I have only recently finished LOTR so it wasn't too long ago that I read all this stuff about Eowyn...the battle at Helm's Deep and the sneaking around into battle and the courtship process between her and Faramir. I may not have the deepest insight about the matter after one reading but it is FRESH in my mind so I'm going to blab on about it as only I can.
When Faramir tried to express his love for Eowyn, I don't think it was just his hormones talking but I won't dismiss that maybe the idea of an "untamed filly" was attractive to him. There are a lot of things that he probably feels he has in common with Eowyn.
We have to remember that at this particular point in the story, they have both just come out of battle, are even still recuperating from their respective injuries. Both are somewhat captive in the houses of the healing and useless even as the last of the loose ends in the War are tied up. Faramir also comments to Eowyn that there's nothing like a near death experience to bring people together.
For you and I have both passed under the wings of the Shadow, and the same hand drew us back.
ROTK, first part of The Steward and The King
In addition to that, I think Faramir recognizes in Eowyn what it is like to be honorable and yet misunderstood. After all, he is understandably hurt and bitter about being second fiddle to his brother in the eyes of his father Denethor. He had been unfairly compared to his dead brother Boromir and could not measure up to his grieving father's expectations, and had been rejected by Denethor, even sent into a hopeless battle (a veritable death sentence) as punishment for what Denethor thinks is a bad decision regarding the War (sending the hobbits into Mordor without an escort). These are things that hurt and frustrate Faramir...but they also put him into a position of understanding how Eowyn must feel as a person who will never be enough because of something she cannot control.
I think that Faramir's falling in love with Eowyn is also a political move, maybe not Faramir's main motive but just another reason to ask her hand. It would have been a matter of custom/duty for both people. By bringing the woman of one kingdom into the family of a man from another, there is a bond between not only those two people but the people they represent. The kingdoms of Gondor and Rohan needed to be unified if they were to face a new rulership even if they did not oppose it. So it may have been a gesture of goodwill between the two lands as well as love based and personal.
So what of Eowyn's personality? Well, I think it's important to look at her both before and after Rohan's involvement in the war, and both before and after her brainwashing by Wormtongue, even if some of this is speculative, and even if we may never know what Eowyn is really like apart from crisis and depression. As a woman of Rohan, I think we can assume that she is a proud person indeed, hearty and spirited and brave, and these are traits that she probably displayed in all her actions both in and out of the story, no matter what. And I don't necessarily think she was a tomboy type who would completely resent her duties, it seems to me that all the people of Rohan are rather rugged and maybe the women of Rohan don't seem quite as feminine as you would expect a woman in that world to be. In this light, I think we can tone down our assumptions that Eowyn is a raging feminist, she may be just another typical woman of Rohan.
I sense that Eowyn may have been proud of her womanly responsibilities in Rohan before the war. She may mildly resent her roles as a woman but as far as being caged, etc, I think those were Wormtongue's words, admittedly stemming from small naggings in her original thoughts, but things that she would not have verbalized completely of her own will or things that would have caused such despair for her. I actually think that if she had not been brainwashed by Wormtongue at the time of the battle of Helm's Deep, she would have also understood the chivalry of Theodin to not let her fight, knowing that she also had an important role in keeping the women, children and elderly of Rohan safe in the caves, and would have accepted this role proudly on equal footing with the Riders of Rohan who went to battle.
But Eowyn DOES see her situation, all of it, becoming increasingly desperate and hopeless due to the war. And she HAS been clouded by a hopelessness and a depression as a result of Wormtongue. These are then, in the end, things we cannot separate from her character even if we can somewhat sift out who is "really" talking. (Will the real Eowyn please stand up?) And even if all these things are going on with her, we know that her assessment of what is actually going on in Middle Earth and to her beloved people is fairly accurate. She has every reason to feel desperate and to despair for her people and it doesn't seem to matter why. Consider that:
Her people have been slaughtered needlessly by Saruman's forces in a muscle flex of Isengard,"just in case" they should try to come to the aid of Gondor, and they are proudly doing what they can to maintain their kingdom (and also to help Gondor). Not only that, her uncle the King has been brainwashed and withers before her eyes from the powerful and compassionate man she once knew. She too is not herself and I think she knows she knows this and why. She is grieving her cousin lost in battle and she sees that this loss in the family doesn't even rouse his father to bury him. She sees her country falling apart around her and nothing being done about it...and little for her, as a woman, to do but watch it happen from her "cage".
