Feminist heroines. They irritate me very badly. They are all so stuck on “independence,” disguising themselves as boys, chopping off their hair, not bathing and constantly complaining that “marriage is slavery.” You’ve read about one of them then you’ve pretty much read about them all. However, every once in a while comes a heroine that embodies the very persona of feminism to such an extent that it causes her so many untold miseries throughout the entire story- so much that you could write an entire article about it. One such character is Marisa (Marisa Antonia Catalina de Castellanos y Gallardo) from Rosemary Roger’s 1976 novel Wicked Loving Lies. I think there is a real life lesson to be learned from such a feminist character. For those ladies who haven’t read the book but were thinking about it, be forewarned that I’m fixing to spoil the whole thing for you.
After the Prologue the novel starts out with Marisa in a convent. Her exact age is never stated, but it is clear that she is very young, say no older than about 17 or 18. She is content to live her life right where she is, certain she will never marry. However, her father sends word to the convent that she is to marry a Don Pedro Arteaga. However, Marisa will have none of it. She is scared of marriage and scared of men because of some things she witnessed when she was younger. So, she takes off with her friend Blanca and joins with her family-gypsies. But, alas, from there who should she run into but a group containing Arteaga himself as well as his friend, now identified as Dominic. Out of anger or some quest for revenge she picks his pocket and somehow gets free away from the little group. It doesn’t last long, however, as the little group has friends in high places and Dominic catches back up with her. Of course, he believes her to be a gypsy and a whore. Out of fear of having to marry Arteaga she stays silent about her real and true identity even though it means being dragged off by Dominic to his ship so he can make use of her “services” in exchange for not turning her over to the authorities. She stays silent, he rapes her and only then figures out she is actually a virgin. If she would have only told him who she was this would have never happened. But, oh well, deed done. He offers her a sizable amount of money (which she refuses because she doesn’t want payment for something she never sold in the first place). She gets frustrated, chops off her pretty long hair, hides away with a little help from a kind member of the crew on his ship and makes her way to France.
She then escapes him and his crew, runs into Phillip Sinclair (who we later learn is Dominic’s cousin and the two are bitter enemies) who then takes her back to her aunt and her godparents. Her aunt knows what has happened but says it’s ok. All the fashionable ladies take lovers, her aunt says. She gives her a few potions-which don’t work for her- to make sure she doesn’t conceive and life goes on. She contemplates making Phillip her lover. That, however, is short lived as Dominic (who her aunt herself had had an affair with, apparently because he has a savage wild side to him) comes back into the picture. Word of what he did to her gets out and the two are forced into marriage. Marisa hates him and he starts to believe her a liar plotting against him somehow. They seem to be happy for one day after their marriage where they talk together and picnic. However, the next night Dominic gets violent and rapes her and the next morning she wakes up to find him already gone and setting sail to God only knows where. Meanwhile, she nearly dies from a miscarriage. Phillip stays with her and brings her flowers everyday. After this is over she decides to go back to England. She agrees to be a spy and her aunt accompanies her back home to England. While she’s there she enjoys freedom and independence and all her friends exclaim how envious they are of her because she doesn’t have a husband breathing down her neck dictating her life. She refuses to be faithful to her marriage vows and hates Dominic even more after finding out he was the one responsible for her father’s death. Well, time passes and her spying ways get her in trouble. She panics when she hears the death of another supposed spy (or whatever) by this assassin and hears that the assassin marks his victims, but how or where she doesn’t know. She becomes terrified, realizing she has gotten in way over her head and wants out. So her and Phillip decide to leave. But on the way their stage is held up and Marisa is grabbed, branded on her thigh and raped by a masked man (she later learns that the masked man is her husband, Dominic, who was set on her as a “warning” by a vengeful Madame De L’Aigle, who she learns is the real assassin).
After the event she returns home to find her home filled with people and lit up brightly. She then learns Dominic has returned. She gets angry that he has barged in on her independence, makes no secret that she hates him and plots to run away with Phillip. She does, and when they arrive at Phillip’s Uncle (the duke of Royse’s) estate she finds that Dominic is there and has dueled with the Duke and killed him. Phillip attempts to shoot Dominic but instead accidentally kills himself with the gun. Dominic then takes Marisa and leaves. They board a ship (not his own) and pirates siege them. The captain surrenders because he does not have the men nor arms to fight them off. Marisa is separated, along with two other women, away from the men. Dominic had told her, in an attempt to protect her, to not reveal she was his wife and tell them who her family was and that she was worth a lot of ransom money so they wouldn’t harm her. She tells the story and Dominic backs it up as well.
