Since it is International Women’s Day, I thought I’d write about my top 5 female characters that I’ve come across in the books I have read in my lifetime. I want to focus on books for this list because if I based it around all stories, I’d have to start pulling characters from video games and films (maybe I’ll do that in a future post!). I’m not choosing these based on their influence around social issues or for a political reason. These female characters are my top 5 because when I met them I felt a bond with them.
It sounds odd to say that I’m ‘bonded’ to fictional characters but when they’re written so well, they become more than that. We see that in girls who connect with characters like Hermione Granger and Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series. They become more than people on a page; they turn into friends we can turn to when we lose ourselves in their stories. This is so important and is one of the many powers that fall into a writer’s hand. Some writers out there don’t put a lot of thought into their characters because they want to focus on the events in the story or other parts that don’t rely heavily on the characters’ actions. Nonetheless, they have a role in how the readers connect to the story and how some people see themselves.
Therefore, I want to focus on the female characters that have influenced my life. The same can be said for male characters as well and one day, I’ll expand on them. For now, here is my top 5 female characters—the book edition (this was not at all an easy decision, let me tell you!)
Hermione Granger – Harry Potter series by J K Rowling
This was a really hard decision to make because I didn’t want to double dip into the same book or series with this list and I had to make a choice between Hermione and Luna. I considered Luna because of her carefree nature and her ability to stay true to herself no matter what judgement was thrown her way, which really resonated with me and my passions. However, Hermione got the pick because of her circumstances and her commitment to education, both for herself and others. She’s immediately given the label of ‘nerd’ because of her snobby ‘know-it-all’ attitude. It parallels to Draco Malfoy’s attitude, the difference being her openness to teach and accept others.
I am unashamed to admit it but I was an absolute teacher’s pet and studious student. It was driven by a thirst to learn and if I was in Hermione’s position, I, too, would be studying as much as I could around magic to get ahead. I think that’s why I liked her so much. It also showed a badass side to her where she didn’t care that she was ridiculed by her studious ways. The fact her head was always in a book paralleled my life as I grew up because it was rare to see me without having my nose in a book. Then, there’s her muggle background that had her on the backfoot in reputation and motivated her to do well. Again, it connected with my life and some of the struggles that I faced growing up.
All in all, Hermione and I have a lot of similarities, and I am so grateful J K Rowling created a character like her.
Elizabeth Bennet – Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
Jane Austen is known for her strong female characters. However, there was something in Elizabeth that made me immediately connect with her. Her belief in not needing men to dictate her life, particularly during that century, reminded me of my own independency. I also looked up to her ability to not back down from an argument. It’s one part of my life that I’d like to improve. She shows such strength in standing up for herself and for other members of her family, although it does blind her from seeing other perspectives. You can’t say she’s not passionate!
Ultimately, she ‘gets the guy’. However, I like that even in the process of falling in love with Mr Darcy she doesn’t lose sight of who she is. Yes, she might become slightly softer around the edges but she still has that fire. She continues to be independent while realising she can love a man and not be a slave to him. I learnt a lot from her in that regard. I suppose not so much to the extremes of being a slave. However, knowing that I can continue to be myself and not have my independence taken from me based on who I love is still a relevant piece of information in my life.
Ramita Ankesharan – The Moontide Quartet by David Hair
There are so many awesome female characters in this story that I could have listed, but here’s a girl who has strength built through her commitment to family. She’s sold to be the wife of Antonin Meiros, the most powerful mage in all of Urte (that we know of when we first begin the series). She is heartbroken when she leaves her family and the love of her life, but she also knows the importance it is for her to make this sacrifice for her family. Yes, she has her moments when her commitments to her husband are strained. However, she proves to be one of the most important, if not the most important, piece of the puzzle in the war.
It's more than that though. For me, her endless fight for survival and protecting those around her really resonates to the idea of putting others before yourself. It’s something I’ve always aimed to do by not allowing my selfish wants get in the way of what other people need. Then, there’s her commitment to her faith. No matter what happens in her life her faith is never in doubt. It is absolutely admirable to have such an unwavering bond to faith, even when the world throws so much in your face that would make most people change their ways. Then there’s her adaptability to all the changes in her life. Ultimately, Ramita is an absolutely inspirational character and holds a very special place in my heart.
Squirrelpaw/flight – Warriors series by Erin Hunter
You might be thinking why a cat got on this list. Well, I never indicated that these women were only humans, so Squirrelflight has as much right to be on this list as anyone else! She’s introduced in Midnight as a curious troublemaker. She has a reputation of being hard to deal with, keeping the clan on their toes with all she does. It’s not this aspect that had me fall in love with her, it was her thirst to be a part of everything and to know everything. This results in her not backing down from any challenges or opportunities as they appear.
The main reason why she becomes part of the main group in the story is her persistence to go with Brambleclaw to find out what is going on. She stands her ground and gets her way. Yes, she’s a brat at first but as she matures it turns into a necessary force for getting things done and solving problems. She turns into quite the leader and can make some tough decisions. Everything about her inspired a lot of how I am today. No, I don’t think I will ever be able to be as loud or forceful as her but I can aspire to be something close to that. If that series were to become a TV series or movie, I would love to be her voice actor. It’s very unlikely but that would be an absolute dream come true.
Úrsula Iguarán – One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
This might a shock if you read my review for this book (found here). It was not a story I enjoyed and I found it very difficult to read. However, one part of this story that stood out and is burned in my brain and soul is the matriarch of the Buendía family, Úrsula Iguarán. This woman is inspirational in so many ways, particularly in her commitment to her family. Unlike everyone in Macondo, she is unfazed by spirituality and spiritual forces. Her only real worry is incest (although I feel like that’s a something a lot of people worry about). I’m not a mother and I haven’t lived for over a hundred years. Nonetheless, I found myself connecting to this woman in how she ran her family and her acceptance of others.
For those who have read this story, you would be aware how intense some of the scenes are. Yet she still stays strong, even when she goes blind. At the end of the day, all she wants is for her family to be close (not too close!) and for them to learn from their mistakes (cue the laughter). She holds the family together and welcomes others to be a part of it. I loved this about the book. No matter the circumstances, Úrsula would keep her doors open to those who needed it. That kind of acceptance and trust doesn’t exist to such degrees in this world. So, even though this is not a book I enjoyed, Úrsula made it bearable and is a woman that will stay in the forefront of my mind.
There are so many females in books that I have connected to, so this was a really hard list to write. They are in no particular order since I don’t think that is something I could physically do (it was hard enough to choose them!). If I had included all female characters from all story formats (video games, TV shows, etc) I would have been in a lot of trouble and probably would have given up!
For me, I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of strong women in my life to look up to. They all had their own strengths, which ranged from standing up to their beliefs and not backing down or letting themselves feel intimidated by others, to unfaltering love and support. It is a luxury of my life and I am aware that some people don’t have that.
I also had supportive men in my life that made me feel like I could do anything I set my mind too, ensuring I never felt left behind in any way. I am so grateful to have these people in my life. Nonetheless, having female characters that I have been able to connect with while providing me insights into lives I will probably never experience has really emphasised to me the importance of these figures in stories, no matter what format.
Which female characters in books have you connected to or really liked? Have they motivated you to live in a certain way or pushed you to change your way of thinking? Let me know! Today is a wonderful day to celebrate the women in our lives, may they be the physical figures or the fictional characters that dot our pages. So, let’s share them with each other and maybe yours will become inspire someone else!
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Charlotte is a reading and writing lover who has completed a creative writing intensive course at the University of Oxford and is a current university student studying a double degree in journalism and creative writing. If you are curious to learn more, check out the 'About' page.