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Literary Heroines; Who I am and Who I'd like to be

Updated on October 10, 2008
Wonder Woman: Queen of the Heroines
Wonder Woman: Queen of the Heroines

The Hero

Every story has a protagonist and an antagonist. The protagonist is the person we rally behind, the person we view as the "hero" of the story. The antagonist, in short, is the villain. But what makes us want to follow the hero? What makes us so interested in him?

We like to imagine ourselves in his shoes.

The reason heroes get all the glory is because they are the ones who solve the puzzle. They are the ones who save the princess, the damsel, the world. They have attributes we admire, or that we might have. They make us think, 'Hey, if he can do it, why can't I?'

This goes for the heroine, too.

We women don't really have many heroines. At least, in the fictional world, anyway. So many writers choose to use males, old and young, as the protagonist, which leaves us girls to be stuck with that Damsel In Distress character who gives the protagonist a reason to do what he is doing.

Why can't we have our day in the sun? Why are there so few heroines for us? Why did Spryte have to pick this topic, of all the literary topics she could've picked, for me to write a hub about?

That last one's a great question, though I sure as heck ain't the one to answer it.

Seeing as heroines don't typically have a cookie-cutter shape to them, I've picked my top five protagonistic females from my favorite literary works of art to share with you. I will explain why I like them, what things I believe I have in common with them, and what characteristics I wish I had that they've got an abundance of.

Ready? Here we go!

Kristen Stewart will be playing Bella in the upcoming Twilight movie.
Kristen Stewart will be playing Bella in the upcoming Twilight movie.

Bella Swan, from Twilight

A lot of girls can relate to Bella. She's shy, quiet, loyal, trustworthy, and responsible. She also has low self esteem, which is a very big problem for teenage girls everywhere.

Bella is one of my favorite protagonists because she isn't afraid to speak her mind, despite wishing she could crawl under a rock when it's all over. She follows her heart, even when her mind argues with it. Not exactly a sensible attribute, but it is a female attribute nonetheless, and we're all guilty of it. Despite the fact she's almost always in danger, she looks past the problems toward a possible solution. She sticks up for her friends and tries her damnedest to make sure they'll be okay before she even bothers to worry about herself.

Plus, Edward is hott, and I am so jealous. ^_^

I am very much like Bella. About the only thing that differs is appearance (I have medium length red hair and glasses, she has long, straight brown hair. I'm a fat cow, she's not. So on and so on). I stick up for my friends. I have a hard time worrying about myself and my safety before considering others. I'm constantly speaking my mind. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to prove my trustworthiness and responsibility. I hate Phy. Ed. class.

Now, if only I could have an Edward...

Mmm... Edward... *drools*

Elphaba (Idina Menzel) and Glinda (Kristin Chenoweth) get nose to nose as their personalities clash.
Elphaba (Idina Menzel) and Glinda (Kristin Chenoweth) get nose to nose as their personalities clash.

Elphaba, from Wicked

Elphaba went through serious emotional trauma as a chlid (yeah, it was bound to happen; she was born green, after all). She was constantly ridiculed in school, picked on by the popular crowd, feared by the general public later in life, and (supposedly) killed out of that fear. She was despised, loathed, and just plain wicked.

And yet she lived her life with her head held high, searching for the truth and never giving up. She was headstrong, stubborn, determined, and compassionate. Sure, she lost her head when her temper flared, but who doesn't?

If I could be as strong as her, and as brave, life would be easy.

I admire Elphaba for her wit and her wisdom, her honesty and her stubborness, her love and her sense of right and wrong. Thank goodness I'm not green!

Runemarks, by Joanne Harris. Such a good read!
Runemarks, by Joanne Harris. Such a good read!

Maddy Smith, from Runemarks

Runemarks is a beautiful story about Norse mythology and the effects Christianity had on it. While it doesn't come right out and say it's about Christianity, the idea is implied easily throughout the story itself.

Maddy Smith is a young girl born with a backwards rune on her hand. Because of her rune, she is shunned by her community, even her family, for being of "the old ways." She befriends a fellow outcast called One Eye, who also has a backwards rune. Through the course of the story, she meets Loki, the mischief maker, discovers One Eye is really Odin, travels all the way to the bottom of the Worlds, and saves humanity from an onslaught of undead.

I absolutely LOVE this book. Now that I think about it, I'm going to have to go and reread it again... Darn you, Spryte! (lol) Anyway, I love Maddy because she's so determined to set things right, and not afraid of the dangers that lay ahead of her. She won't tolerate injustice, and always sticks up for her friends in need. She's a clear thinker in a crisis with a big brain and a bigger heart.

