12 Angry Women In Literature Who Don't Apologize For Their Rage

by E. Ce Miller
DreamWorks Pictures

In case you haven’t noticed, angry women are everywhere. (Don’t even try to pretend you haven’t noticed.) Sure, some of us always have been — the history of angry women is as old as history itself, no matter how silenced that history might be. But now women are angry, and activated, and out in the open, and as intersectional as we’ve ever been — and we’re not apologizing. Not in the streets. Not at the polls. Not in our homes. Not even in fiction.

The evolution of angry women in fiction is as complex as the evolution of contemporary women’s anger itself. Once deemed shrill, hysterical, unhinged, women’s anger has become more than an emotion — it’s become a mass movement. It’s refreshing and awakening, terrifying and exhausting, necessary and freeing. Angry women, once considered alienating by most, are now considered relatable by many. No longer are we stifled by the threat of ‘unlikability’ — that dreaded criticism of women both real and fictional alike. Likable or not, we’re angry and we’re here to stay; at least, that is, until conditions improve.

If you’re angry and you know it, pick up one of these novels, all featuring female narrators who are angry and not apologizing — we love them for it.

Mathilde Yoder in ‘Fates and Furies’ by Lauren Groff

The “furies” half of Lauren Groff’s National Book Award nominated novel, Fates and Furies, Mathilde Yoder is the calculated, ruthless, and furious wife to husband Lancelot. She's a woman whose secrets and anger have shaped not only her own life but the life of her husband (unbeknownst to him, of course) as well.

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Antoinette Cosway in ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ by Jean Rhys

Described as a feminist and anti-colonial response to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys tells the story of Antoinette Cosway, Mr. Rochester’s ‘mad’ wife, who isn’t actually mentally ill, but suffocating in a patriarchal and racist society, a repressive marriage, and a postcolonial culture that has oppressed her and her family.

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Minerva Mirabal in ‘In the Time of the Butterflies’ by Julia Álvarez

Based on a true (and tragic) story, Minerva Mirabal is one of four feisty Mirabal sisters — a law school graduate and political revolutionary who risks the lives of herself and her sisters by resisting the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic.

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Rachel Watson in ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins

Anger and alcoholism are a dangerous mix in Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train. Telling the story of three women: Rachel, Anna, and Megan — all angry for different reasons, in their own ways — their stories converge to highlight the fury that exists between men and women, women and women, and husbands and wives.

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Nora Eldridge in ‘The Woman Upstairs’ by Claire Messud

Nora Eldridge is 42 and single. She's a former 3rd grade teacher. She's outwardly unassuming and predictable, quiet and dependable. And she’s so absolutely f-ing furious she can hardly contain herself. Sound familiar?

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Pilate Dead in ‘Song of Solomon’ by Toni Morrison

The fact that the narrator of Toni Morrison’s novel, Song of Solomon, chooses to focus particularly on Pilate Dead’s brother, instead of Pilate herself, seems to make her indictments of racism, patriarchy, and domestic abuse even more pointed.

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Andrea in ‘Mercy’ by Andrea Dworkin

In this largely autobiographical novel, Andrea is a victim of repeated sexual abuse who is slowly losing her grip on reality — but who will ultimately take her suffering and turn it into the kind of feminist rage that can define an entire activist movement.

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Olga in ‘The Days of Abandonment’ by Elena Ferrante

After being abandoned by her husband and left to care for their children on her own, Olga becomes so filled with rage she’s at danger of boiling over — and then she becomes locked in a room in the apartment she shares with her two children, one of whom is suffering a fever. Which definitely doesn't help AT ALL.

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Lucy Potter in ‘Lucy’ by Jamaica Kincaid

Another semi-autobiographical novel, Jamaica Kincaid's Lucy tells the story of Lucy Potter, a woman who immigrates from the West Indies to the United States in order to work as an au pair for a wealthy white family and interrogates issues of sexism, imperialism, mother/daughter tension, and, of course, female anger.

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Evie Boyd in ‘The Girls’ by Emma Cline

The young women in Emma Cline’s The Girls, all members of a Manson-like cult, are each angry about something — but perhaps no more than Evie Boyd, who first suffers a somewhat typical teenage ennui, before spending the rest of her life quietly furious that she would grow up to be the most unremarkable of the group.

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Carrie White in ‘Carrie’ by Stephen King

Carrie White is so pissed off her mother thinks she’s been possessed by the devil. She does end up killing just about everyone, so, you know, that's pretty darn angry.

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Catherine Earnshaw in ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Brontë

While just about everyone in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights is angry and miserable, Catherine Earnshaw is particularly peeved — she claims to have been in love with Heathcliff since they were children, but she somehow prioritizes her own social advancement over their relationship; and then spends the rest of forever mad about it.

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