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The Destructive Performance - A Feminist Reading of Three Texts Written by Sylvia Plath, Margaret Atwood and Doris Lessing


  • Johanna Molin

Summary, in English

Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman and Doris Lessing’s “To Room Nineteen” are three literary texts in which the three protagonists seem to play a role which makes them miserable and suicidal. This essay explores what elements that are involved in making these women unhappy and self-destructive. Based on a close reading of the three texts and Judith Butler’s theories on gender performativity and the heterosexual matrix the essay concludes that the three protagonists are performing their gender and that they are affected by the grids and regulations of the heterosexual matrix. Furthermore, the essay concludes that the protagonists are torn apart between on the one hand act the role they have been assigned and on the other hand follow their deepest dreams and desires, and that this tug-of-war between their inner selves and the outside pressure disconnect the women from their own identities and in the end also dismantles their beings until there is almost nothing left.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Bachelor's degree


  • Languages and Literatures


  • Birgitta Berglund (FD)