My post on ‘The Unexpected Feminism of Elena Ferrante’s Scorned Woman’ is available to read on the Ploughshares blog. Read an extract below, or find the full post HERE.
Originally published in 2002, The Days of Abandonment sits uncomfortably in its cultural moment. Elena Ferrante’s examination of the spiraling decline of an abandoned wife resists the hopefulness of the girl-power-era, returning instead to the preoccupations and expectations of a more traditional form of womanhood, and to the controversial figure of the scorned woman. A caricature of embitterment, driven to madness by romantic rejection, the figure of the scorned woman is, traditionally, little more than a stereotype trading on the excesses of emotion and general instability that have long been associated with divergent femininity. Ferrante’s scorned woman, however, is not a stock character or a vehicle for moralization; Olga is fully realized, and her inner monologue elevates the narrative with its unflinching honesty.
What sets Olga apart from the traditional “scorned woman” is that she is the focus of the narrative, not the subplot. Olga has an intellectual and an emotional life, moments of reflection as well as moments of reaction. As readers, it is her voice we hear and her thoughts we follow as events unfold. While the narrative mobilizes many of the traditional aspects of the scorned woman trope—self-neglect, violent revenge, mental breakdown—and often portrays Olga as an unreliable source of information or in an otherwise unsympathetic light, it never does so dismissively. In following her internal life so closely, readers are drawn into the layers and complexities of her situation in a way that invites compassion and understanding rather than derision.