Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell laughs while talking with family members in between television interviews, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010, in Dover, Del. O'Donnell defeated Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., in Tuesday's primary. (AP Photo/Rob Carr) (AP)

Christine O'Donnell, Tolkien scholar

The Republican Senate candidate's analysis of "Lord of the Rings" reveals her views on feminine roles


Tracy Clark-Flory
September 16, 2010 5:01PM (UTC)

We've learned a lot of quirky facts about Christine O'Donnell. We already knew the Republican Senate nominee abhorred masturbation and believed that looking at pornography was cheating. Well, yesterday, we learned yet more about her view of relations between the sexes – through, of all things, her analysis of J.R.R. Tolkien's work. In a 2003 essay, she wrote about the roles of women in "Lord of the Rings" and argued that Tolkein's female characters offer "insight into what it means to be a woman." But, more importantly, O'Donnell's exegesis gives insight into what she thinks it means to be a woman. Let's take a look, shall we?

She explains that Tolkein's "female characters, although drastically different from each other in personality, manifest at their core, true womanly femininity," and each represents a different female archetype, as she puts it: the "matriarch, princess, and warrior." Belladonna, who is mentioned in just a few lines, "did not have many adventures after she married, for her husband provided a great home for her," and "she is content, even utterly satisfied, in the role of a wife and mother," writes O'Donnell.

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Then there is Arwen, who "presents the softer virtues of femininity: she's beautiful, gentle, and longsuffering. … Through her character, Tolkien shows us the challenge and the value of virtue and sacrifice." Arwen "represents a pillar of calm that is a source of strength for her man," writes O'Donnell. "Her great contribution to the war is the strength she provides to the future King." O'Donnell seems to anticipate the feminist eye-rolling and goes on the defensive: "Just because women can be warriors doesn't mean they have to be."

What's most interesting is that, despite waxing poetic about the Middle Earth equivalent of stay-at-home moms, O'Donnell seems to identify more with Eowyn, "Arwen’s opposite." While Arwen is "content to stay at home," Eowyn "feels caged in her role as nursemaid to an ailing king." It's easy to see how this character might inform O'Donnell's personal mythology: "She displays an absolute refusal to watch her country fall down around her while she is doing nothing," she says. "Rather than live a stifled life behind the city's walls, she seeks an honorable death fighting for her people: 'Give me liberty or give me death'" Having endured to pressure to be more like Arwen, "it is only when she reconciles her femininity with her warrior spirit that the torment is gone, and her true womanhood is discovered."

O'Donnell is clearly a determined striver, but it seems she also romanticizes traditional female roles. It's kinda like Sarah Palin claiming to be a regular ol' hockey mom at the same time that she was running for vice president of the United States -- indeed, some are calling O'Donnell "the next Sarah Palin." For now, all I'm comfortable concluding is that she's an Eowyn running on an Arwen platform.


Tracy Clark-Flory

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