literature The Best Female Characters in Literature  

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List Rules Favorite women and girls in books, plays, poetry, etc. - No comics

 

Some of the best characters in literature are female. From the evil to the undeniably perfect, these are the greatest female characters from literature of all genres. This list includes the best female characters of all ages, from the youthful Matilda (Matilda) to the ever-so-adult Evelyn Couch (Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe). Make sure to also check out the brave women from real life such as the badass female pirate Chang Shih and these American women of war who deserve more recognition

Why do female literary characters stay with readers long after they’ve finished reading the novels these characters are featured in? Often, it’s due to the intimacy with which readers have come to know a character. Jane Eyre (and all of her desires and feelings), for example, becomes so real to readers that they feel as if they’ve met and understood this amazing female character.

Other times, readers love female characters in literature because of the audacity of their actions. Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind) was exceedingly bold for a woman of her time, while Madame Defarge (A Tale of Two Cities) is an exemplar of tireless villainy. Some of the most popular female literary characters manage to embody both wholesome and defiant, becoming reflections of the complex nature of women.

For the wide range of personality traits we find in these great female characters (and the audacious actions they’ve performed), these women have earned their titles as the best female characters in literature. They may be young or old, charming or black-hearted, but they are all memorable. Whether you love them or love to hate them, all the famous fictional heroines are here in this list of the best female characters in literary history. 

 

list ordered by

1
3,806 1,193
Hermione Granger is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Hermione Granger Harry Potter series Hermione Jean Granger is a fictional character in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. She initially appears in the first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, as a new student on her ...more

2
931 849
Lady Macbeth is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Lady Macbeth Macbeth Lady Macbeth is a fictional character from Macbeth.

3
2,474 786
Elizabeth Bennet is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Elizabeth Bennet Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth Darcy is the protagonist in the 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. She is often referred to as Eliza or Lizzy by her friends and family. Elizabeth is the second child in a ...more

4
400 551
Natasha Rostova is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
mofletero added Natasha Rostova War and Peace Countess Natalya "Natasha" Ilyinichna Rostova is a central fictional character in Leo Tolstoy's novel War and Peace.

5
1,307 460
Éowyn is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Éowyn The Lord of the Rings Éowyn is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, who appears in his most famous work, The Lord of the Rings. She is a noblewoman of Rohan who is described as a

6
1,392 557
Jane Eyre is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Jane Eyre Jane Eyre Jane Eyre is the heroine of Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel of the same name.

7
1,552 500
Alice is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Alice Alice in Wonderland Alicia is a fictional character from the 1976 film Alicia en el país de las maravillas.

8
698 609
Anna Karenina is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Anna Karenina Anna Karenina Anna is a fictional character from the book Anna Karenina.

9
1,628 506
Scout Finch is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Scout Finch To Kill a Mockingbird Scout Finch is a fictional character from To Kill a Mockingbird.

10
1,557 715
Arya Stark is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Arya Stark A Song of Ice and Fire Arya Stark is a fictional character created by American author George R. R. Martin. She is a prominent point of view character in Martin's award-winning A Song of Ice and Fire series, and also a ...more

11
2,072 535
Luna Lovegood is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Luna Lovegood Harry Potter series Luna Lovegood is a fictional character from the Harry Potter series written by J.K. Rowling.

12
1,933 789
Katniss Everdeen is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Katniss Everdeen The Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen is a fictional character and the protagonist of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Her name comes from an edible plant called katniss. Academy Award-winning actress ...more

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13
1,300 529
Jo March is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Jo March Little Women, Little Women, Little Women Jo March is a fictional character from the 1933 film Little Women.

14
958 538
Scarlett O'Hara is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Scarlett O'Hara Gone with the Wind Scarlett O'Hara is the central character in Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel Gone with the Wind and in the later film of the same name. She also is the main character in the 1970 musical Scarlett ...more

15
610 313
Éponine is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Éponine Les Misérables Éponine Thénardier, also referred to as the "Jondrette girl", is a fictional character in the 1862 novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. The character is introduced ...more

16
1,584 208
Professor Minerva McGonagall is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
celiagold added Professor Minerva McGonagall Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Minerva McGonagall is a fictional character from Harry Potter literary series.

17
1,253 316
Mary Poppins is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Mary Poppins Mary Poppins series Mary Poppins is a fictional character and the protagonist of P. L. Travers' Mary Poppins books and all of its adaptations. A magical English nanny, she blows in on the East Wind and arrives at ...more

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18
1,411 340
Matilda is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Matilda Matilda Matilda Wormwood is a fictional character from the 1996 comedy fantasy film Matilda.

19
876 406
Galadriel is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Galadriel The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings Galadriel is a character created by J.R.R. Tolkien, appearing in his Middle-earth legendarium. She appears in The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales. She was a royal Elf ...more

20
569 448
Hester Prynne is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Hester Prynne The Scarlet Letter Hester Prynne is the protagonist of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter. She is portrayed as a woman condemned by her Puritan neighbors. The character has been called "among the ...more

21
1,164 488
Daenerys Targaryen is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Daenerys Targaryen A Song of Ice and Fire Game of Thrones
 
Daenerys Targaryen is a fictional character of the book Game of Thrones.

