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Top Literary Heroines - Classic and Contemporary


This article celebrates the ordinary, yet extra-ordinary, strong female characters in literary fiction who have exhibited incredible strength and valor in their personalities and characteristics, choosing to remain their true selves despite what the world threw at them - from gender inequality, to disrespect, rape, violence, domestic abuse, and a whole lot more.

They are passionate, strong, individualistic and steadfast in their principles. Although they have numerous flaws, most of them nonetheless exhibit genuine selflessness, always putting others before them. They all suffer in more ways than one, and in their own respective circumstances, but they always get back on their feet, stronger, wiser, more compelling. They are stubborn, yet very courageous even in the midst of painful, degrading circumstances, and for some, even until the moment they take their last breath.

From classic to contemporary, the authors of these novels strive to show the readers the inner strength that lie in every woman, no matter how 'frail' or 'petite' their appearances may seem.

Katniss in The Hunger Games is not the ideal heroine like the classic characters of Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice, still, she deserves to be on the list below because of her incredible brevity and selflessness, her ruthlessness and compassionate spirit. Throughout her fight for survival in the arena (twice), all she cared about was saving Peeta's life, with no thoughts about hers. She became the Mockingjay in Book 3, not for herself, but for her family, for Gale, for her District.

Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra is not the typical heroine either; she has major flaws which includes her self-absorbed and conniving ways, using her sexual prowess to get what she wants. However, she is charismatic, veracious, and completely at ease with the power she holds as a woman.

Here are the top 10 strong female leads that I have come to admire in all my years as an avid reader of literature. I'd love to know which characters make up your top list; please feel free to share!

Jane Eyre - Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
Edna Pontellier - The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
Elizabeth Bennet - Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
Catherine Morland - Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen
Cleopatra - Antony and Cleopatra, by Shakespeare

Katniss Everdeen - The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Jo March - Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
Janie Crawford - Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
Celie, - The Colour Purple, by Alice Walker
Sula - Sula, by Toni Morrison
I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me na´ve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.
-- Ana´s Nin


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Content copyright © 2014 by Ije Kanu. All rights reserved.
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