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8 Captivating And Intriguing Female Characters In Literature That We Have Often Overlooked

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By Trisha Gupta:

Whenever there is a list of strong female characters in literature, a few of the recurring names are Elizabeth Bennet, Jane Eyre, and the unforgettable Hermione Granger, who no doubt are indispensable when it comes to being an inspiration for women of all ages. However, there are many other thought provoking female characters that have been overshadowed and to some extent, ignored. Here I present a list of such characters that are just as captivating and intriguing.

The millenium series

1. Jo March: Josephine (Jo) March is one of the four sisters in the classic Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. She is a true rebel who strives to make her voice heard in a world that only listens to men. She refuses to succumb to gender stereotypes, going to the extent of cutting off her hair (and letting go of her femininity) to provide for her family. Her initial rejection of the idea of romance and marriage is a matter of concern for her family, and when she does get married, it is not out of compulsion or societal pressure.

2. Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web: Remember the novel we read as a child that made us fall in love with a cute and lonesome pig named Wilbur? That amazing novel, written by E.B. White, had one of the most loyal characters, i.e. Charlotte. Charlotte, the ‘bloodthirsty’ spider, turns out to be one of his best and most loyal friends. She is an unseen presence throughout the book, helping Wilbur in unimaginable ways and always sticking by him. She fends for herself and is kind in her own way.

3. Dominique Francon: Miss Francon is the heroine of the highly controversial novel, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. To put it simply, she is a complex and conflicting character. But she lives by her own philosophy, and believes that true greatness, such as that of the male protagonist, Howard Roark, is destined to be doomed and ruined by the collectivist masses. Despite her self-destructive behaviour, she has a strong sense of who she is and what she wants. She does not feel the need to give an explanation to anyone about her actions. No doubt, both Francon and Roark in this novel are exaggerations of individuality, but there is something about her that nags the reader. Not for one minute does she compromise with what she believes in.

4. The female characters penned down by Sidney Sheldon: In a word, they are unapologetic. They are ambitious and seductive, know what they want and how to get it. True femme fatales, they are often the character shaping the entire plot of the novel. Whether it is the seductive Noelle Page from The Other Side of Midnight or evil Eve Blackwell and manipulative Kate Blackwell from Master of the Game, they were Damsels but definitely not in distress. These strong female characters see no need to justify their actions, however ‘wrong’ they might be, to the society.

5. Professor Minerva McGonagall from the Harry Potter Series: While everyone speaks about how badass Hermione was and how she never simmered down her intelligence for boys, Professor McGonagall does not get her due share of attention. She was the queen of sass. The perfect role model, she was strict when required but never left the side of her students. Unimaginably just and fair, she never hesitated to punish the students of her own house. She did not submit to the rule of Dolores Umbridge; no Potterhead can ever forget the legendary “It unscrews the other way”.

6. Lisbeth Salander from The Millennium Trilogy: The heroine of The Millenium Trilogy written by Stieg Larsson, Salander, is in a word, a survivor. A victim of a truly traumatic childhood, she goes on to apply her own notions of right and wrong and does not feel the need to justify them, whether those actions include tattooing “I am a sadistic pig, a pervert and a rapist” on the abdomen of her legal guardian, or hitting her birth father with an axe. Due to her appearance, awkward mannerisms and sexual orientation, she is a social pariah. But that does not mean that she needs to be rescued. A world class computer hacker, she, in her own way, rescues herself and even the male protagonist, Mikhael Blomkvist, more than once.

7. Matilda from Matilda: This classic tale of a girl who loved to read, by Roald Dahl, gave consolation to many budding bookworms (including me) that no matter what the society says, it is alright to spend your time reading. She is misunderstood by her parents and ill-treated by her evil principal. But does she submit to her misery? No. She fights back! And boy, she gives them the fight of their lives!

8. Draupadi, Gandhari and Kunti from the Mahabharata: While the Kauravas and Pandavas fought in the Battle of Kurushetra, these women fought their own battles. Gandhari blindfolded herself in protest to being forced to marry a blind man, Kunti fought for the rightful inheritance of her sons and Draupadi brought about doom to the entire Kaurava clan, vowing to wash her hair with Kaurava blood. She even questioned Yudhistira, her husband on how he, after betting himself away, had the authority to put her at stake. Although a narrative of men and their power, the women make themselves heard, loud and clear.

You must be to comment.
  1. Ramen Das

    But how do you define overlooked?
    Lisbeth Salander is as famous as possible…

    1. Trisha Gupta

      Lisbeth Salander is famous, but as an anti-hero, j tried to highlight the strength of her character here..

  2. jayati kalra

    Draupadi should not only be remembered as the one who endured all, but as the strongest character hindu mythology has ever seen. she married against her will, was deeply in love with karna, had a premonition of all that was about to happen and the one who at every step had the courage to raise her voice, whether it was heard or not!

