There are so many literary heroines who inspire us with their razor-sharp wits (and sometimes razor-sharp aim). Regardless of who they are or where they’re from, these ladies kick butt and deserve our literary adulation. We’ve compiled a list of ten amazing literary heroines. There are way more than ten out there (ladies be fierce!), but these chicks are some of our favorites.
Remember reading about mythology or, if you need more special effects, the Percy Jackson series? Artemis (or Diana, her Roman name) carries a hunting bow like The Hunger Game‘s Katniss Everdeen, but it’s not just because she’s starving and needs a meal: Artemis is the goddess of the hunt and wild animals. Pretty awesome, right? While her brother spends most of his time romancing the ladies, Artemis takes her virginity seriously and makes it a priority to protect young girls. While she has shown kindness to mortals, when things she cares about are threatened, Artemis has no problem showing her wrath. The way Artemis sticks to her convictions is admirable, but if you’re going to emulate our Virgin Goddess, you might want to try avoiding killing people.
Ah, Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice, the subject of many movie adaptations, including our personal favorite, Bridget Jones’s Diary. Elizabeth’s main task (as given to her by her mother) is to find a husband, but what makes her a fantastic heroine is that she sticks up for her sisters and what she wants. When she realizes at the end of the novel that she’s been clouded by her quick judgment and prejudice all along, she is willing to change her mind and, finally, agrees to marry the slightly awkward and curmudgeonly Darcy. Lessons learned from the lovely Miss Bennet? Follow your heart, but be open to changing course when the time is right.
Now we’re out West–Nebraska, to be more specific. Sure, it may be a super-long state to drive through, but a lot of things happen there. Ántonia’s character (or at least how Jim views her) is embodied by the Western landscape, full of warm colors. This fits perfectly with her strong personality and her refusal to fit into traditional gender roles. Through Jim’s nostalgic narration, the nature of his relationship with Ántonia is revealed (it is exactly what Avril Lavigne sings–”Complicated“), yet, at the same time, keeping it together in the face of her father’s suicide and harsh winters. We like ourselves some strong ladies and Ántonia is that in spades.
Matilda is a young heroine–she’s only five–but she has the independence (who doesn’t love the part of the 1996 movie adaption where Matilda makes pancakes by herself?), smarts, and moral convictions of someone four times her age. Yet, she doesn’t brag (or humblebrag) about it. Oh, and our book-loving five-year-old also has telekinetic powers that she uses for good and to punish those who deserve, instead of going on a crazed rampage like Stephen King’s Carrie. Girl’s gonna go places.
Before Zooey Deschanel and quirky chic became popular, there was Stargirl. She does her own thing, and doesn’t care what other people think. Among other things, Stargirl cheers when the other team scores because she genuinely is happy for their success, even though her classmates don’t like it. Stargirl is connected to the universe and ignores the people who bully her, instead choosing to be kind to everyone. Sounds pretty amazing, right? She changes for a brief while for love interest Leo, but finally finds solace (and popularity) by being herself at the Ocotillo Ball. The next time you think about changing yourself to fit in, channel your own inner Stargirl.
Harper Lee’s novel starts when Scout is only six. She’s a tomboy who gets into fights and figures the person who wins is in the right. Throughout the next four years, though, she matures and realizes that fighting is not so black and white anymore (even though the racism in her town would beg to disagree). While Scout is initially scared of shut-in Boo Radley, she comes to see him as a caring neighbor, though she is saddened she is not that to him. From putting herself in Boo’s shoes, she learned about both him and her own self. The pint-sized heroine shows the importance of self-knowledge and empathy.
She can hack into things easily while sporting spiked hair, tattoos, and provocative T-shirts. Her obvious smarts are tempered by a likely diagnoses of Asperger’s Syndrome, trust issues, and a history of promiscuity with men and women. Due to previous experiences, Lisabeth hates when men hurt women–and punishes those men accordingly. Despite her struggles, though, she keeps it together in order to carry out her moral code.
Jo (short for Josephine) is a tomboy with a wicked temper. As a teen, she would pick reading, writing, and the company of her sisters over anything–especially getting married. Even though it is unusual for a lady of her class, Jo had a job as a writer. With time (and a good measure of trial and error), her perspective shifts, and she ends up finding a man she truly loves who respects her and fits her idea of what an equal marriage could be. And then they proceed to be ridiculously adorable and open a school for ragamuffin boys. Jo March, you are the best.
Celie was handed a tough life: she was raped by her father several times and becomes part of an abusive marriage. She’s passive–except when people she loves are threatened, like her sister Nettie. Despite a considerable amount of hardship, Celie successfully stands up for herself and the people she cares about and ends up finding someone to care for who saves her. When you send love out into the universe, the universe responds with love–as Taylor Swift knows, love makes the world go round.
Esperanza narrates The House on Mango Street in a series of stories in which she isn’t always the central character. Throughout the book, the reader gets a sense of Esperanza’s character: she struggles with loneliness and wants to fit in (who hasn’t felt this way?), in addition to experiencing shame about being poor. Instead of letting it bubble up (we’re talking to you, Hamlet), she uses writing as a productive method to sort out her feelings and experiences. Esperanza illustrates that anyone can have access to their own personal catharsis whether it involves blasting music, decorating cupcakes like a pro, or something completely different.
Is your favorite lady not on the list? Let us know who your favorite lit lady is in the comments!