The 10 Best Antiheroes in Literature

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When examining the best antihero characters in literature, we must first define what an antihero is. In general, protagonists do not possess all or any of the virtues traditionally found in heroes—such as courage, morality, or altruism. Their primary motivation may not be trying to save others, but revenge, power, their own survival, or they may have a mysterious or subversive moral code.

Although they are often morally ambiguous or even immoral, the best antiheroes aren’t synonymous with villains. In fact, when a story is retold from the perspective of the villain, the villain in the earlier story often becomes the antihero. Take the Wicked Witch of the West, the villain and villain of The Wizard of Oz. However, in Gregory Maguire’s Evil, she is named Elphaba and becomes the antihero and protagonist. Then there are characters like Michael Corleone in “The Godfather” and Juliet Tsai in “These Violent Joys,” neither of whom chose to be born into criminal families. However, it is still their choice whether to inherit the family’s estate. While they can sometimes do terrible things, we can understand the motivations of antiheroes and find them compelling or tragic.

There are countless antiheroes throughout pop culture, and they’re ubiquitous in the comics (think Deadpool and Wolverine).On TV, Saul Goodman is a supporting role for AMC breaking Bad became the anti-hero of a popular show Better call Saul. Antiheroes are also popular in YA fiction. The term is subjective, though: one person’s antihero can be another reader’s tragic hero.

*Spoiler alert ahead. *

The best antiheroes in literature

Rodion Raskolnikov

exist crime and punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky, poor student Raskolnikov murdered two elderly women in 19th century St. Petersburg. He spends the rest of the novel and his life reflecting on his actions and trying to atone for them. Raskolnikov is charming because he believes he is an extraordinary person, which ironically makes him feel guilty and miserable. Like other important figures of Dostoevsky, he explored philosophy, religion and psychology in an unprecedented literary way.

The Great Gatsby Cover

Jay Gatsby

the protagonist the great gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald is an entrepreneur and pirate who has a crush on Daisy, a young woman who will never love him. Born James Gatz, he built a sophisticated identity that was little more than a facade. The novel was published in the Roaring mid-twenties and was not an immediate success. After the Great Depression, however, Gatsby epitomized the excesses of the Jazz Age, the American Dream, and the myth of “self-made”.

Joseph Heller's Catch-22 cover

John Yossarian

John Yossarian, protagonist Catch 22 Regulations Joseph Heller was a bombardier in the United States Air Force during World War II. The narrator tells us that he “was demoted because he no longer cared if he missed it.” Yossarian’s goal was his own survival: “Live forever or die trying.” He destroyed the war’s Effort, and later received a medal naked in protest. He was traumatized and disillusioned by the war, and this novel brilliantly illustrates why.

The Millennium Trilogy by Stig Larson

Lisbeth Salander

Lisbeth Salander is a distinguished hacker and researcher founded by author Stieg Larsson. She appeared in Larson’s original Millennium trilogy, as well as three other books written by David Ragkranz after Larson’s death in 2004. Lisbeth brings her rapist and murderer to justice and takes revenge on her own rapist. In BR 2020, I wrote that Lisbeth chose revenge as a last resort after the existing social system had hurt her from an early age.

Cover of Mohsin Hamid The Reluctant Fundamentalist


Changez, the antihero of fiction reluctant fundamentalist The author, Mohsin Hamid, is a Pakistani who worked in the United States after graduating from Princeton University. Much of the book consists of Changez’s dramatic monologue over dinner with an unnamed “stranger” at a restaurant in Lahore. After September 11, 2001, Changez was racist and more politically active. Changez admitted he was “happy” about the 9/11 attacks, but the ambiguous ending left unanswered the question of whether he was planning violence or being unfairly portrayed.

She who became the sun cover

Zhu Chongba

she becomes the sun Author: Shelley Parker-Chan, Book 1 of The Radiant Imperial Capital, is a historical fantasy novel about Emperor Hongwu, who established the Ming Dynasty in China in the 1300s. A farm girl who outlived her abusive father and brother took the name of her dead brother and joined a convent. Ironically, she’s gotten stronger, in part because people keep underestimating her. She will do anything to create her own destiny.

Harley Quinn Eat Bang Kill Tour Cover

Harley Quinn

Throughout the DC comics, TV series and movies, the character sometimes known as Dr. Harleen Quinzel has been the Joker’s therapist, sidekick, and ultimate love, a supervillain as well as an antihero in her own right.exist Harley Quinn: The Animated Series: The Eat. Bang! Kill. Travel #1 Created in 2021 by Tee Franklin, Max Sarin and Marissa Louise, her hobby is poison ivy.

Sulla Tony Morrison cover

sura peace

title characters from Sula Toni Morrison’s work is impulsive and shows off convention. She goes to college and has a lot of business. After she returned to her hometown, the townspeople eventually thought she was evil. They blame her for ruining the marriage and for not saving their own mother’s life from the fire. Of course, her reaction to the fire may have been a traumatic one, especially since Sulla has gone through so much loss, racism and sexism.

The genius Mr Ripley on the cover of Patricia Highsmith

Tom Ripley

Tom Ripley by Patricia Highsmith appears in the brilliant mr ripley and four subsequent novels. Tom envies families with “old money” and pleases their social circle. In the book, he murders his first victim, Dickie Greenleaf, out of a deliberate desire to steal his the 1999 movie the brilliant mr ripley, he seems to be attracted to Dicky and angry that Dicky rejects him. Either way, Tom is a skilled liar. The combination of his morals and ambitions is chilling. He was always at least one step ahead of anyone trying to figure him out.

Raven Six Cover

Kaz Blake

The teenage gang leader of Leigh Bardugo Raven Six Duology is a skilled thief with his own strict, unconventional code of ethics. He planned robberies and retaliated against traffickers and other abusers. Because of his painful past, he has a hard time finding vulnerability, even with his best friends. He is very loyal to those he loves and will die or kill for them.

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