    1. Trisha Gupta

      I completely agree with you. She is one of the strongest characters ever written.

    2. ankita mishra

      When we talk of breaking feminine stereotypes one name in literature which is a must to mention is lady macbeth, without the mention of her name the story of feminity remains incomplete.

  3. Babar

    You mention, “…female characters that have been overshadowed and to some extent, ignored.” Please explain to me whom they have been overshadowed by, and how have they been ignored? As far as I know, the female characters that you have mentioned are as popular as literary characters can get. Are you trying to play victim here, and adhere to the same mentality of feminists, where every female, including fictional characters, is somehow being ignored? You then state, “She refuses to succumb to gender stereotypes, going to the extent of cutting off her hair (and letting go of her femininity)…” On one hand you inexplicably state the term ‘gender stereotype’ while referring to her hair, and then advertently talk about it as being feminine. Please explain the contradiction.

    1. S

      Oh Please!…. Now you are on this too? Can no one mention the word women/female without you jumping all guns??!!

      The author is talking about female character who have been overshadowed by literary audience! And for your kind information, they are both female as well as male. She gives a rationale behind her words as well, if you cared to read. Take for e.g. Prof Minerva. She was a strong character and yet she is not discussed as often. Same goes for Matilda. And every other ‘character’ she spoke about. No mention of any feminism here. Why are you getting up all in flames on this?

      About Jo March (the one cutting her hair), please understand the context before going rabid. Its a story set in 1800 when the roles and expectations from women were different. At the time someone cutting her hair was both strong and symbolic as well as against the societal gender stereotype (where women were supposed to stay at home and have feminine paraphernalia like long hair, dress, demureness etc.) . I really did not understand your point here. Have you completely lost your mind and words and therefore just hitting the keyboard blindly?

    2. Babar

      Author is talking about the characters being overshadowed by the audience? Is that the best you can come up with? And then you go as far as mentioning that they include both males and females – Please point towards some male literary characters in this article. And about different gender roles, what exactly is the role of a woman that you so vehemently want us to believe, and since when did long hair not become a feminine trait?

    3. Trisha Gupta

      I think you missed my point. My article was about “female” characters being forgotten over time by the audience. It was mean to be from a literary point of view.
      As per the long hair “contradiction” as you call it, I’m trying to say that girls having long hair is a gender stereotype. You have to look at the context here. Jo March in the 1800s cut her hair “short like a boy’s”. This step won her the disapproval of her family but she did it anyway.

      moreover these characters are the ones that sometimes have been overshadowed by other characters, like Jane Eyre for example. Whenever it comes to rebellious women, her name comes first. No one mentions Jo March or Dominique Francon.

      Lastly, I am a feminist but I’m not playing victim here. Maybe someday I’ll write an article about male characters, again from a literary point of view.

      Thank you

  4. S

    Baber – You are a true dumb-head!

    “Author is talking about the characters being overshadowed by the audience? Is that the best you can come up with?”

    Author is talking about the character being ‘overlooked’. And they are overlooked by the audience. Who else deals with the book otherwise? Other characters? And I didn’t come up with it. It’s the basic flow of book reading. It starts from author and ends at reader. If a character is ‘overshadowed’, it is by other characters. They may be either male or female. Doesn’t matter. That would be part of the story. And that’s not really what the author is talking about.

    “And then you go as far as mentioning that they include both males and females – Please point towards some male literary characters in this article.”

    Please try to use the grey cells of your brain and basic comprehensive skills when you read my comment. I was talking about the audience/reader. And they are both male as well as female.

    “And about different gender roles, what exactly is the role of a woman that you so vehemently want us to believe, and since when did long hair not become a feminine trait?”

    My friend. Long hair ‘is’ a feminine trait. And ‘therefore’ the character ‘defied’ the stereotype by cutting it.
    Role of women – I was talking about the role of women as believed by the society at the time of placement of story. Which is stated clearly in my previous comment. I do not understand what you are insinuating here. I am not out (here) to talk about supposed gender roles. Its what you are talking. I am just trying to talk about the book and the characters and the authors. *Not ‘vehemently’ if you please.

    You have the comprehension skills of a mole and you attack others because God put a cabbage in your head where brain should have gone.

    1. Babar

      The fact remains that the characters are popular and famous, not overlooked, overshadowed, or ignored. And I can give you a long reply but since you are abusing, I am not willing to degrade myself by having a conversation with you.

    2. S

      Thanks! Please don’t degrade yourself anymore.

  5. ankita mishra

    When we talk of breaking feminine stereotypes one name in literature which is a must to mention is lady macbeth, without the mention of her name the story of feminity remains incomplete. The author also talks about both male and female traits. And mentionably, acting against feminity or defying it in no way is an appreciable job.
    The author needs to revise her article.

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