Widowhood: self-imposed or inescapable fate?
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Widowhood: self-imposed or inescapable fate? book
Widowhood, for Mary Barbe, affords her access to violent places otherwise off-limits to a single female, while offering her protection. As a widow, Mary is doubly monstrous because she combines masculine sexual aggression with femininity. As Braun suggests, "visual sadists become sexually stimulated simply by being spectators at some exhibition in which blood is deliberately shed or life taken". As a widow, Mary is described as paying close attention to her appearance: "she would dress with the painstaking care of a newly-wed". Rachilde's description of Mary's "virgin's gaze" and her "half-opened mouth" echo the descriptions of the female vampire. In the novel, Mary strives to control, corrupt, and destroys her pliable male counterparts through sadistic acts; however, her inherent masochism is an inescapable weakness that renders her ultimately defenceless. Widowhood, although initially portrayed as a means of freedom, actually weakens Mary rather than empowering her. The chapter looks at the woman as performer and the fetishistic tendencies of its widow heroine.