Of Grim Witches and Showy Lady-Devils: Wealthy Women in Literature and Film

Authors

  • Veronika Schuchter University of Oxford

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.18778/2083-2931.09.03

Keywords:

wealthy women, rich rogues, Cinderella, Miss Havisham, Cruella de Vil

Abstract

Imagining super rich women in the real and fictional world has long been a struggle. Those few depictions that do exist are scattered across time periods and literary genres, reflecting the legal restrictions that, at different points in time, would not allow women to accumulate assets independent of the patriarchal forces in their lives. The scarcity of extremely wealthy women in literature and film is confirmed by Forbes magazine’s list of the fifteen richest fictional characters that features forty different fictional men and only nine women, with never more than two female characters nominated in a single year.

This article explores the depiction of three exceptionally wealthy women: Cruella de Vil in The Hundred and One Dalmatians (1956) by Dodie Smith, Miss Havisham in Great Expectations (1861) by Charles Dickens, and the figure of the stepmother in various adaptations of “Cinderella.” I demonstrate how the protagonists’ wealth allows them to manipulate others and disconnect themselves from patriarchal and societal expectations. Further, I argue that these affluent antagonists are “rogued” by their respective narratives, highlighting their perceived anti-feminine and emasculating behaviour resulting in a mode of narration that greedily gazes at and shames their appearances and supposed unattractiveness. While this genealogy of rich rogues reiterates the narrow scope of imagining wealthy women on the page and on the screen, there are moments in the narratives that disrupt stereotypical depictions of these wealthy characters who defy the labels imposed on them.

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Author Biography

Veronika Schuchter, University of Oxford

Veronika Schuchter is currently OeAD-Lektorin (Austrian Academic Exchange Lecturer) at the University of Oxford. Her doctoral project investigates supermodern spaces in contemporary British and Canadian women’s writing. She is particularly interested in feminist and postcolonial theory and all aspects of women’s writing. She is part of the executive committees of the Contemporary Women’s Writing Association (CWWA) and the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association (FWSA).

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Published

2019-12-30

How to Cite

Schuchter, V. (2019). Of Grim Witches and Showy Lady-Devils: Wealthy Women in Literature and Film. Text Matters: A Journal of Literature, Theory and Culture, (9), 50-65. https://doi.org/10.18778/2083-2931.09.03