Sue wins over evil. Every. Single. Time.
- Special abilities: While most Mary Sues can do anything, each Mary Sue has exceptional, almost super hero-like talent in at least one or two areas.
11 Notable Mary Sues in Literature
1. Beth March
In Little Women, Beth March was the sweet, kind, caring younger sister of Meg and Jo, and older sister to Amy. She sang, played piano, and spent a lot of time around the house because she was so gosh, darned shy. And she died tragically of scarlet fever after selflessly tending to a family that was stricken with scarlet fever.
2. Lily Evans Potter
Everyone loved Lily Evans when she was a student at Hogwarts. Severus Snape pined for her, but dashing, popular James Potter won her heart. She was kind to all, even the greasy, unlikeable Snape. Harry Potter‘s mum excelled at potions, was Head Girl, and was a member of the house of Gryffendor. Lily joined the Order of the Phoenix to save the world from the evil Lord Voldemort and died saving her son’s life.
3. Ginny Weasley
Another character from the Harry Potter series, Ginny Weasley’s Mary Sue-dom wasn’t so obvious at first as she crushed on Harry and poured her soul into Tom Riddle’s diary. But soon it became apparent there was something about Ginny. She had many suitors, kicked ass on the Quidditch pitch, and could let a bat-bogey hex fly like nobody’s business. Is it any wonder, then, that Ginny not only became a professional Quidditch player, but also became Senior Quidditch correspondent for the Daily Prophet? We didn’t even mention the part yet where she marries Harry Potter in the end.
4. Elizabeth Bennett
Elizabeth Bennett is loved by a handsome rich man – as well as everyone else she meets – and is the apple of her father’s eye. Yep. Mary Sue.
5. Katniss Everdeen
Katniss Everdeen lands a permanent place in the Mary Sue Hall of Fame for several reasons; she’s ever so smart, rocks the bow and arrow, stepped in to take care of her mother when she checked out, and hunted every day to feed her poverty stricken family. Her Mary Sue status was further elevated when she volunteered as tribute to save her sister Primrose from fighting in the 74th annual Hunger Games. Therefore it should surprise no one that not only did Katniss prevail at the Hunger Games, but she also managed to save Peeta Melark in the process.
6. Bella Swan
Bella Swan could possibly be the Mary Suest Mary Sue that ever Mary Sued. After selflessly moving to dismal, boring, cold, and rainy Forks, Washington so her mother could travel with her ball playing husband, Bella finds that she’s the object of attraction for many boys at school. But it’s the handsome, hands off, Edward Cullen who succumbs to Bella’s charms because she’s just so damned desirable. Bella rescues Edward from Suicide by Volturi, gives birth to the perfect vampire/human hybrid, makes it possible for vampires and werewolves to cohabitate, and becomes a shield for an entire of army of vampires. No finer specimen of Mary Sue exists.
7. Dorothy Gale
Dorothy Gale survived a tornado – above ground, mind you. She killed the Wicked Witch of the East without even trying, helped two new friends overcome obstacles, made it to Oz despite a few challenges, killed the Wicket Witch of the West, and found her way back to Kansas without mussing her dress.
8. Cheryl Strayed
Wild is one occasion in non fiction where the author portrayed herself as a Mary Sue. She came from hardship, overcame addiction, and (not really) hiked the Pacific Crest Trail – a place where all men desired her and named her the “Queen of the PCT.”
9. Almost any fairytale princess that has been made over by Disney
I mean, the birds sing. They always get the prince. They always prevail over evil. They can tame a beast, wake up out of a coma, and charm a cabin full of elves. All fairytale Princesses should be named “Mary Sue.”
10. Fran Goldsmith
In The Stand, Frances Goldsmith wasn’t perfect, but she was a Mary Sue. Despite being pregnant, Fran had no problems dragging and then burying her father’s corpse, riding a motorcycle cross country, or staving off love starved Harold Lauder. She managed to snag the desireable Stuart Redmond, while giving birth to the first baby to survive the super flu. Franny had flaws, but she was still a Mary Sue.
11. Mary Ingalls
Was Mary Ingalls as good in real life as her sister wrote her in the Little House books? We may never know. One thing we do know for sure is that Mary was good, almost perfect. Mary was pretty, blonde, and did what Ma and Pa asked. She studied hard, and knew enough to wear her sunbonnet on bright days. Mary did her chores with cheer, and frowned on Laura’s tomboyish ways. And when Mary took ill and lost her sight, she didn’t get depressed or downtrodden. She treated life with good cheer, went to college, and learned to play the organ.
Can you think of other Mary Sue’s in literature?
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