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Ordinary MasochismsAgency and Desire in Victorian and Modernist Fiction$
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Jennifer Mitchell

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780813066677

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813066677.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM FLORIDA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.florida.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University Press of Florida, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FLASO for personal use.date: 26 September 2021

Murderous Masochism in The Comfort of Strangers

Murderous Masochism in The Comfort of Strangers

Chapter:
(p.151) Conclusion Murderous Masochism in The Comfort of Strangers
Source:
Ordinary Masochisms
Author(s):

Jennifer Mitchell

Publisher:
University Press of Florida
DOI:10.5744/florida/9780813066677.003.0008

Almost one hundred years after The Torture Garden, Ian McEwan’s The Comfort of Strangers (1981), the subject of this conclusion, explores the complex relationship between masochistic pleasure and criminal violence. In the novella, tourists Colin and Mary find themselves lost in Venice and become the objects of desire for Robert, an abusive husband, and Caroline, his excessively masochistic wife. Caroline’s enraptured narrative chronicles the unfolding of her masochistic tendencies within the confines of her marriage and at the behest of her husband Robert’s strength and power. Although Caroline explains that she possesses the death wish that sexologists initially declare the logical (albeit exaggerated) end of masochistic fantasies, Caroline finds that Robert simply cannot kill her. The married couple seeks and finds a surrogate for Caroline in Colin, a complex but revealing gender reversal in itself, and they set the stage for the fulfilment of Caroline’s desires by murderous proxy.

Keywords:   The Comfort of Strangers, Ian McEwan, death wish

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