The Fair Jilt

Femininity in Aphra Behn’s The Fair Jilt College

Aphra Behn, as the first woman to earn her living by being a writer in English, known for her daring and controversial treatment of the subjects of sexuality and desire in her works, plays an important female narrative voice in the literary history. In The Fair Jilt, Behn creates a feminine imagery contrary to that of the society she is familiar with. In Behn’s imaginative world, femininity takes over the role of masculinity, shifting from being the object of male desire to becoming the subject that desires; femininity also becomes ambitious and triumphant, wielding power through its sexuality.

In The Fair Jilt, the gender roles between femininity and masculinity are presented as often reversed. This novella tells the story of Miranda - a conniving and ruthless woman born with fatal beauty who takes pleasure in conquering men. Unlike the usual case in which women are deemed as objects to male sexual desire, Miranda instead adopts the role of a desiring subject: she becomes the one who is sexually aggressive, seducing men into falling in love with her and taking the initiative in courtships. Her adoption of the male role as a sexual aggressor is the most pronounced in her obsessive love for Father Francisco.

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