She is held captive (albeit in luxury) in the Middle East and soon after a Kamil Hasan Rais takes an interest in her (despite his vows of celibacy). The first time he drugs her and has her sent to him but after that Marisa (now renamed Leila) becomes his willing lover to the point that she embraces Islam and agrees to become his wife once Kamil’s term of service is up. Soon, however Marisa tells him that she is pregnant and confesses that she had a husband. Kamil tells her it’s ok, he’ll give her some herbs and get rid of the problem but she simply can’t abort the child because of the loneliness and emptiness she remembered from her first miscarriage. So he says it’s ok and promises the child won’t be harmed. However, Kamil’s vengeful sister has other plans. She hates Marisa so she finds out some info and brings Dominic to where he can see her. Marisa walks into the stables and sees Dominic. What does she do? She tells him she hates him, that she’s pregnant, the child might be his or might not, tells him she doesn’t want the child, tells him she’s in a position of authority now and will have him punished and then nearly gets him crucified. Marisa has her child some time later but is drugged unconscious and when she wakes up is told she had a girl and the child died. She never questions that she had been lied to at all. The truth of the matter is that the child lived and was a boy (since the child was a boy Kamil arranged to get rid of it while still keeping the child safe as he promised, because he couldn’t allow the child to be his heir and shame himself). Marisa forgets all and becomes a complete hedonist.
War breaks out and she is ransomed back to her people and taken back to France. Dominic fights with a group of soldiers then comes back and kills Kamil and takes the boy (who was unmistakably his child). He heads to America believing she hates the child and willingly abandoned it. Marisa goes to Cuba and her Uncle (a powerful political figure) takes her to America and, neither of them knowing there was a child from the union, obtains an annulment for her . Events happen and she stays with her vengeful stepmother and meets back up with Arteaga and later Dominic. She finds out her child is still alive but Dominic, never thinking to see her again, has gotten engaged to another woman and Marisa agrees it’s best to leave. Her stepmother takes her to New Orleans to the plantation she inherited when her stepmother brings evidence that she is really a slave. She is sold and soon Dominic finds out and spends all his savings to rescue her. To make money back he takes her as well as Marisa’s friend (a former slave) and a large group of rough men on a trip to capture wild horses. Many weeks pass and she spends more time with Dominic, all the while complaining to her friend about men and mad that she’s stuck doing women’s work. Her friend tries to explain to her about the way men act (you know all prideful and stuff) and that she might try actually being sweet to Dominic for once. She doesn’t listen. Dominic tells her a few weeks later that she is in the way and tells her he’s leaving her with a local tribe and she’ll be safe. She doesn’t understand what he’s about and thinks he hates her when the truth is he actually has loved her for a long time and wants to protect her because Dominic is a spy and knows there’s fixing to be a battle and wants her out of danger. She protests but really doesn’t have much choice in the matter.
Eventually she is given back to the spanish and finds herself come full circle back to a convent. She stays there for a while until she hears from officer Fernando Higuera that colonel Arteaga (Don Pedro again) has executed Dominic. She decides she loves Dominic and thinks to take matters into her own hands (because that’s work so well for her in the past, you know) and comes to Higuera trading her body in exchange for him taking her to see Arteaga. They travel and when they get where the men are she starts having more affairs, even with the governor himself, she finds out Dominic is still alive (barely). She finds out she’s pregnant again as well. She tries to take matters into her own hands again and makes a big public scene until Higuera stops her. She never listens to reason. Eventually Arteaga says if she’ll marry him he’ll help Dominic escape. She agrees. Arteaga is on a quest for vengeance (the entire situation is never completely explained) then decides he wants to get back at Dominic and the best way to do that is to consummate the marriage with Marisa on the floor in front of Dominic’s jail cell. He rips her clothes and proceeds to do just that until Higuera intervenes. They spar with words until Arteaga pulls out a pistol. He never gets to use it as Dominic kicks him and he falls in a nearby well to his death. Marisa is hysterical and Higuera has to get a little rough with her to get control over her and yanks her to her feet. She’s naked as her clothes were torn by Arteaga so he tries to cover her with his cloak. He attempts to lead her away and take care of her (he even offers her marriage to take care of her as Dominic was to be executed) but he doesn’t get far before she pushes him away and starts off on a women’s lib rant that would make Steinem herself proud. She throws it all out there: that her body belongs to her, that she has a mind of her own and can take care of herself and she doesn’t need a man to take care of her and treat her as weak or helpless (because her way had done such wonders for her life so far). Well, her Uncle shows back up, her marriage to Arteaga and her annulment weren’t even legal because she had a child with Dominic already. Dominic is declared dead and escapes with Marisa. Marisa has the new baby shortly thereafter and everyone lives happily ever after. The End.
