A definitive ranking of the 10 most heroic females in literature
Personally, literature was my guide to the real world: between growing up at the library, barely surviving high school prom and AP English, and finally beginning to understand real-world problems that my beloved characters encountered. These 10 fearless heroines possessed chutzpah and overcame adversity in a way that can inspire us all.
1. Hester Prynne, The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
Hester Prynne was mistreated with slander, gossip, and accused of sinful acts. Being guilty of adultery, she is publicly punished with the scarlet “A” and shamed for her sins. She then goes to lengths to protect her daughter. It’s impossible not to honor Hester for her courage and pride.
2. Hermione Granger—Harry Potter, series by J.K. Rowling
Having two platonic male friends is never easy, especially when they are Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. Hermione proved herself time and again to be a force to be reckoned with in the classroom, but also a cunning and classy witch outside of her studies. She overcame others’ doubts of her Muggle-born status, and used her talent and smarts to obtain the Time Turner… only to improve her talent and smarts.
3. Marji—Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
In this autobiographical graphic novel, Marji writes her memoir about interactions with herself, family, friends, relationships, and society in a post-Islamic Revolution world. She becomes an extreme rebel against the political scene, which is particularly dangerous during the oppression. Marji battles with true love amidst war, and is estranged from her family as a result of conflicting religious values and an effort to remain true to her self.
4. Mulan—Hua Mulan , folklore
What is more heroic than an actual ancient Chinese female warrior who disguised herself as a man to defend her family and country? This one’s obvious.
5. Aibileen Clark—The Help by Kathryn Stockett
There are arguably two heroines in this novel—Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan initiates writing the book about “the help,” and seeks Aibileen’s assistance. However, without AIbileen’s fearlessness and risking her job multiple times in order to tell her story, Phelan’s book would not have been possible. By exploiting the “whites,” Aibileen unravels secrets, but also unconditional love between servants, their bosses, and their children. Not to mention, her stunt with the pie was badass.
6. Stargirl—Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
If you never read Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl, you missed out on a coming-of-age novel about a girl named Susan Caraway, whose eccentricity and goodwill live on long after the high school teasing and trauma. Stargirl is the epitome of a strong, independent woman who doesn’t care what others think.
7. Celie—The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Celie is a girl who literally started from the bottom—as a poor, uneducated African-American teen in the South during the Great Depression. She was raped by her “father,” impregnated, and had to deal with severe discrimination. Despite these setbacks, she transformed into an incredibly strong-willed, independent woman who was capable of love and self-love.
8. Margaret Simon—Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume
Our little skeptic is simply adorable in this coming-of-age novel about religion and puberty. She’s assigned a year-long project to research people’s beliefs, and in turn, figure out her religious identity. Margaret asks relevant female-centric questions about developing breasts in a timely manner, first crushes, and speaking out against the accepted social norm.
9. Lisbeth Salander—The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Lisbeth is the modern-day tech hacker, surveillance agent, and researcher for all you trailblazing coding enthusiasts out there. After dealing with rape and using it for revenge and blackmail, she’s also antisocial and quite the unusual protagonist. However, that type of representation is necessary in the realm of literature. She’s truly badass and if we can be half as strong as she is, we could virtually (pun intended) do anything.
10. Matilda—Matilda by Roald Dahl
This girl will always be my favourite character of all time. Roald Dahl spun magic in his tales, and Matilda’s story of finding true parental love touches my heart. She’s so precocious that she even develops telekinesis and uses it to retaliate against her parents’ mistreatment. Anyone who reads this novel can take notes from Matilda’s moral compass and bookworm tendencies.
As they say, art imitates life. I am entranced by stories that take me to exotic worlds, adrenaline-inducing scenarios, and make me feel some raw emotions. Reading each of these literary novels about empowering, independent heroines inspires me to go out in the real world to tackle my mundane problems, hopefully transforming into a superhero—even if only in my imagination. So, go on… kiss that boy, ask for that promotion, take that trip, start that business because what have you got to lose?
By: Tiffany Teng
This article was originally published on Levo League.