Readers often praise books with strong female protagonists, even though many of these characters do not pass the Bechdel test. You would be surprised by how many books that are praised for their strong female characters cannot pass this basic test. Here are six strong female characters from books that have managed to pass the Bechdel test in some capacity.
1. Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice
Elizabeth Bennet is a strong, smart woman. She knows what she wants, and she isn’t afraid to speak her mind. Through Elizabeth’s conversations with her sisters and other women in the classic novel, there is no doubt that Pride and Prejudice passes the Bechdel test. Even though she does talk and think about Mr. Darcy, she discusses many other things besides the infuriating man whom she eventually marries.
2. Hermione Granger, The Harry Potter series
Hermione Granger is the quintessential strong female character of this generation. She is intelligent and passionate, and she is a much better witch than most of the other boys and girls at Hogwarts. While the Harry Potter series passes the Bechdel test, it doesn’t pass it as easily as other books with strong females. Hermione’s two best friends, Harry and Ron, are boys, and the majority of the book follows the trio through their adventures. She does have conversations with female teachers and students about things other than boys, but those moments are not ones that stand out in the series.
3. Lucy Pevensie, The Chronicles of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia easily passes the Bechdel test, if only because Lucy has another sister. However, in addition to discussing life and war with her sister, as a Queen of Narnia, Lucy has conversations with many other females in the land, and not usually about silly matters such as boys. Lucy is a brave young girl who strives to do what she believes is right in a world where her actions matter.
4. Elphaba Thropp, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
Wicked passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. Elphaba and Glinda may talk a lot about being popular, but that is still much different from solely discussing men. Elphaba is a strong, opinionated woman who is willing to fight for what she believes in, even though she is giving up success and fame.
5. Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games trilogy
For anyone who has read The Hunger Games, you will know that Katniss Everdeen is without a doubt a physically strong female character. She may not be entirely emotionally mature, but anyone who can survive two fights to the death and shoot a bow and arrow with such aim and precision should be considered a strong female character. While The Hunger Games does pass the Bechdel test through Katniss’s conversations with her mother, her sister, and other Hunger Games contestants, much of her dialogue and thought is centered on boys. Sure, she is focused on surviving in physically harsh conditions, but she also worries and talks a lot about boys for a strong female character whose books pass the Bechdel test.
6. Hazel Grace, The Fault in Our Stars
As a girl struggling to fight advanced thyroid cancer, I would be hard-pressed not to call Hazel a strong female character. She converses with her mother and doctors about her condition, thus allowing The Fault in Our Stars to pass the Bechdel test. However, as a love story, much of the book centers on Hazel discussing a boy.
Passing the Bechdel test does not ensure that a book has strong female characters, nor does it mark it as a feminist or female empowerment piece of literature. Rather, the test is simply an interesting way to look at the world. It can be surprising to discover how many books cannot pass the three basic requirements embedded in the Bechdel test, even when they are centered on such strong female characters.