10 of the Best Antiheroes in Literature

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In looking at the best antiheroes in literature, we need to define what an antihero is. In general, a protagonist who does not have all or some of the qualities – such as courage, justice, or altruism – seen in a hero. Instead of trying to save others, their main motive is revenge, power, their own life, or a mysterious law or conspiracy.

While they may not be the same villains, the best antiheroes aren’t. In fact, when a story is retold from the villain’s point of view, the protagonist from the original story often becomes the antihero. Take the Wicked Witch of the West, who is the villain and antagonist of The Wizard of Oz. In Wicked by Gregory Maguire, she is named Elphaba and becomes an antihero or protagonist. Then there are characters like Michael Corleone from The Godfather and Juliette Cai from These Violent Delights, neither of whom chose to be born into a criminal family. It is up to them to choose if they will continue the legacy of their family. Although they can sometimes do terrible things, we can understand the feelings of antiheroes and see them as difficult or dangerous.

Antiheroes abound in pop culture and are everywhere in comics (think Deadpool and Wolverine). On TV, Saul Goodman is a supporting character on AMC’s Bad news but became an antihero in the popular show Call Saul. Antiheroes are very popular in YA fiction. The term has a serious meaning, though: one person’s antihero may be another reader’s tragic hero.

*Warning for spoilers ahead.*

The best Antihero characters in literature

Rodion Raskolnikov

In Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Raskolnikov, a poor student, kills two elderly women in St. Petersburg. He spends the rest of the novel and his life thinking about his actions and trying to forgive them. Raskolnikov is very interesting because he believes that he is a free man, which causes him condemnation and misfortune. Like other important Dostoevsky characters, he explores philosophy, religion, and philosophy in various forms of literature.

Great Gatsby cover

Jay Gatsby

The protagonist of The great gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a businessman and robber who falls in love with Daisy, a young woman who does not love him. Born James Gatz, he builds an identity that is not just a façade. The novel was published in the middle of the Roaring ’20s and was not an immediate success. After The Great Depression, however, Gatsby came to represent the greatness of the Jazz Age and the stories of the American Dream and the “self-made man.”

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller cover

John Yossarian

John Yossarian, the protagonist of Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, a pilot in the US Air Force during World War II. The narrator tells us that “he was humiliated because he didn’t give a damn whether he lost or not.” Yossarian’s goal is his own life: “always live or die trying.” He ended the war effort and later accepted the medal without a shirt in a protest. He is haunted and humbled by the war, and the story does a good job of explaining why.

The Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson

Lisbeth Salander

Lisbeth Salander is a skilled hacker and researcher created by author Stieg Larsson. She appears in Larsson’s first Millennium trilogy, as well as three new books written by David Lagercrantz after Larsson’s death in 2004. Lisbeth takes on rapists and murderers. to judge and punish his tormentor. In 2020 in BR, I wrote that Lisbeth chose punishment as a last resort, after the social systems had been hers since childhood.

Cover of The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid


Changez, the antihero of the story A Reluctant Heart by Mohsin Hamid, a Pakistani who worked in the US after graduating from Princeton. Most of the book is an intense monologue by Changez during a long meal with the nameless “Stranger” in a Lahore restaurant. After September 11, 2001, Changez was promoted and became a political activist. Changez said he was “satisfied” with the 9/11 attacks, but the ambiguous ending leaves open the question of whether he was planning violence, or was simply misinformed. not answered.

What happened on the cover day

Zhu Chongba

What became of the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan, Book 1 of the Radiant Emperor Duology, is a novel that commemorates the Hongwu Emperor, who founded the Ming Dynasty in 1300s China. A peasant girl survives her abusive father and older brother, takes her dead brother’s name, and enters a monastery. Ironically, he became so powerful because people despised him. He will do whatever it takes to make his own destiny.

Harley Quinn Eat Bang Kill Tour cover

Harley Quinn

In DC comics, TV series, and movies, the character known as Dr. Harleen Quinzel is sometimes the therapist, sidekick, and eventual love interest of The Joker, a supervillain in her own right, and an antihero. In Harley Quinn: The Animated Series: The Eat. Bang! Murder. Tour #1 by Tee Franklin, Max Sarin, and Marissa Louise, starting in 2021, Poison Ivy is his love interest.

Sula Toni Morrison cover

Peace of Sula

The title comes from Sula by Toni Morrison impulsive and present at conferences. He goes to college and has many jobs. After he returned to his homeland, the villagers wondered what he had done wrong. They blame him for ruining the marriage and saving his own mother’s life from the fire. Of course, her response to the fire may have been a painful response, especially since Sula has experienced so much loss, racism, and sexism.

The Talented Mr.  Ripley by Patricia Highsmith cover

Tom Ripley

Tom Ripley appeared, played by Patricia Highsmith The Talented Mr. Ripley and four new stories. Tom resents the families with “old money” and insinuates himself into their social circle. In the books, he kills his first victim, Dickie Greenleaf, out of a desire to steal his identity. In the 1999 movie The Talented Mr. Ripley, she seems to be attracted to Dickie and resents Dickie’s rejection of her. Either way, Tom is a talented artist. His love and passion combined is bliss. He is one step ahead of anyone trying to find him.

Six of Crows covers

Kaz Brekker

Youth team leader in Leigh Bardugo Six of Crows Duology is a clever thief with its own rules. He plans heists and punishes human traffickers and other criminals. Because of his traumatic past, he feels vulnerable, even with his best friends. He was loyal to those he loved and would die or kill for them.

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