But we must assume that as the Lady of Rohan, the closest thing her people have to a queen, she wants to do whatever she can to keep that from happening. In her deep desire to see her homeland preserved and also to have this depression lifted from her, and maybe with a little female flair, she turns to Aragorn. I don't think this is lust or even love...not nearly so much that as the fact that for her, Aragorn represents HOPE, the only chance of her people and their allies to win the War or rebuild. (She may become infatuated with Aragorn but I would say only in the context of the lady in distress who falls for her hero, and I can forgive her for that because it's easy to confuse your emotions when you are in crisis.) So...when Aragorn says he cannot stay behind and fight but must instead traipse off on The Path of the Dead...well. Eowyn's hopes for herself and her people are shattered, she drops whatever compliance she has had for her role in the War, and she sneaks into battle as a PATRIOT, NOT as a suicidal lovestruck twit. She may not care at that point whether she lives or dies but I don't think it's because Aragorn has rejected her love. I think at that point it's more like...BY GOD, if he won't save us then I guess I better get out there and help too...after all, she is trained in swords and mentally prepared for battle as well.
That brings us back to the houses of healing where Eowyn is recovering from the wounds of her fight with the Nazgul and her brainwashing...and Faramir starts to court her. (MAYBE NOT THE BEST TIMING HUH?...) And she says she can't love him. I suppose she does have a few issues to deal with about being a submissive woman, and maybe she overdoes it in letting Faramir know that she needs respect as a person, not pity as a woman, but I think that is just part of being scared all the way around...eventually, as Faramir talks to her, she sees her defenses crumbling because maybe she doesn't need them anymore. She has proven herself both as a protector of her people, and as a woman who will not be caged. She starts to act all feminist and Faramir categorically challenges all her excuses, assuring her that he loves everything about her including her strength. He can't understand why she would cling to an image of herself that is no longer so necessary to her own survival or that of her people, and in the process, deny his love for her which could potentially give her joy. Faramir does challenge her affection for Aragorn and spells it out for her that Aragorn is not going to love her back that way. But I think rather than chastising her as a silly woman in love, a woman who is holding on to a fantasy that she will never have rather than settling for the man who does love her, Faramir instead is trying to call out the woman that Eowyn is meant to be. In doing all these things, Faramir is very respectfully trying to free Eowyn from the last shred of bondage that has held her tough image together, whether that bondage came from Wormtongue, the gender roles of the day, her love for her people, or even her own expectations of herself. And she starts to realize that she doesn't have to be afraid of being feminine, and that maybe strength and femininity can exist in the same person. It frees her up to love Faramir and she is healed by the love even as she submits to it. Her submission, then, becomes a new act of strength for her in itself, even as she remains the proud and strong woman she always was, and even as Faramir offers himself to be loved by her, and at last the clouds of her depression are lifted...even the healers pronounce her healed.
That's a common situation for everyone in the human condition, don't you think? Wanting to be independent, wanting to be respected and not wanting to be put on a pedestal or flashed as a prize...but also longing to be vulnerable even if we do not want to be hurt in the process. Haven't we all, both men and women, been hurt by someone and toughened up to it, only to wish the next person could break through to the person we used to be?
As far as Eowyn's softening, I agree that she did, but I think it is a mistake to think that a woman of the same strength to kill a Nazgul would have to go through a dramatic transformation/change of heart to be a good wife and mother or good at whatever else her new life as Faramir's bride would bring to her. I think Eowyn is a fierce warrior because of her capacity to love and nurture, not in spite of it. Likewise, the same passion that caused her to destroy the Nazgul would be the same passion that fuels her to help restore and heal both her beloved Rohan, and her new people in Gondor. These two facets of her character fuel each other, they do NOT contradict each other. Eowyn was well versed in maternal things as the "mother", if you will, for all the people of Rohan. She took them under her wing when they were in danger, she fought fiercely for them, worried about them, LOVED them. Just like any mother would do for her children. Her strength as a warrior would serve her well as a mother and her strengths as a mother would bring out her ferocity as a warrior.
So why would she have to change?!?
My last point is that just maybe we can assume that by letting herself be touched by love, and giving in to the softer side of love by nurturing and creating life, Eowyn will find what she has been missing as a complete woman...and to show her a new strength that even a Nazgul fighting warrior didn't know she had.
Um...don't want to step on any toes here so I will head off the insinuation of people wondering if I am trying to say a woman needs children to be complete. NOT AT ALL. What I meant to say was that EOWYN seems to have a longing for something...and since she has closed down that softer part of herself for whatever reason, the side that of herself that seems to shy away from what women are "supposed" to do...you know...maybe she will find what she needs by looking for it where she never wanted to.
[Edited on 21/2/2003 by musicimprovedme]