I’m on book 48 of the 50 great works I need to read for my annotated bibliography, and it’s suddenly occurring to me how many of the great works of literature involve a male author writing from the perspective of a woman who has an affair: Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, Tess of the D’urbervilles, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, etc. Plus modern novels like Freedom, To the End of the Land, etc.
Now, that’s not to say that I haven’t enjoyed a lot of them. Anna Karenina was fantastic, and Tess practically had me in tears. Not so crazy about Madame Bovary, but you can’t win them all. But seriously, what’s going on here? Why the focus on female infidelity from the woman’s perspective? Is it that male authors think the most important issue for a female protagonist would have to be a conflict of the heart, rather than the “coming of age” or “conquering problems” stories of her male counterparts? Are they writing about what is scariest for them as men, the idea that the women they love might not love them back? Is it at all relevant that men are far more likely to be unfaithful than women, and if so, is it that the authors are trying to justify and universalize their own behavior, or is it that they want to tell the story of what drives men to infidelity, but are afraid that this is too “sissy” a subject for a male protagonist, and change the sex of their heroes?