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
2,928 936
Elizabeth Bennet is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
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

2
4,499 1,470
Hermione Granger is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
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

3
1,150 1,066
Lady Macbeth is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Macbeth Lady Macbeth is a fictional character from Macbeth.

4
1,665 668
Jane Eyre is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Jane Eyre Jane Eyre is the heroine of Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel of the same name.

5
1,581 620
Éowyn is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
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
1,877 618
Scout Finch is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
To Kill a Mockingbird Scout Finch is a fictional character from To Kill a Mockingbird.

7
502 696
Natasha Rostova is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
mofletero added War and Peace Countess Natalya "Natasha" Ilyinichna Rostova is a central fictional character in Leo Tolstoy's novel War and Peace.

8
2,331 999
Katniss Everdeen is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
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

9
1,840 635
Alice is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Alice in Wonderland Alicia is a fictional character from the 1976 film Alicia en el país de las maravillas.

10
2,055 289
Professor Minerva McGonagall is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
celiagold added 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.

11
1,142 657
Scarlett O'Hara is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
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

12
815 725
Anna Karenina is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Anna Karenina Anna is a fictional character from the book Anna Karenina.

13
1,845 842
Arya Stark is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
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

14
2,512 646
Luna Lovegood is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Harry Potter series Luna Lovegood is a fictional character from the Harry Potter series written by J.K. Rowling.

15
1,541 610
Jo March is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Little Women, Little Women, Little Women Jo March is a fictional character from the 1933 film Little Women.

16
1,480 399
Mary Poppins is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
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

17
1,411 616
Daenerys Targaryen is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
A Song of Ice and Fire Game of Thrones
 
Daenerys Targaryen is a fictional character of the book Game of Thrones.

18
1,686 421
Matilda is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Matilda Matilda Wormwood is a fictional character from the 1996 comedy fantasy film Matilda.

19
1,027 504
Galadriel is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
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
675 557
Hester Prynne is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
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
749 407
Éponine is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
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

22
806 201
Athena is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Polar Bear added 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

23
1,065 348
Nancy Drew is listed (or ranked) 23 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.

24
580 442
Emma Woodhouse is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
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

25
1,014 398
Dorothy Gale is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
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

26
1,196 353
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
751 320
Arwen is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
wendy-ya added 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

28
816 406
Laura Ingalls is listed (or ranked) 28 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.

29
817 441
Pippi Longstocking is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Pippi Longstocking Pippi Långstrump is a fictional character from Pippi Longstocking.

30
404 421
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
326 498
Emma Bovary is listed (or ranked) 31 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.

32
1,165 293
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
663 222
Artemis is listed (or ranked) 33 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

34
644 340
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
1,192 421
Ginny Weasley is listed (or ranked) 35 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.

36
236 410
Becky Sharp is listed (or ranked) 36 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

37
1,215 322
Annabeth Chase is listed (or ranked) 37 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

38
663 375
Eliza Doolittle is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
My Fair Lady, Pygmalion, My Fair Lady Eliza Doolittle is a fictional character.

39
752 417
Lisbeth Salander is listed (or ranked) 39 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

40
715 424
Holly Golightly is listed (or ranked) 40 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.

41
349 184
Ophelia is listed (or ranked) 41 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.

42
1,002 225
Molly Weasley is listed (or ranked) 42 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

43
523 244
Elinor Dashwood is listed (or ranked) 43 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

44
562 413
Ygritte is listed (or ranked) 44 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.

45
268 197
Cordelia is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
King Lear, King Lear, King Lear Cordelia is a fictional character in William Shakespeare’s tragic play, King Lear. She is the youngest of King Lear’s three daughters, and his favourite. After her elderly father offers her the ...more

46
565 211
Elphaba is listed (or ranked) 46 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

47
410 217
Freya is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Polar Bear added Das Rheingold, Der Ring des Nibelungen

48
669 358
Bellatrix Lestrange is listed (or ranked) 48 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.

49
405 173
Buffy Summers is listed (or ranked) 49 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

50
565 299
Clarice Starling is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Female Characters in Literature
Silence of the Lambs Clarice M. Starling is a fictional character and the protagonist of the novels The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal by Thomas Harris. In the film adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs, she was ...more