It being Women’s Day (Happy Women’s Day!), I was thinking about the most memorable female characters in fiction. I don’t mean just the strong-women stereotypes, but the loving wives, the doting mothers, passionate lovers and great friends, who just happen to be women, not to mention pretty freaking awesome. I don’t think there needs to be a day to celebrate them, but since it’s already happening, I made another list – sort of.
When it comes to strong women who are crucial to the plot, the first character I thought of was Mina Murray-Harker from Dracula by Bram Stoker. I’m talking about book Mina, who (*spoiler!*) does not stay under the curse. She’s intelligent, modern, brave and determined in the face of one of the most seductive dangers!
The next female character to come to my mind was not intended to be good. Carrie White from Carrie by Stephen King went from being alone and misunderstood to evil through the course of the story. She was hated and feared; and by caving in to everything she faced, giving up and letting the bullies turn her into a monster, she was not the bravest or the strongest. She was certainly memorable, though. The fact is, anyone who has had trouble in high school (and who hasn’t?) can relate to Carrie’s twisted ideas of revenge. And while that’s not okay, of course; she does remain an impeccably written character, that lonely girl you thank God you’re not; someone you neither love nor despise, only pity.
My favourite Discworld woman is Esmerelda, Granny Weatherwax, of course. The most powerful witch you’ve ever met, who doesn’t like to show off. Minimalistic, confident and unselfish, she’s an ideal witch and a great, though not very womanly in the popular sense, character. Another favourite is Susan Sto-Helit from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. She is Death’s granddaughter. Need I say more?
Another favourite, who’d make it to every memorable literary women list, is Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It is said Jane Austen has created many impressionable female characters. I wouldn’t know, seeing as Pride and Prejudice is her only book I’ve read. For me, what makes Elizabeth Bennet a special character is her journey – she starts out as a stereotype and ends up as a person. Also: she’s witty.
A strong female character I love is Clarice Starling from Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. Her perseverance is her obvious strength, but I do admire her whole personality, loner tendencies included; thought not in Hannibal, where (*spoiler!*) she does some quite creepy and twisted things herself.
The obvious picks from the Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling would be Hermione Granger or Luna Lovegood. Perhaps even Molly Weasley. For me, the stand-out female character in Harry Potter has always been Lily Evans-Potter. If you think about it, the whole series revolves around her – (again, *spoiler!*) the boy who lived wouldn’t have lived had it not been for his mother, not to mention, Snape’s redemption in its entirety is about his undying love for Lily. And she’s smart, interesting, funny, she sees the good in people, but she’s not the sort of person who’d let herself be pushed around, either.
The last literary character I can think of is Eliza Doolittle from Pygmalion by G. B. Shaw. The feisty Cockney flower girl also probably makes it to every such list.
Some younger bookish women I love are Tiffany Aching from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, Matilda from Matilda by Roald Dahl, Sam from American Gods by Neil Gaiman and Abra Stone from Doctor Sleep by Stephen King.
Wading through my book shelves, I could find another couple of characters, but since the title is ‘memorable’, that would beat the purpose!
I have more memorable TV women than I can list; with a second-place tie between Lorelai Gilmore from Gilmore Girls, Donna Noble from Doctor Who and Willow Rosenberg from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And the first place will obviously be taken by Violet Crawley, the dowager countess, from Downton Abbey; because, well, it’s Maggie Smith.
Who makes it to your list of the most memorable fictional women?