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dopeguru's avatar

Who are the strongest female characters in literature?

Asked by dopeguru (1917points) March 26th, 2019

Specifically those who are not renowned by their beauty or as a love interest but rather as thinkers.

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28 Answers

janbb's avatar

Jane Eyre
Anne of Green Gables
Antonia in “My Antonia”
Ada Dunstable in Trollope’s Barsetshire Chronicles is a great character
Jo March in Little Woman
Mary in The Secret Garden

Zaku's avatar

What sort of strength do you mean? Or do you want examples of any sort of strength rather than literally strong-est?

dopeguru's avatar

Perhaps if the story is written by a woman it would be more powerful…

@Zaku excelling or revolting!

Zaku's avatar

This is hard because I keep thinking of more examples and I have little basis for comparison between them, but…

Aurora Leigh in Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Sula Peace in Sula by Toni Morrison

Helen in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

Edna Pontellier in The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Mysteries
... in their way offer a host of master sleuths who happen to be women…

Fantasy
Tolkien offers several not-(or-not-mainly)-romantic very strong women (Éowyn), especially if you count elves (Galadriel)... though they don’t get center stage for long.
A Song of Fire and Ice / A Game of Thrones has many very strong women who aren’t primarily (or at all in some cases) love interests, and several of them do get their own protagonist threads.

Shakespeare has quite a few strong female characters – though they’re often love interests too, I think they stand out as most notable for their strengths, e.g.
Rosalind, the protagonist of As You Like It (clever rebel)
Portia in The Merchant of Venice (though suited by many, and marrying the title character, she then disguises herself as a lawyer and cleverly saves his life)
Cordelia in King Lear
Lady MacBeth (. . .)
(several others)

Sci-Fi:
Honor Harrington is a series of sci fi military books where that character is typically using her tactical brilliance and other skills to reverse overwhelming odds.

Mythology:
Most of the pre-Christian (and even post-Zeus, but especially pre-Zeus) goddesses and demi-goddesses are certainly characters of awesome strength…

Jeruba's avatar

Strongest? I don’t know. That requires comparisons. But when we just say “strong,” Antigone comes first to mind. Then, in no particular order,

Eustacia Vye
Becky Sharp
Lysistrata
Agnes Wickfield
Betsy Trotwood
Lady Macbeth
Judith, slayer of Holofernes (some pretty vivid paintings of that scene)
Esther

in addition to those mentioned above.

What’s your real goal here? With a little more information, perhaps we can narrow it more.

dopeguru's avatar

Thank you! I’m looking at each and every character here!

I want to have a list of books to order from Amazon which is why I asked. But I am specifically seeking women who are intellectual and brave, or loners who are thinkers because they are women… Etc.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Madame Defarge

Jeruba's avatar

So they don’t have to be fictional? If not, then Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth I, and Queen Victoria ought to be on your list, and there are very many more historical figures that could be added.

I’m thinking that book titles might help you more than character names, especially when they are not main characters. For instance, two of the names I gave are in David Copperfield (i.e., Betsy Trotwood and Agnes Wickfield), but they are secondary to the main character.

However, I am having a very hard time thinking of any female character in literature who could by any stretch be called a thinker and who was also renowned for anything at all. People whose chief identity is as thinkers, male or female, tend not to be the sort who engage enough with others and with the world to sustain a principal role in a fictional plot. A story that consists of inner ruminations is not usually going to hold a reader, although there are undoubtedly some exceptions.

Jeruba's avatar

I notice that the only two GAs awarded on this page so far are ones I gave. It doesn’t look like we’re giving answers that are useful to you. Perhaps we’re still not clear on the question.

ucme's avatar

Malala Yousafzai – I am Malala
Wonder Woman

Response moderated
RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Pippi Longstockings

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

7 of 9 from Star Trek Voyager.

joeschmo's avatar

Captain Marvel
Jane Grey
Wanda Maximoff

In that order?

Jeruba's avatar

I’m seeing a pretty broad definition of literature here.

dopeguru's avatar

Some are bios and some films, right?

I think it’s quite sad how there isn’t at least one obvious answer… I am thinking of Simone De Beauvoir’s books but they have the opposite of strong women (which has a great effect). Seriously, NONE that is a thinker who is not known by her beauty?

joeschmo's avatar

All the films here are based on comics and graphic novels. Tis toward the end of the thread, not?

janbb's avatar

Simone de Beauvoir is a philosopher not a literary character. What are you looking for, dopey?

dopeguru's avatar

@janbb She has some novels!! :D

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
janbb's avatar

@dopeguru You said female characters not authors. We asked what you are looking for. If you want to be a “great thinker” as you’ve stated, clarity is a necessity.

LostInParadise's avatar

One good example of a thinking female character is Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Hermione Granger.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

I second @janbb. Simone De Beauvoir is not a “character” so of course no one thought of her.

@joeschmo Sacajawea is neither a character in a comic or in a graphic novel. She was a real woman, Shoshone Indian I believe. Lewis and Clark would have utterly failed their mission if she had not accompanied them.

dopeguru's avatar

@Dutchess @janbb No I previously said I Im thinking her BOOKS, not her. and when you said shes a philosopher, i said she also has novels- i mistaked you saying literary character with “writer”. sorry! Anyway what i meant is her books have weak female characters (for a good reason) ... but its funny to me that she never wrote on the ideal woman she imagined, which sucks for me, as thats exactly what im looking for.

So I am ordering some of the books here!! Anything else I should order? i found an unknown book of letters of a princess and descartes (real exchanges) which might be interesting as she inspired him a lot, but that wouldn’t be literature.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

We were responding to your question: Who are the strongest female characters in literature?
“Specifically those who are not renowned by their beauty or as a love interest but rather as thinkers.”

You didn’t mention “her” anywhere in there.

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