Rape in Literature

Rape, the crime of forcefully having sex with someone against their wish, has been portrayed in many works of literature.Tess of the D'Urbervilles is an 1891 novel by Thomas Hardy (1840-1928). Tess, is an impoverished naïve young woman. She is sent to work at a mansion and is seduced and raped by the owner's son, Alec. Late in life, the rape sees Tess rejected by her true love, Angel. Tess is eventually executed for murdering Alec. The book offered a comparatively frank look at the sexual hypocrisy of Victorian society and challenged the sexual mores of its day. It aroused controversy for its portrayal of a young woman victimized by the self-righteous rigidity of English social morality. Although it received mixed reviews when it first appeared, today it is considered an important work of English literature.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a 1960 novel by Harper Lee (b 1926). It became an instant success, winning the Pulitzer Prize, and is regarded as a classic of modern American literature. The book deals with the serious issues of racial inequality. The protagonist, Scout Finch, lives in the Alabama town of Maycomb with her brother, Jem, and their widowed father, Atticus, who is a lawyer. A black man named Tom Robinson is falsely accused of raping a white woman. Atticus agrees to defend him, but the all-white jury convicts. Tom is later shot to death as he is trying to escape from prison.

In A Clockwork Orange, a 1962 dystopian novella by Anthony Burgess (1917-1993), a teenage gang breaks into a young couple's cottage, beating the husband and raping his wife. It turns out later that the woman died from the injuries inflicted during the gang-rape. The rape is only one in a string of violence acts committed by the gang. The book was made into a 1971 movie directed by Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999).

The Color Purple is a 1982 novel by Alice Walker (b 1944). It was awarded the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and won the National Book Award. Celie, a poor, uneducated black girl living in rural Georgia, starts writing letters to God after her stepfather, Alphonso, starts beating and raping her. Celie is later married off to a man known only as "Mr." and leads a difficult and joyless married life before she eventually obtains financial, spiritual and emotional independence.

A Time to Kill is a legal suspense thriller by John Grisham (b 1955) first published in 1989. The story takes place in rural Mississippi. A 10-year-old black girl is raped and beaten by two drunken white racists. The girl's father, Carl Lee, who has heard of a similar case in which the assailants were acquitted, decides to take justice into his own hands. He shoots them to death as they are escorted inside the courthouse. Carl Lee is arrested and tried for murder. After a long court battle he is acquitted by reason of temporary insanity.

The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II is a bestselling non-fiction book by Iris Chang (1968-20040. It was published in 1997 and tells about the massacre and war crimes committed in 1937-1938 by the Imperial Japanese Army after it seized Nanjing, then capital of China, during the Second Sino-Japanese War. It documents, among other atrocities, the systematic rape of as many as 80,000 women by the Japanese soldiers during the six-week Nanking Massacre.

Speak is a novel by Laurie Halse Anderson (b 1961) published in 1999. The book tells about a high school freshman, Melinda Sordino, who turns into an outcast as she becomes victim of party rape and struggles to come to terms with what happened to her. The novel was adapted into a film in 2004. It was a New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller.

The Lovely Bones is a novel by Alice Sebold (b 1963) published in 2002. It tells the story of Susie, a teenage girl who is raped and murdered while taking her usual shortcut home from school through a cornfield. She then watches from her personal Heaven as her family and friends are trying to move on with their lives while she gradually comes to terms with her own death. The novel became an instant bestseller, receiving much critical praise. It was adapted into a film, directed by Peter Jackson and released in 2010.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Reading Rape: The Rhetoric of Sexual Violence in American Literature and Culture, 1790-1990
Sabine Sielke.
Princeton University Press, 2002
The Callisto Myth from Ovid to Atwood: Initiation and Rape in Literature
Kathleen Wall.
McGill-Queens University Press, 1988
Race, Rape, and Lynching: The Red Record of American Literature, 1890-1912
Sandra Gunning.
Oxford University Press, 1996
State of Peril: Race and Rape in South African Literature
Lucy Valerie Graham.
Oxford University Press, 2012
Rape and Ravishment in the Literature of Medieval England
Corinne Saunders.
D.S. Brewer, 2001
Rereading Rape in Medieval Literature: Literary, Historical, and Theoretical Reflections
Vitz, Evelyn Birge.
The Romanic Review, Vol. 88, No. 1, January 1997
The Need for Lavinia's Voice: Titus Andronicus and the Telling of Rape
Detmer-Goebel, Emily.
Shakespeare Studies, Annual 2001
Images of Rape and Buggery: Paul Scott's View of the Dual Evils of Empire
Haswell, Janis E.
Studies in the Novel, Vol. 33, No. 2, Summer 2001
"My Little What Shall I Call Thee": Reinventing the Rape Tragedy in William Rowley's All's Lost by Lust
Nicol, David.
Medieval & Renaissance Drama in England, Vol. 19, January 1, 2006
Ellipsis, Ritual, and "Real Time": Rethinking the Rape Complex in Southern Novels
Patterson, Laura S.
The Mississippi Quarterly, Vol. 54, No. 1, Winter 2000
A Very American Power Struggle: The Color of Rape in Light in August
Bush, Laura L.
The Mississippi Quarterly, Vol. 51, No. 3, Summer 1998
Rome's Disgrace: The Politics of Rape in Shakespeare's Lucrece
Smith, Peter J.
Critical Survey, Vol. 17, No. 3, September 2005
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