Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Damaged Women

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned (William Congreve)

Amy, the damaged woman at the core of Gillian Flynn’s successful novel, Gone Girl, is a modern-day Medea, a woman scorned, embittered, and powerful. She has the raw, shocking bravado to take from her husband everything, even his ability to choose. From her lover, the poor sap who dared to adore her, she takes life itself.

Medea took the lives of her own children. She also created a potion that devoured her husband’s new wife from skin to vital organs. That bride melted, horrifying all who bore witness to her terror and pain.

Both Amy and Medea bring another axiom to mind:

Revenge is a dish best served cold. (Dorothy Parker by way of Shakespeare)

Amy smiles and kisses the man she methodically destroys. He has no idea that she plots his public shame and imminent arrest while lying next to him each night. For months, she writes a journal about events and hurts that never occurred. She opens lines of credit to make purchases that will condemn him. She plants evidence, playing a shrewd, strategic, and very cold game.

Photo Courtesy of Al Griffin
Medea is without emotion when she deploys her weapons against her social climbing, privileged husband. Her pleas for sympathy and her long lament against condescension may explain her motives but never her abilities to sacrifice her children to avenge a wrong. Doing so shocks. A mother, as we understand her, as we idealize her, could never contemplate an act so cold and callous.

Damaged women, scorned and vengeful, seem to be in vogue. Anna, the second wife in Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, would sacrifice Rachel, the first wife, by an means available. She pulls herself from the brink of making Rachel a sacrificial lamb when Anna finally recognizes that their husband scorns her, too.

Medea’s story proves that damaged, vengeful women are iconic. Greek myth is replete with them; so is contemporary fiction. Whether the protagonist is male or female, literature often informs us that treachery breeds savagery--just as it does for the four women of this post: Amy, Anna, Rachel and Medea.

Reading Challenge:

Read or re-read Medea by Euripedes in light of modern, popular stories about damaged women.

Writing Challenge:

How do Hamlet or Othello prove that treachery breeds savagery?

Connye Griffin is My Writing and Editing Coach