Bad and Wrong Woman

Published on 5 September 2023 at 00:19

In literature it is hardly possible to draw a line between 'bad women' and 'wrong women'. There is too much overlap for that. An "evil woman" refers to a female character who knowingly commits evil acts. Deceit and manipulation are often used as character traits, but also lust for power and cruelty. Examples of such female characters are Lady Macbeth (Shakespeare), Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier), Cathy Ames (from East of Eden by John Steinbeck). More recent GPT mentions include: Amy Elliot Dunne (from Gone girl by Gillian Flynn), Adora Crellin (from Sharp Objects, also by Gillian Flynn) and Nurse Ratched (One flew over the cuckoo's nest by Ken Kesey).

In short, a 'wrong woman' seems to have more defects, shortcomings and human errors than 'bad women'. These can range from difficult character traits and traumas to deeper moral dilemmas for the character. Due to the character's complex background, it can evolve over the course of the story.

The definition of a wrong woman can vary depending on the genre, culture and context of the story. This applies to appearance (think of short skirts, plunging neckline), but even more so to behavior. A dominant woman quickly becomes a bitch who doesn't take others into account. If she kicks against traditional female stereotypes and gender roles, her behavior is seen as morally reprehensible. An important characteristic of a 'wrong woman' seems to be her sexuality. She uses her sexuality to seduce and manipulate others, read men, and is therefore seen as dangerous. A well-known example from mythology is Delilah. She seduces Samson and gets his secret. He loses his strength because of this and is captured by the Philistines. Salome also used her sexuality: she danced before King Herod and asked for the head of John the Baptist as a reward.

For books in which the sexuality of the 'wrong woman' is used as an important element in the story, I base myself on GPT. These include Gone girl (Gillian Flynn), Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov), Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier), The scarlet letter (Nathalie Hawthorne) and Tipping the velvet (Sarah Waters).

In my next blog I want to go deeper into the motives and characteristics of 'wrong women' in literature. And on the motives of writers to introduce a 'wrong woman' as a character.

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