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V.S. Naipaul's three novels of the 1970s (In a Free State, Guerrillas and A Bend in the River) earned him a reputation as a misogynist. The only sustained critical examination of women in his fiction came in the late seventies and eighties as a reaction to these novels. In this paper I attempt a survey of female characters in Naipaul's fiction across his whole career to establish to what extent this reputation is justified, and whether his harsh treatment of some female characters is matched by equally critical attitudes to male characters. While early conditioning has given Naipaul a traditional view of women’s roles, he cannot be said to show a consistent dislike of women, as his female characters range from the admirable to the repugnant in the same way as his male characters do. Much of the misogyny identified by critics is, on closer examination, attributable to characters rather than Naipaul himself.
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