“London’s ‘A Wicked Woman’: A Reading Response”
Jack London’s “A Wicked Woman” is a short story depicting the troubled love life of a young woman named Loretta. London rapidly introduces the reader to a large cast of characters in the first two paragraphs. I found this story similar to a modern pulp fiction romance novel. London lures the reader into feeling sorrow for Loretta’s troubles. I had questions roaming in my mind pondering what Billy might have done to Loretta, to leave her broken hearted. As the story unfolds, I have this feeling that this story, in contemporary times, would be featured on the Lifetime Network on cable television.
The story opens with Loretta visiting her older sister, Daisy, and Daisy’s husband Captain Kitt. Loretta has broken with Billy; she is heartbroken and comforted by Daisy. Captain Kitt thinks she is too young to marry and has Loretta shipped off to stay with the Hemingways because there will be no Billy there. This section of the story is very confounding to me. Who are the Hemingways? Their relationship to Daisy and Captain Kitt is never explained. Alice Hemingway is not the nice friend that Captain Kitt thinks he knows. She sees Loretta’s perceived innocence as something that can be exploited, “…so innocent a young thing that were it not for her sweet guilelessness she would be positively stupid” (136). Here London introduces the final character, Edward “Ned” Bashford. Alice writes a letter to Ned, an ex-lover, inviting him to come and enjoy some fishing and swimming. Ned is described as having certain contempt for women, but will “accept them as appearances and to make the best of it” (136). Alice adds, at the end of her letter, that she has a very innocent girl to exhibit to him. Alice is attempting to get Loretta into relationship with Ned. I think this is a conflict with the reason why Loretta was sent to Alice.
Loretta starts to come into her own at the Hemingways. She is beginning to have...