Molly Ferguson “To Say No and No and No Again”: Fasting Girls, Shame, and Storytelling in Emma Donoghue’s The Wonder Emma Donoghue’s 2016 novel The Wonder places a young woman’s refusal to eat at the center of highly charged narratives about fasting as resistan -ce to op pression and women’s bodies as repositories for shame. Set in 1858 Ireland, the novel tells the story of the English nurse Lib Wright, who is hired to conduct a fortnight-long watch of the so-called “fasting girl” Anna O’Donnell either to determine her a fraud or prove her “a magical girl who lives o Sn a he un ir.”cov - ers instead how young women’s bodies become canvases for projecting shame experienced by the community, while silencing the woman’s own histories. A range of patriarchal institutions—including the Catholic church, t - he na scent Irish nation, the medical establishment, and the family unit—intersect in The Wonder to produce narratives, infused with a colonial worldview, about Anna’s fast. These include fasting as a path to religious purity; fasting as r -esis tance against a colonial oppressor; fasting as evidence of a nervous condition common to women; and fasting to cover up a family secret.
New Hibernia Review – Center for Irish Studies at the University of St. Thomas
Published: Oct 8, 2018
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