ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Classics about Scandalous Women

Updated on March 9, 2013

Prostitutes, courtesans, adulteresses – despite censors, authors have pushed the envelope for years as far as their leading ladies. However, even though some met with bans and public outcry, the scandalous women of literature have become some of the world’s favorite characters:

"Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy’s elegant tale of an aristocratic woman who falls into adultery has been loved from almost day one. He never had much trouble from censors and the novel is rightly considered one of the best works ever written...if not THE best!

Anna Karenina was the product of Tolstoy slaving away to find a heroine who is loving, sympathetic, and attractive despite what she had done wrong. He pulled this off largely because this novel relies on realism rather than melodramatic, Romeo and Juliet-style doomed love. The heroine is shown as a wife, mother, and above all else, a woman before she is shown as a sinner. Anna Karenina is a story about what any other woman could easily have done.

Painting of Marie Duplessis by Camille Roqueplan
Painting of Marie Duplessis by Camille Roqueplan | Source

"La Dame aux camélias" by Alexandre Dumas, fils

Also known as Camille, this story has inspired countless adaptations including the opera La Traviata, the movies Camille starring Greta Garbo (1936), Isabelle Huppert (1981), and Greta Scacchi (1984), and to a certain extent, Nicole Kidman’s character in Moulin Rouge!

The Lady of the Camellias is probably the most tasteful and accurate record there is about the life of a courtesan. Marguerite Gautier, the heroine, is only a thin literary veil for Marie Duplessis, one of Frances’ most famous courtesans and a former love of Alexandre Dumas, fils.

"Gone With the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell

Sarlett O’Hara topped them all : She married three times, defied convention, and continued to openly flirt with the man she thought she loved even after he was married. Despite all this, she proved to be a voice of reason in a world falling apart; do you think they would have survived Reconstruction if Ashley or Melanie had been in charge? And that, more than anything, is probably what has kept Gone With the Wind on the best-seller list since day one.

Katherine Swynford's Coat of Arms, the creation of which is discussed in Chapter Twelve of Seton's novel
Katherine Swynford's Coat of Arms, the creation of which is discussed in Chapter Twelve of Seton's novel | Source

"Katherine" by Anya Seton

Anya Seton’s Katherine really existed: her name was Katherine Swynford (1350-1403) and she became the mistress of John of Gaunt (1340-1399), even though he was already married. After years as an adulteress, Katherine married John and their legitimized children founded the Tudor Dynasty.

Seton’s Katherine is acclaimed for being 100% historically accurate. However, some readers are turned off by the story’s slightly feminist leanings. It still is one heck of a read though.

"Madame Bovary" by Gustave Flaubert

What are Emma Bovary’s redeeming qualities? She ignored her husband; she ignored her child - she eventually even ignored the men she committed adultery with. Everything in her life was wrapped around her pursuit of pleasure. But she is not an unlikable character. Whatever the magic spell is that she casts, it has been there from the beginning.

Shortly after publishing Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert was placed on trial for what the public considered obscenity. After a month of debate he was acquitted and his novel has never been forgotten.

"Manon Lescaut" by Abbé Prévost

Manon Lescaut is supposedly based on the early experiences of the flamboyant priest Antoine François Prévost. This story is boring; it is a soap opera, and you feel like you wasted your time reading it…but you cannot forget about Manon. She herself has deified the flaws of the original novel and has remained “alive” – despite the original story now being almost completely forgotten. Really the only way anyone is now familiar with Manon’s story is because of the operas composed by Puccini, Massenet, and Auber.

Manon attempts to become a great courtesan, but comes across more like a cheap prostitute. She prefers jewels and an extravagant lifestyle to living with Des Grieux, her one true love. But the two cannot seem to keep apart. Manon Lescaut plays an important role in La Dame aux camélias and is mentioned in countless other 19th century novels.

Original poster for Giacomo Puccini's Manon Lescaut
Original poster for Giacomo Puccini's Manon Lescaut | Source

"Tess of the d’Urbervilles" by Thomas Hardy

This story is different from those listed above in that the heroine did not “fall into sin” through any fault of her own. However, Tess of the d’Urbervilles was a scandalous woman – both in the novel and in real life – because her story challenged the Victorian idea that a woman became impure the moment she slept with any man to whom she was not married.

To be perfectly honest this book is not that great. Thomas Hardy made some very poor plot choices despite his resolution to give the world “pure woman faithfully presented”. Let’s put it this way: Tess of the d’Urbervilles was a story that needed to be told, but Thomas Hardy was the wrong person to tell it.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • ziyena profile image

      ECLECTIC PLETHORA 

      4 years ago from LOST IN TIME

      Scarlet and Anna are my favorite women! Very interesting Hub ... I decided to link you to my "Scandalous" Hub ... just a bit of poetry on the same subject. Thanks

    • europewalker profile image

      europewalker 

      4 years ago

      Interesting read. I have read all of these books except for Manon Lescaut. I will add this to my list of books to read.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)