I think the real lesson to be learned from fictional character Marisa is that her feminist mindset is what caused pretty much every problem she ever encountered. Her father picked her out a husband to protect her. He was only looking out for her best interests even though at the time she didn’t understand it. Yes, she was scared because she had been through traumatic events when she was young but if she would have obeyed her father in the first place she would have been safer. She might never have been raped, kidnapped, forced into slavery, lost her child or any of the numerous problems she got herself entangled up in. And even after she did run away she had chance after chance to change. She could have identified herself to Arteaga and Dominic’s party that night but she didn’t. After her marriage to Dominic she could have been truthful to him. True, she wasn’t hateful at this point but she had done nothing but lie since he knew her. In his mind, how could he trust her? She could have been faithful to her husband but she wasn’t. She didn’t want to accept her marriage vows but instead wanted to run her own estate, be independent and still sleep with who she wanted. She is raped several times by several different men in the book and has willing affairs with just as many. When Dominic did show back up she could have been civil to him. Even if she didn’t want the marriage and even if she didn’t love him she could have been honest with him, she could have been respectful to him and done right by him but she never did. Instead she declares she hates him and runs off with another man. When she met him again in the Middle East she could have made up with him. She could have been truthful. Even if she couldn’t say she loved him she could have told him she wanted their child, could have told him she wanted to return to him. She could have refused to have an affair with Kamil, or if she was forced, she could have at least stayed faithful in her heart. Maybe if she would have he would have came for her and took care of her. But as it was she pushed him away from her and made him distrust her time and time again. She gets involved with affairs that should be left to the men. She wants to get in Dominic’s personal business several times thinking she has a right to, even though he is involved in things he is trying to protect her from. She believes it is her business to know everything he’s involved in, such as his spying, and she nearly gets him discovered at one point.
Dominic doesn’t win husband of the year in my opinion. His character is a man with a dark past, a “legitimate bastard” as he calls himself (since his father preferred the company of other men to women and his mother had an unfaithful heart). He’s been in the British navy, he’s been in prison, he’s been done wrong over and over as many times as he’s done others wrong. He shouldn’t have abandoned her or did things he did. But he did feed, clothe, shelter and protect Marisa. He still fulfilled those duties as a husband at least. Even if it was just a marriage of convenience forced upon the two Marisa could have accepted it and fulfilled her duties as a wife. She could have made the best of it.
Throughout the entire story she refuses to listen to the men who are trying to genuinely help her. Instead of staying out of a man’s business she wants to get involved in it, with disastrous consequences every time. Fernando Higuera was trying to help her but she didn’t like being ordered around and couldn’t understand the situation she was putting herself and others in so she ranted at him about not needing his help or protection. It was her feminist mindset that caused her all of her troubles. She wanted to enter into the man’s world of politics only to find she didn’t know what she got herself into and ended up getting herself hurt (she could at least be thankful it was her own husband and not another who hurt her as her own husband didn’t truly harm her, only as much as needed to protect her). She wanted to be independent and sexually liberated which drove away her husband and drove her into the arms of men who ended up really hurting her in one way or another. She listened to her aunt and the other ladies who told her to take lovers and that it was just fine. She listened to others who encouraged her to express her individuality and independence to the detriment of her marriage and ultimately even her own happiness.
Another thing to note is that she did get a taste of what second-class citizenship really looks like for women when staying with one of the tribes. The men would strut around in beads and feathers all day while the women did all the drudgery work. The men spent all day polishing their weapons while the women worked. They contributed practically nothing. The women cropped their hair short, never bathed, and did all the hard labor. The men would always eat first, leaving the leftovers to the women and children. If there wasn’t enough food the women and children would starve. She sees this yet she still doesn’t make the connection that men in her own society work to protect and support women and give them a much better life than what women in many primitive societies had. She can’t really see the connection there between patriarchy (which threatens her independence) and the high status of women in her own society. She doesn’t see that the men take charge to protect her and lift her up out of the old-world system of matriarchy where the women do all the work. It is the societies such as those Marisa saw where women do all the drudgery work and are sexually free that feminists praise because these women prove they can do what men in her own Western society believe not suited to a woman and the women are sexually liberated. Yet she still rants and raves and salutes women’s lib values even to the end of the book.
The sad part is she doesn’t ever have appeared to have learned her lesson really. She is with Dominic in the end but how long will it last? What happens when he tries to tell her to do something she doesn’t like to protect her? 10 pages from the end of the book she was still ranting off feminist dogma so what happens next when her free will is threatened by her husband or possibly even her children keeping her from being independent?
I guess we’ll never know for sure as it is a fictional book. But even in fiction there are sometimes life lessons to be learned. Marisa exemplifies everything women should not do and showcases exactly the kind of misery that feminism leads women to.