Maddy reminds me of myself with her determination and belief in justice. Now, to work on not freaking out when everyone else is in a panic... Wouldn't that be nice!

Uglies series, by Scott Westerfeld. He also wrote the Peeps books, which are about vampires (kind of) and the Midnighters series, which is pretty cool.
Uglies series, by Scott Westerfeld. He also wrote the Peeps books, which are about vampires (kind of) and the Midnighters series, which is pretty cool.

Tally, from the Uglies series

If you haven't read these books, you should. Do it! DO IT NOW!

... Okay... Moving on!

Tally's journey begins when she is still a young teenager. Ready to see what the next phase in life is like, she and her friend Shay sneak out to Prettytown to see what the Pretties are like, and to find out what's happened to her old friend who recently moved in there. Once they find out what it's like, the girls decide to run away to the forests outside of their city. This is where the true story begins...

I'd go into more, but I don't know who's read the books and who hasn't.

Tally is one of my favorite protagonists, but at the same time, she isn't. I love her sense of adventure and ability to risk it all for a thrill, but I know taking extreme risks is probably the least responsible thing anyone could do as a young teen. As she grows older and learns what it's really like to take responsibility for her actions, she grows on me. I think that's one of the reasons I really like her. She's a character you can grow with.

I wouldn't mind being as adventurous as she is, but I'll gladly stay away from her risk-taking.

The Bartimaeus Trilogy (book 1: The Amulet of Samarkand) by Jonathan Stroud. You'll be laughing at Bartimaeus's witty sense of humor, and completely enthralled with the struggles and triumps of Nathaniel and Kitty.
The Bartimaeus Trilogy (book 1: The Amulet of Samarkand) by Jonathan Stroud. You'll be laughing at Bartimaeus's witty sense of humor, and completely enthralled with the struggles and triumps of Nathaniel and Kitty.

Kitty Jones, from The Bartimaeus Trilogy

Kitty starts out as part of the antagonist group, the Resistance. She strives for equality among commoners and magicians, and is hell-bent to see things change in her lifetime. Despite being Nathaniel's enemy in the beginning, they form an alliance, then a friendship as the trilogy closes.

Kitty is another strong-willed, stubborn, determined heroine I wish I could be. I don't know if anyone else has seen that pattern yet. With a bag full of spunk and smart-ass remarks, she and I are two peas in a pod. If you could mix Kitty and Bella together into one person, you'd have me. She listens to her morals, follows them, and works to make them fit with the world she lives in.

The one thing I would have to say I wouldn't want from Kitty is her inability to see danger around the corner. She gets so caught up in her work, that she fails to see when she's in a trap, though she's much better at it than Nathaniel will ever be. Ah, how boys are stupid.

Thank you, Spryte, for giving me the opportunity to share a couple of other books I enjoy that I didn't mention in my book hub, and for bestowing upon me this wonderful request. I hope you enjoy it! As for everyone else, feel free to leave comments! Who is your favorite female protagonist? Why is she your favorite? Which heroine do you think most resembles you? I want to hear from everybody on this one! Feedback is always appreciated!

Now, I have one request for all you book nerds out there...


I have run out of books I own that I have not read. This is a very bad thing. Just today, I nearly had a literary crisis meltdown. So please, send me some good books! I desperately need more! More, I say, more! Before I am forced to sell my other wordly posessions in order to obtain space and money to expand my library! ... Well, I'm going to have to do that anyway, but that's beside the point. Point is, I NEED ME SOME BOOKZ! >.< Ah well, I'm going book shopping on Sunday anyway, so I should be fine. But donations are well appreciated!

*big happy smiley face with glitter all around*


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    • My Odyssey profile image

      My Odyssey 

      8 years ago from Somerset, Kentucky

      Very good Hub!

    • Leah Wingert profile image

      Leah Wingert 

      9 years ago from Texas

      Once A Hero has one of my absolute favorite female heroines Esme Suza. Good read thanks.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      the authors name was catherine asaro, and the characters name was mel dawnfeild-and her hubbies name was cobalt the dark she married him to restore peace to her country but loves him anyway( at least shes grown to) she was captured by another ruler(i think that's what he was) but escaped. relly good book

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      a good book is the dawn star- i dont remember who wrote or the lead females name, but she is very tomboyish in a medival/futristic world and helps her husband fight battles( killing some men in the last one, while shes pregnet:) and negotiating for her brothers freedom. she also has really cool powers.

    • Teresa McGurk profile image


      10 years ago from The Other Bangor

      What a great hub, Kika -- I agree with Rochelle; you are a very fluent writer: write a novel! I wish I could send you some of my books, but they are all in storage at the back of the shed, with furniture in front. . .maybe I can weasel a box of them out, if I -- but with my luck, it would be a box full of dictionaries or reference books.

