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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. 

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26
Anne Shirley is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
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
27
Pippi Longstocking is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Pippi Longstocking
Pippi Långstrump is a fictional character from Pippi Longstocking.
28
Artemis is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Polar Bear added 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
29
Nancy Drew is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Nancy Drew series
Nancy Drew is a fictional character from the 2011 film My Sucky Teen Romance.
30
Tess Durbeyfield is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Tess Durbeyfield is a fictional character from Tess of the d'Urbervilles.
31
Ginny Weasley is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
celiagold added 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.
32
Lucy Pevensie is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
carlybobarly added 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
33
Emma Bovary is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Madame Bovary
Madame Bovary is a fictional character from the book Madame Bovary and the 2004 film Fatal Romance.
34
Beatrice is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Much Ado About Nothing
Beatrice is a fictional character from the book Much Ado About Nothing, appearing in several related movies and plays.
35
Molly Weasley is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
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
36
Ophelia is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
ComediaHarmonia added Hamlet, Hamlet, Hamlet

Hamlet

Ophelia is a fictional character from the 1964 film Hamlet at Elsinore.
37
Laura Ingalls is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Little House on the Prairie
Laura Ingalls Wilder is a fictional character from the 1984 film Bless All the Dear Children.
38
Annabeth Chase is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Percy Jackson & the Olympians
39
Eliza Doolittle is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
My Fair Lady, Pygmalion, My Fair Lady
Eliza Doolittle is a fictional character.
40
Becky Sharp is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
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
41
Ygritte is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones)
Ygritte is a fictional character from the TV series Game of Thrones.
42
Elinor Dashwood is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
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
43
Holly Golightly is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
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.
44
Lisbeth Salander is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
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
45
Freya is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Polar Bear added Das Rheingold, Der Ring des Nibelungen
46
Helen of Troy is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Polar Bear added Helen of Troy, The Trojan Horse, Doctor Faustus
In Greek mythology, Helen of Troy, also known as Helen of Sparta, was the daughter of Zeus and Leda, and was a sister of Castor, Pollux, and Clytemnestra. In Greek myths, she was considered the ...more
47
Buffy Summers is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Tammi Jacobsen added Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffyverse
Buffy Anne Summers is a fictional character from Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer franchise. She first appeared in the 1992 film Buffy the Vampire Slayer before going on to appear in the ...more
48
Mary Lennox is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
carlybobarly added The Secret Garden, The Secret Garden
Mary Lennox is a fictional character from The Secret Garden.
49
Bellatrix Lestrange is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
celiagold added Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part I, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Bellatrix "Bella" Lestrange (nᅢᄅe Black) is a fictional character in the Harry Potter book series written by J. K. Rowling.
50
Elphaba is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
carlybobarly added Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Wicked: Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West