(Literary) women behaving badly

I have a bit of a Margaret-Atwood-Worship-thing going on, and it’s only gotten worse since I saw her last year while she was promoting The Year of the Flood.  The woman is beyond brilliant —- as well as incredibly charming.  To paraphrase the old Partridge Family song:  I think I love her.

In her essay “Spotty-Handed Villainesses” she talks about women behaving badly in literature / plays / film.  Here are a few of her observations that have made me see some favorite characters in a new light …

“Snow White is a vampire — anyone who lies in a glass coffin without decaying and then comes to life again must be.”

“Hester Prynne, she of The Scarlett Letter, who becomes a kind of sex saint through suffering.”

“One of my favorite bad women is Becky Sharpe, of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. She makes no pretensions to goodness.  She is wicked, she enjoys being wicked, and she does it out of vanity and for her own profit.”

“Female characters who behave badly can, of course, be used as sticks to beat other women:  witness the cult of the Virgin Mary, better than you’ll ever be…”

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