      It's a great question -- who do I most identify with. Sheesh. Maybe Piglet from Winnie the Pooh. Or Jane Eyre. Wanting to do the right thing, scared it's the wrong thing, how do you know what's the right thing, until it all gets so complicated and a madwoman shrieks in the attic (no, wait a minute, that's me).

    • Kika Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Kika Rose 

      10 years ago from Minnesota

      I dunno, I liked Bella because her character outline made her seem more like that "Choose Your Own Adventure" type character; you could almost make her out to be anything you wanted. Her full physical description was never really explained, which gave readers the ability to make her more like themselves if they wanted, and Meyer left her personality open for interpretation. The way I read, I can create voices for characters and visualize how they act and carry themselves. ... That could be the crazy in me, though.

      Scarlett is awesome and all, but I don't really see her as much of a role model. At least, not for myself. It could be the generation/region gap, though.

    • profile image

      Gone With the Wind Scarlett 

      10 years ago

      I found Bella Swan to be rather personality-less, and had to agree when she questioned what Edward saw in her. However, Scarlett from Gone With the Wind has a very strong personality, and while scrupulous, offers a good role model for a heroine.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      i think Bella Swan is a really good heroine

    • spryte profile image


      10 years ago from Arizona, USA

      Kika - You may want to also look into the original Dragonlance Chronicles. Can't remember if there were 3 or 4...but I think withyour taste you'd absolutely love them. I think they were co-written by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman. I could look it up by I'm feeling lazy today.

    • Kika Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Kika Rose 

      10 years ago from Minnesota

      Old-fashioned isn't so bad, it's just the sum of the book isn't really my thing. I love Dante's Divine Comedy, and that's super old! I'll write down her name and book info for tomorrow, when I head down to B&amp;N's after work. Thank you! ^_^

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 

      10 years ago from UK

      Hi Kika Rose,

      Ursula leGuin wrote the Earthsea trilogy, as well as two of my all-time favourite books; Rocannons World, and The Lathe of Heaven. I'm sorry you haven't managed to get to grips with Little Women, and I know it's very old-fashioned for modern tastes!

    • Kika Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Kika Rose 

      10 years ago from Minnesota

      I saw that. Alls I can say is, get some consistency, man! *passes you a bowl of high-fiber oatmeal* ;)

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 

      10 years ago from St. Louis

      Heeeeeelp meeeeee! I'm mmmeeeeeeelllltiiiiiiigg!

    • gwendymom profile image


      10 years ago from Oklahoma

      Kika, I loved this. You are so very right about there not being many heroines in the fiction world. The great thing about Bella Swan is that she turns out to be the hero. My husband likes to watch westerns and I have grown up with these shows and they drive me crazy, the women pretty much act like screaming idiots. If my husband is watching i try to leave the room or place my attention else where. I think that men like to watch them so that they can identify with their heroes and of course save the damsel, they ike being the hero. I think women like being a hero to and glad we are finally getting more of that in entertainment.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      10 years ago from California Gold Country

      You did an excellent and amazing job on this Kika, both in the thinking and in the writing. You may be ready to write your own book.

    • Kika Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Kika Rose 

      10 years ago from Minnesota

      Spryte: I love Scarlett's audacity and strength. I watched the movie for a history class once, and I loved it. Sadly, I watched it backwards (lol I watched the second half before the first. The dvd discs didn't say which one was which!), but I loved it nonetheless.

      Amanda: I haven't been able to read 'Little Women'. Every time I try, I just go BLAH and end up picking another book. And no, I haven't read any Ursula leGuin. What books did she write?

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 

      10 years ago from UK

      I most identify with Jo from 'Little Women' by Louisa May Alcott. She was the scatty one who was always beavering away being creative whilst Amy ran around looking pretty and cute, Meg got on with being sensible and organised, and Beth, well poor Beth, she died of course, tragically young.

      Thanks for the hub, Kika. You've given me a few idea for christmas presents. Have you read any Ursula leGuin BTW? She's a big favourite of mine.

    • spryte profile image


      10 years ago from Arizona, USA

      *applauds with a big smile*

      See...I knew you could do this and make it your own. Damn rock.

      I won't tell you why I picked that particular topic for you...but let's say that I spent some time trying to pick something meaningful. You deserved nothing less.

      As for which heroine I'm most like...*grins wickedly*...Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With The Wind, of course. I have no qualms about marrying frequently (although I haven't the decency to wait until they're dead). Actually, I admired Scarlett immensely for her strength. She was tougher than she looked. Also...I just had to admire her conniving little mind.


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