5 Female Literary Characters that Shaped Me

Matilda – ‘Matilda’ - Roald Dahl

A Roald Dahl classic and possibly one of the first novels I remember reading, Matilda stands as an iconic character that I will always go back to. With her fierce determination and strength to rise above her less than perfect circumstances, and let’s be honest, her amazing ability to teach herself telekinesis. The way Matilda can find solace in and live an entire adventure in books will always resonate with my childhood.


Elphaba – ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’ – Gregory Maguire

Now more closely associated with the musical ‘Wicked’, Elphaba has my entire heart. She teaches us the ability to fight against adversity and that there is a power and beauty in being different. Elphaba and her misunderstood story stresses the importance of narrative and the need to be our authentic self, always. She teaches the values of friendships and honesty as well as displaying just the right level of independence and dissidence in standing up for what you believe in. From outside looking in, Elphaba, I stand with you. And, because I knew, I have been changed for good. (I hope Wicked fans are proud of me here).


Hermione Granger – ‘Harry Potter’ series – J.K. Rowling

As an English student, I feel like this is really obvious and I really take pride in Miss Hermione Granger – problematic concerns about her creator aside. Hermione stands as a true heroine that stands shoulder to shoulder with her male counterparts, she is part of a working unit while still maintaining her strong identity as an independent, intelligent and three-dimensional character. She is a celebrated bookworm across the series and this meant a lot to 10 year old me, and I’m sure to many girls before and after me too. I will forever be grateful for Hermione for teaching me that intelligence is something that can be harnessed and it is not a quality to shy away from.

Lady Macbeth – ‘Macbeth’ – William Shakespeare

Stay with me here – I know it’s another English student cliché, but Lady Macbeth needs to be included in this list. Not without her issues (and there are many many complex issues at hand), Lady Macbeth is one of the original female bad-asses. She essentially orchestrates most of the play and her character is fearless, ambitious and quick witted and these are definitely some qualities I like to think that I have adopted along the years. Of course, we can’t ignore the whole ‘she convinces her husband to murder a string of people to get the throne and ultimately faces her own death after a stunning downwards spiral’ thing, but hey, it’s Shakespeare.


Charlotte – ‘Charlotte’s Web’ – E.B. White

While I’m definitely not a fan of spiders, Charlotte teaches many significant lessons in ‘Charlotte’s Web’. She’s the only character in this list that is a maternal figure and this is something that comes across in her lessons in compassion, love, courage and strength. Charlotte teaches that every being/person is important and that they have knowledge and experience that we can learn from them. She teaches that just because you may be the smallest or different one in the room, it doesn’t make you any ‘less’. A voice is a powerful thing if we choose to wield it with compassion and care.