The Resisting Reader, By Judith Fetterley

1391 Words6 Pages
In her book, “The Resisting Reader,” Judith Fetterley says of feminist criticism, “At its best, feminist criticism is a political act whose aim is not simply to interpret the world but to change it by changing the consciousness of those who read and their relation to what they read” (Fetterley viii). The most prevalent place that feminist criticism is used in this way is in response to the literary idea of the typical damsel in distress. The fragile young maiden who cannot fend for herself and must be told what to do by a strong, capable hero permeates both popular and classical literature. The argument of the feminist critic is that this idea is inaccurate and outdated, and should be updated to match the real picture of a woman as her own person, her own specific character. One of the most iconic pictures of the femme fatale is Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Ophelia is often viewed as a flat, one-dimensional character who is so undone by her circumstances that she cannot handle her grief due to her fragility and consequently ends her own life. At first glance, it seems as though Shakespeare is simply following the popular literary archetype of his time, but from a deeper perspective, the message through Ophelia is quite different. Shakespeare’s portrayal of Ophelia as the archetypal damsel in distress, and his depiction of her consequent demise, actually challenges the theory of the femme fatale and proves it to be misleading. Most who read or view a performance of
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