Strong Female Characters In Literature

Here is a list of my top 10 favorite badass female characters:

  1. Scout (To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee)

Scout, the young narrator of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird is a curious, intelligent and extremely observant little girl. She asks difficult questions and is not afraid of the answers she gets. She is a tomboy, and is often being told that she is not “girlish” enough. It is precisely her refusal to conform to the standards of how girls should behave that puts her apart from others and makes her a fighter for justice both as a child, and later on in life.

  1. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling)

The only girl of the famous Potter-Weasley-Granger trio for solving mysteries in the wizarding world is often considered to be a nerdy, bookish, plain-looking girl who spends all her free time at the library (raise your hand, fellow Potterheads, if this description reminds you of your own adolescent years). However, during the course of action, Hermione is revealed to be both smart and generous, ready to risk it all for her friends regardless of the danger. Besides, everyone knows that Ron and Harry would have never completed their education if it weren’t for her.

  1. Jo March (Little Women, Louisa May Alcott)

Jo March has always been my favorite character in the novel. Unlike her sisters, she was bold and adventurous. When Jo wished she “had been a boy”, she actually longed to be able to do all the things that boys were allowed to do, unlike girls: however, that didn’t stop her from whistling and using slang words. I admire Jo for her refusal to succumb to the pressures imposed on her sex at the time, and her determination to become a writer.

  1. Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins)

Katniss might very well be the most “badass” woman on this list, considering her ability to survive relying mostly on her bow and arrow. Katniss struggled during her whole life: she faced poverty, hunger and loss. But it is not only her physical strength and her ability to fight that makes her a badass: her choosing to sacrifice first to save her sister, and then Peeta, shows that she is also selfless and brave, especially when it comes to protecting those she cares about.

  1. Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë)

While the ending of the novel might not be considered a feminist one, because Jane ultimately resorts to marriage, I believe that she can still be considered a strong female character. Her childhood and her education is marked by abuse. As she grows up, she comes to realize that she doesn’t deserve to be treated that way. It is her refusal to be treated as a “less then”, and to betray her principles for love that marks her as a feminist character.

  1. Becky Sharp (Vanity Fair,  William Makepeace Thackeray)

This is a story of another orphan of low birth, who is nowhere near Jane’s moral beliefs. Becky is a true social climber with almost sociopathic tendencies. However, despite her flaws, I still found myself rooting for her while I was reading the novel, because she is so charmingly evil. I was also willing to forgive her for actions because of the poor circumstances she was born into that shaped her character and pushed her towards not so honorable actions.

  1. Anna Karenina (Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy)

Princess Anna Arkadyevna Karenina has done something that very few women would dare to do: she risked everything for love. She abandoned the security of a loveless marriage, the conventions of her social circle, and even her own son in order to stay true to herself. Instead of being passive and suffering in silence, she had the courage to fight for her happiness. Because of her courage and determination, she deserves a place on this list.

  1. Offred (The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood)

First of all, I must say that Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite writers of all time. The Handmaid’s Tale is her first book I have ever read, and I enjoyed it immensely (while also being a little terrified, as with all of her writing). We are given very scarce information about how Offred looks, however, we know that she has viable ovaries, which speaks volumes about the way women are treated in this book. Offred’s identity is stolen from her, and yet, she uses every chance she gets to protest against this world she is trapped in. Her dark sense of humor is her biggest weapon against the unimaginable horrors of her daily life.

  1. Lily Briscoe (To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf)

Having written my MA Thesis on Virginia Woolf and feminism, Lily Briscoe has always fascinated me. Her refusal to conform to the traditional values of the society at the time and to stay unapologetically herself is truly remarkable. Lily knew what she wanted (to be a painter), and what she absolutely didn’t want (to marry and have children), and didn’t compromise her beliefs despite the fact that they condemned her to poverty. Lily gave me a lesson in integrity that I think is absolutely worth remembering.


  1. Lisbeth Salander (Millenium Trilogy, Stieg Larsson)

One of the most recent characters in this list, Lisbeth Salander is a protagonist unlike any other. This pale, skinny young women with short hair and pierced nose and eyebrows is as far from traditional female characters as possible. Her professional path is also an unorthodox one, to put it mildly: she is a world-class hacker and investigator. Due to her traumatic past, she takes pleasure in punishing men who abuse women. Despite her aggressive ways, Lisbeth’s refusal to be victimized makes her a truly powerful character.

Do you agree with my selection? Are there some strong female characters that you feel should also be a part of this list? Let me know!


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