A Female Book from a Male Era
Mirdja L. Onerva
Mirdja is a book about feminity and the search for a female identity at the beginning of the twentieth century. The protagonist assumes the role of a femme fatale, as it is the only way to achieve freedom and the pleasures of life in a male-dominated society.
…she caused a scandal by making her protagonist an intellectual and sexually-interested female student
Nordic Women’s Literature
Onerva’s best-known work and the first modern Finnish novel, this book introduced a new kind of woman character into Finnish literature, an active, independent, unconventional personality.
The story is set in the urban and narcissistic world of the intelligentsia and Decadent artists. Mirdja, the protagonist, admires her own beauty; she wants to be adored by men. Rolf, an alcoholic dreamer, encourages Mirdja to become a femme fatale, but her test of love with Mauri is undermined by bourgeois ideals of sexual roles. Her other roles turn out to be empty, her marriage ends with the death of her husband. Finally, Mirdja has lost touch with reality and is left to wander in search of her imaginary child.
By breaking the paradigm of male polygamy and female monogamy, Onerva criticized traditional gender stereotypes. Her female characters express their anger at the men who toy with their feelings.
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