Seduction and Betrayal: Women & Literature
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The novelist and essayist Elizabeth Hardwick is one of contemporary America's most brilliant writers, and Seduction and Betrayal, in which she considers the careers of women writers as well as the larger question of the presence of women in literature, is her most passionate and concentrated work of criticism. A gallery of unforgettable portraits--of Virginia Woolf and Zelda Fitzgerald, Dorothy Wordsworth and Jane Carlyle--as well as a provocative reading of such works as Wuthering Heights, Hedda Gabler, and the poems of Sylvia Plath, Seduction and Betrayal is a virtuoso performance, a major writer's reckoning with the relations between men and women, women and writing, writing and life.
about money, about the way it turns locks. Here is the plot once more. Nora Helmer is the charming young mother of three children. She has been married for eight years. When we first meet her she is full of claims to happiness, but it is rather swiftly revealed that strenuous days and nights lie in the past. Still the marriage has life in it and Nora thinks she is happy. Indeed she is on the brink of being happier — things have taken a good turn. Nora’s husband, Helmer, has been a struggling
loving, self-sacrificing maiden aunts. His good old servant, another female parental figure for him, is now brought in to work for Hedda. All of these worn, old, thrifty, recessive ladies have loved their clean, innocent, A-student George. But in a way they are more worldly than he. They show a rational worry about his marriage to Hedda Gabler. It is as strange to them, as to us, that she would have chosen George Tesman. The truth is that Hedda did not choose George. She says she “had danced
gradually show herself to be like the other women he had known — the devoted, sacrificing, adoring old aunts and nurses. There is something almost sordid in Tesman’s willful inanity. Hedda’s first act of meanness is brilliantly conceived in its lack of necessity and in the depth of its pettiness. This skillful scene is the kind that gathers great rewards from the realistic rules of dramaturgy: the author places a cue, leaves it, and then suddenly pounces upon it again. We know that Miss Tesman,
with his first book has consequences. He has, artist that he is, come back into town to enjoy the fruits of it. He is not the same ruined man who lived and wrote in the sheriff’s district. Work has reclaimed him. He can show his face once more and can even resume his right to challenge poor Tesman’s hope of a professorship. Thea is terrified of the opportunities for delinquency provided by Lövborg’s visit to Christiania. She knows her man. With daring and in desperation and knowledge, she simply
conversation and mode of dealing with literature. Now, to me it appears upon reflection, that it would have been far better had Miss Wordsworth condescended a little to the ordinary mode of pursuing literature; better for her own happiness if she had been a bluestocking; or, at least, if she had been in good earnest, a writer for the press, with the pleasant cares and solicitudes of one who has some little ventures, as it were, on that vast ocean. So in Dorothy Wordsworth we see a rare life