Friday, March 01, 2013

Women Who Fight Back in Literature

The Boston Review surveys the literary landscape for women who fight and fight hard.

From the piece...

Ah, Medea—the first bad girl of literature, if one discounts Lilith, who’s never given a chance to voice her own opinion of Adam before he dumps her for Eve. Medea, the raging fury, is most remarkable not so much for her extensive list of crimes, knowledge of poisons, or lack of what modern readers might call sympathetic traits as for her unrepentant, single-minded desire for vengeance against her two-timing lover, Jason. First she poisons his innocent bride, gloating at the news of her anguished death. Then, with her own hands, though not without some protracted anguish of her own, she kills her two young children by Jason. Refusing the grief-stricken Jason a final embrace of the boys’ corpses, she gives him a terse kiss-off—“Your words are wasted.” 

Medea might cast a cold eye on Larsson’s characterization of Salander as a near-anorexic, childlike waif who musters almost superhuman powers in her own quest for vengeance. Emphasizing Salander’s youth and gamine appearance evokes some disturbing similarities with Bella—the weirdly infantilized, profoundly unsexy narrator of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series—and with Fifty Shades of Grey’s equally dumb and vanilla BDSM protagonist Anastasia, whose college education might have benefited from a SparkNotes reading of Mary Gaitskill and Mrs. Gaskell.

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