"Stendhal's most independent heroines are usually disliked or marginalized by critics. However, when gender-neutral criteria are applied, Mina de Vanghel, Vanina Vanini, Mathilde de La Mole, and Lamiel can all be shown to enact extraordinary experiments in freedom. These experiments are all the more remarkable in view of the gender of their agents, the historical situation of the author (1783-1842), and the conventions of the literary movement that his fiction helped to found: realism. Simone de Beauvoir's 1949 study of Stendhal's heroines gives preference to the reserved females over his Amazons. But existentialism, as a philosophy of freedom, also enables a reading of the self-determining heroines that acknowledges the superiority of their choices: their resistance and counter-plots, their paradoxical authenticity, their rejection of seriousness, and their assumption of responsibility for the routes they plot."