Some of the greatest characters in literature are women and girls, but which ones are the very best? From the evil to the undeniably perfect, the always strong to those who those who never give up, these are the greatest female characters from literature of all genres. This list includes the best female characters of all ages, like the youthful girls Matilda (Matilda) and Hermione Granger (Harry Potter) to the ever-so-adult Evelyn Couch (Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe). We're even ranking immortal female characters, like Galadriel from Lord of the Rings and the goddess Athena you read about in Greek mythology.
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. So many people relate to fiery, independent Jo March that her marriage at the end of Little Women feels like a betrayal - something the 2019 film adaptation addresses head-on.
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. From inspirational feminist heroes to strong women from fantasy series, the greatest fictional women from literature also make great role models.
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.
- Minerva McGonagall is a fictional character from Harry Potter literary series.
- Luna Lovegood is a fictional character from the Harry Potter series written by J.K. Rowling.
- Matilda Wormwood is a fictional character from the 1996 comedy fantasy film Matilda.
- 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 in ...more
- 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, Percy, ...more
- 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 relatives ...more
- 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 the ...more
- Jo March is a fictional character from the 1868 novel Little Women.T he principal character, she is 15 years old at the beginning of the book, strong and willful, struggling to subdue her fiery ...more
- 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
- 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
- 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 way ...more
- 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
- Nancy Drew is a fictional character from the 2011 film My Sucky Teen Romance.
- Scout Finch is a fictional character from To Kill a Mockingbird.
- 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 main ...more
- 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 shieldmaiden.
- 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
- Ginny Weasley is a fictional character from Harry Potter literary series.
- Jane Eyre is the heroine of Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel of the same name.
- Alicia is a fictional character from the 1976 film Alicia en el país de las maravillas.
- 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 half-elven who ...more
- Violet Baudelaire is a fictional character and one of the three protagonists of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events series; she appears in all thirteen novels. Violet helps her ...more