The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood

When I think of The Robber Bride, two concepts come to mind: feminism and identity. The story is unlike any I’ve read before. It follows three women, Tony, Charis, and Roz, all of whom have bad history with a man-eater, Zenia. Each Zenia experience is different per person, but it always ends in tragedy. Zenia is a giant question mark to me—is it feminist of her to have used her sexuality for personal gain, or is it not feminist of her to have manipulated and hurt fellow women for her own gain?

Among the three injured women, my favorite character is Roz. She strikes me as someone with a sense of humor and a positive disposition despite all her bad experiences. I like her strong personality—she is a woman in power—and I felt angry for her that she chose to tone things down for the sake of insecure men in her life. Unfortunately, this still happens today—women are oft told not to be too loud or rough because it will turn men off. … But why can’t men accept women as they are? Why can’t women reap the benefits of their successful ventures?

The other thing that came to mind as I read is why people choose to change their names. Charis’s story makes it clear why new names and identities should be respected—and why it isn’t nice to deadname people. While Charis is not my favorite character, I do respect that she had the strength to create a new life for herself despite her traumatic childhood. But Zenia tramples on all of that and insists on calling Charis Karen, and you know Zenia is up to no good.

Here’s to hoping no one ever has a Zenia enter their lives.

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