22
577 140
Athena is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Polar Bear added Athena Odysseus: Voyage to the Underworld Alea was an epithet of the Greek goddess Athena, prominent in Arcadian mythology, under which she was worshiped at Alea, Mantineia and Tegea. Alea was initially an independent goddess, but was ...more

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23
477 357
Emma Woodhouse is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Emma Woodhouse Emma Emma Woodhouse, the protagonist of the story, is a beautiful, high-spirited, intellectual, and 'slightly' spoiled woman of 21. Her mother died when she was very young, and she has been mistress ...more

24
1,003 278
Anne Shirley is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Anne Shirley Anne of Green Gables Anne Shirley is a fictional character introduced in the 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Montgomery wrote in her journal that the idea for Anne's story came from ...more

25
594 227
Arwen is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
wendy-ya added Arwen The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Arwen Undómiel is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. She appears in his novel, The Lord of the Rings, usually published in three volumes. Arwen is one of the ...more

26
686 322
Laura Ingalls is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Laura Ingalls Little House on the Prairie Laura Ingalls Wilder is a fictional character from the 1984 film Bless All the Dear Children.

27
701 336
Pippi Longstocking is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Pippi Longstocking Pippi Longstocking Pippi Långstrump is a fictional character from Pippi Longstocking.

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279 407
Emma Bovary is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Emma Bovary Madame Bovary Madame Bovary is a fictional character from the book Madame Bovary and the 2004 film Fatal Romance.

29
211 322
Becky Sharp is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Becky Sharp Vanity Fair Becky Sharp is the anti-heroine of William Makepeace Thackeray's satirical novel Vanity Fair. A cynical social climber who uses her charms to fascinate and seduce upper-class men, Sharp is ...more

30
556 269
Beatrice is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Beatrice Much Ado About Nothing Beatrice is a fictional character from the book Much Ado About Nothing, appearing in several related movies and plays.

31
333 335
Tess Durbeyfield is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Tess Durbeyfield Tess of the d'Urbervilles Tess Durbeyfield is a fictional character from Tess of the d'Urbervilles.

32
499 160
Artemis is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Polar Bear added Artemis Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some scholars believe that the name, and indeed the goddess herself, was originally ...more

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33
883 276
Nancy Drew is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Nancy Drew Nancy Drew series Nancy Drew is a fictional character from the 2011 film My Sucky Teen Romance.

34
1,013 249
Annabeth Chase is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Annabeth Chase Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Percy Jackson & the Olympians

35
859 312
Dorothy Gale is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Dorothy Gale The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Dorothy Gale is a fictional character and protagonist of many of the Oz novels by the American author L. Frank Baum. Her best friend is Oz's ruler Princess Ozma. Dorothy first appears in Baum's ...more

36
950 224
Lucy Pevensie is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
carlybobarly added Lucy Pevensie The Chronicles of Narnia Lucy Pevensie is a fictional character in C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia series. She is the youngest of the four Pevensie children, and the first to find the Wardrobe entrance to Narnia ...more

37
561 297
Eliza Doolittle is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Eliza Doolittle My Fair Lady, Pygmalion, My Fair Lady Eliza Doolittle is a fictional character.

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38
935 308
Ginny Weasley is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
celiagold added Ginny Weasley Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part I, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Ginny Weasley is a fictional character from Harry Potter literary series.

39
87 219
Sister Luke is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
terquin jeds added Sister Luke The Nun's Story Gabrielle van der Mal, also known as Sister Luke is a fictional character from the 1959 film The Nun's Story.

40
618 339
Holly Golightly is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Holly Golightly Breakfast at Tiffany's Holly Golightly is a fictional character from the book Breakfast at Tiffany's, appearing in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's.

41
629 344
Lisbeth Salander is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Lisbeth Salander The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Lisbeth Salander is a fictional character created by Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson. She is the main character of Larsson's award-winning Millennium series, along with Mikael ...more

42
247 119
Ophelia is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
ComediaHarmonia added Ophelia Hamlet, Hamlet, Hamlet

Hamlet

Ophelia is a fictional character from the 1964 film Hamlet at Elsinore.

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43
749 160
Molly Weasley is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Molly Weasley Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part I Molly Weasley (nᅢᄅe Prewett) is a fictional character in the Harry Potter book series written by J. K. Rowling. She is a witch housewife, married to Arthur Weasley and mother of Bill, Charlie, ...more

44
464 326
Ygritte is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Ygritte A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) Ygritte is a fictional character from the TV series Game of Thrones.

45
425 187
Elinor Dashwood is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Elinor Dashwood Sense and Sensibility Elinor Dashwood is a fictional character and the main protagonist of Jane Austen's novel Sense and Sensibility. In this novel, Austen analyzes the conflict between the opposing temperaments of ...more

46
332 173
Freya is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Polar Bear added Freya Das Rheingold, Der Ring des Nibelungen

47
424 167
Mary Lennox is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
carlybobarly added Mary Lennox The Secret Garden, The Secret Garden Mary Lennox is a fictional character from The Secret Garden.

48
217 171
Brunhild is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Polar Bear added Brunhild Die Nibelungen: Siegfried Brunhild is a fictional character from the 1924 film Die Nibelungen: Siegfried.

49
620 236
Liesel Meminger is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Liesel Meminger The Book Thief Liesel Meminger is a fictional character from The Book Thief.

50
341 149
Rapunzel is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
tetris added Rapunzel Rapunzel Rapunzel is a fantasy character from a fairy tale written by the Brothers Grimm.