Alan Garner's novel The Owl Service has a small cast of characters, three of whom are female. On reflection, all three appear to be portrayed in a rather negative light.

  • Alison is something of a passive, empty vessel, who rarely states any desires of her own and, in the course of the novel, is to some extent "possessed" by the vengeful Blodeuwedd.

  • Nancy is an angry and bitter woman who, although there is some justification for her ill-temper, takes it out by ill-treating her son.

  • "Mother" is not an active character in the novel, and is never given a name, but is a constant background presence. Other characters are motivated to satisfy her sometimes irrational desires, implying she is neurotic and petulant.

Furthermore there is Blodeuwedd herself, whose fury powers the entire plot of the book and cannot ever seem to be satisfied, in spite of the implied deaths of many men down the centuries.

Does the lack of any positive female role models make the book sexist? If not, why not?


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