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Particularly common in The Western, this is often the widow's version of the Damsel in Distress. However, due to more life experience, the Determined Widow is usually more assertive and less passive in combating her foes. She might even tell the Hero that she doesn't need his help, even though, unlike the Damsel, she often has children dependent on her and therefore also in danger. Usually a young widow if she is in distress, as older widows are more likely to be depicted as competent enough not to need saving.
The Hero (or protagonist) protects the widow from a dastardly villain attempting to take advantage of her (either romantically, or simply stealing from her because she has no man to protect her). Sometimes the villains were the ones who killed her husband, and so The Hero avenges her husband. This is particularly common in The Western, especially when the hero is The Drifter.
Often the Hero ends up getting to marry the widow at the end, and this can be a reason for The Drifter to finally settle down. In fact, widow Love Interests have a better chance at getting to keep The Drifter than other Love Interests, who tend to win his love, "But Now I Must Go" because he wants his beloved to be happy.
Older Determined Widows are more likely to appear as advisers to the Heroes.
Determined Widows also often insist on achieving their dead husband's dream. If their husband was a warrior and he fell in battle they might even "take up his sword" and become an Action Girl or Lady of War and continue his fight.
Compare Housewife and Determined Homesteader's Wife, which is what they were likely to be before being widowed. Her Heart Will Go On for the widow's strength in dealing with the loss. Do not confuse with Yamato Nadeshiko which is an aspect of Japanese culture; all they have in common is the inner core of iron will. Does not necessarily have anything to do with another type of widow.
Anime and Manga
- There was one of these in Kyo Kara Maoh!.
- Shun Mitaka seemed intent on viewing Kyoko of Maison Ikkoku as one, (and himself as the hero of course).
- Male version: Faust VIII from Shaman King, a Necromantic whose goal in life is to revive his dead wife and Spirit partner Eliza.
- Jodie from Preacher (not to be confused with Jody, also from Preacher)
- Abigail Primrose in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob is an elderly example who can defend herself quite well (she owns a suit of Powered Armor), but still needs some help now and again.
- Alma Garrett from Deadwood.
- In Supernatural, they meet the widow of a hunter who is running a bar for hunters. She is an adviser to the boys.
- Lily Bell from Hell on Wheels embodies this trope to a 'T' in every regard. She wants to see to the completion of the first Transcontinental Railway, a project which her late husband (a surveyor) had been working on.
- Jill McBane from Once Upon a Time in the West, although she's somewhat of a deconstruction since she was a Hooker with a Heart of Gold looking for a new life and arrives on the scene after her new family is massacred.
- Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, however she is the (anti)hero. She doesn't take up the role of her husbands (she was widowed twice), but rather the role of her father as leader of the farm.
- Hannie Caulder.
- In Roger Corman's film Gunslinger (as seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000), Beverly Garland's heroine is the widow of a US Marshal who takes up her husband's badge to keep hunting down the ones responsible for having her husband murdered.
- In the second Terminator movie, Sarah Connor was a fighter who would do anything to protect her son, John, from the machines.
- In The Secret of NIMH Mrs. Brisby is a widowed mouse who's family has to move in order to avoid the farmer's plow but her son Timothy has come down with pneumonia and can't be moved for a few weeks. She will do whatever it takes to move her whole house in order to protect him.
- Catelyn Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin becomes this when her husband is killed, mostly as a result of Honor Before Reason, she is determined to get her revenge by waging war against the Lannister family and supporting her son as King of the North.
- Mary Breydon in The Cherokee Trail by Louis L'Amour.
- Emily Pollifax from the Mrs. Pollifax novels by Dorothy Gilman becomes a spy for the CIA when she's a widow.
- Judith from the book Judith of the Bible: when her village is under siege, she puts on some make-up, goes to Holofernes, the enemy general, takes him to his tent, makes him drunk, cuts of his head, sneaks out of the enemy camp and goes back into her village, with the head of Holofernes in her bag.
- The entire point of the Planescape module for Neverwinter Nights 2 is for the PC (who must be female) to find a way into the Abyss and get her husband back.
- Ashelia B'Nargin Dalmasca of Final Fantasy XII is a widow while still in her teens and determined to ensure Archadia feels her wrath of justice.
- In The Gamers Alliance, Marya becomes a dark version of this after her husband Kagetsu bites the dust. She doesn't take his death well, and after a long period of mourning she becomes fixated on making Kagetsu's dream become real, going so far as kidnapping and corrupting a prince to do her bidding while acting as his Evil Mentor, setting the stage for a brutal civil war in Maar Sul, and subtly opposing the Grand Alliance which she had once called friends. Once she has done all this and made sure that the prince will carry out her mission, she is overcome by guilt of all the horrible things she has done to achieve her husband's dream, and she commits suicide to be reunited with Kagetsu in the afterlife.
- Susan McSween, who after her husband and friends were murdered during the Lincoln County War, went on to become a prominent cattlewoman in New Mexico.
- Life Imitates Art: Lillian Moller Gilbreth continued the time/motion and efficiency studies of her husband, Frank, after his death in the 1930s. While raising eleven children (all of whom eventually graduated college). The story is recounted in Belles On Their Toes, and was fictionalized in the 1950 novel and film Cheaper By the Dozen.