Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Culture > Entertainment

4 Books With Inspirational Female Protagonists to Read Today

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

It seems that since the birth of fiction, male characters have always taken centre stage, with their female counterparts being the secondary role.

I can think of various books that exemplify this; from Shakespeare’s plays, where female characters are often portrayed as fragile and in need of saving, to even some modern writers like Haruki Murakami agonizingly writing through the male gaze about women as if they’re hollow objects whose entire purpose is dependant upon the male protagonist.

Times have drastically shifted as more females are depicted as the driving force, paving an optimistic path for changing how women are represented in literature.

Here are four female book protagonists who have claimed their story to be theirs, and only theirs.

Eleanor Oliphant – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant’s life is one many can relate to. Living in solitude, with no close friends or regard for her appearance, Eleanor is completely immersed in her dream world and is obsessed with the lead singer of a local band.

As the story unravels, more about Eleanor’s traumatic past is revealed, along with the reason behind her self-destructive behaviours. She soon snaps out of her fantasy — realizing the band singer is actually a total jerk — and finally finds joy in the people around her.

“Sometimes you simply needed someone kind to sit with you while you dealt with things.”

Eleanor Oliphant
Cassie Logan – Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Set in Mississippi during the 1930s, Cassie Logan and her family experience the perils associated with being Black during the Great Depression, a time of great anti-Black racism.

The book may leave readers scratching their heads, wondering why the story is entirely told through the eyes of Cassie, even though all the action revolves around the other characters. Author Mildred D. Taylor said the reader is meant to follow what happens in Cassie’s life in the way she sees and reacts to it.

“What had happened to T.J. in the night I did not understand, but I knew that it would not pass. And I cried for those things which had happened in the night and would not pass.”

Cassie Logan
Angela Vicario – Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel GarcÍa Márquez

Although Márquez’s novel centres around the murder of Santiago Nasar, a male character, Angela Vicario steals the spotlight. As the story unfolds, the reader is brought along to solve the mystery of whether or not Santiago really took Angela’s virginity. 

Angela is easily the most likable character and has significant character development as the reader traces the web of love, betrayal, and honour Márquez weaves. First described as a helpless little girl to an independent and audacious young woman 20 years later during the climax of the book, Angela is a puzzling character that I, for one, couldn’t help but feel entranced by.

“I detested conceited men, and I’d never seen one so stuck-up.”

Angela Vicario
Matilda Wormwood – Matilda by Roald Dahl

A childhood classic which I can’t help but feel a grin creep across my face when I re-read, Matilda is a quintessential tale for all bookworms.

Despite living a life with parents who simply don’t understand her, and facing mistreatment from the school principal, Matilda finds ways to have fun amidst all the chaos in her life. Her story teaches us a simple lesson: we should be celebrated for our differences, not ostracized.

“Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it’s unbelievable.”

Matilda Wormwood
Her Campus Placeholder Avatar
Sharon Arulnesan

Toronto MU '27

Sharon is a first-year journalism student at Toronto Metropolitan University. She enjoys binge-watching Buzzfeed Unsolved, listening to Lana Del Rey and reading classic literature.