Hysteric Sexuality, Prostitution and Womanhood in Emma Donoghue’s Slammerkin

Shikha Thakur1 & Dr. Meenakshi F.Paul2

1Assistant Professor, Lovely Professional University, Jalandhar, Pb. Email:

 2Professor of English, Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla, H.P.

Volume 2, Number 1, 2017 I Full Text PDF

Article DOI:  10.21659/bp.v2n1.02


The paper aims at questioning the conventionally established sexuality of woman in Emma Donoghue’s Slammerkin (2000). Plausibly, it lays bare female protagonist’s (Mary) subversion of gender roles, her transgression of boundaries for the reclamation of her dreams and dignity, and the demand for reparation from her for disallowing them. Mary subverts the othered identity imposed upon her by patriarchy, which is conflated with capitalism that identifies her as sacrificial, feeble, and acquiescent. She redefines prostitution as a weapon for acquiring a subject from a treaty of object. To reclaim her autonomous identity, Mary uses her innate intelligence and quick-wittedness, with parody, hysteria, and sexuality to assert her uniqueness and to subvert patriarchy. This in turn, aids Mary to affirm herself as an individual and also to redefine her personhood, vis-a-vis her gender role, social space, and relationships. Reparation is posited with Mary’s trial and hanging, which uncover the embedded biases and injustices in English society of the Enlightenment. The end enforces upon society the need to restructure itself and make reparations for the unjustness that subjected Mary, as vulnerable women were and still are, to homelessness, sexual assault, poverty, desperation, and murder; all merely for her wish to have a better life.

Keywords: gender roles, transgression, object, prostitution, othered, subject, hysteria, sexuality, reclaim, patriarchy, Reparation, personhood, vulnerable women.