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Female Protagonists

Female protagonists are any leading characters in a work of fiction that are women. The word “protagonist” comes from the Greek and means “chief actor” or “the one who plays the first part.” One of the most famous female protagonists in literature comes from Greek drama, Antigone. The play Antigone was written by Sophocles, and tells the tragedy of the heroine and her disobeying of the law in order to bury her brothers.

During the Middle Ages, Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales presented several memorable female protagonists, including the legendary Wife of Bath. Female protagonists remerged in the 19th century, largely as the result of the emergence of women authors. Charlotte and Emily Bronte and Jane Austin all produced serious, critically acclaimed novels with strong female protagonists, including Jane Eyre, Little Women, and Pride and Prejudice. Female ProtagonistsAdditionally, Nathaniel Hawthorne created one of the strongest female protagonists, Hester Prynne, in The Scarlett Letter.

Modern literature shows no shortage of female protagonists. These are fully formed, central characters that display a wide range of skill and depth. Such memorable modern female protagonists include Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games trilogy, Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, and Offred in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Female protagonists continue to provide rich explorations for literature.

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