Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Melissa Ames


The anti-hero character has steadily become more popular in contemporary literature, film, and television. Part of this popularity is due to the character's appeal to the audience. This character type often commits acts that challenge the regulations of society. These acts, however, can become wish fulfillment for some audience members, making the acts of the character a vicarious experience as well as making the character more relatable because of the character's flawed nature.

This study will trace some of the evolution of the female anti-hero by discussing an ancestral character of the female anti-hero—Hester Prynne the protagonist of Nathanial Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter. The study then shifts into the evaluation of contemporary literature with current female anti-heroes Libby Day and Amy Dunne from Gillian Flynn's novels Dark Places and Gone Girl. These novels were also adapted into films, which is the focus of the third chapter that analyzes the modern films and their female anti-heroes: Shosanna Dryfus (Mélanie Laurent) in Quentin Tarantino's film Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) in David Fincher's American film version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011).

Finally, female anti-hero characters have made the most progress in the television genre concerning the evolution of this character's development. The fourth chapter discusses the progress of the female anti-hero protagonists in the contemporary television series Nurse Jackie (Showtime, 2009-2015), House of Cards (Netflix, 2013-Present), and UnREAL (Lifetime, 2015-Present). The television series genre, unlike an independent novel or film, allows for continuous and deeper character development—development that is needed to create and delve in to the complexities of the female anti-hero character.