Adultery as a Literary Theme Analysis

Terminology

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Discussion of adultery in literature must recognize a far-reaching network of terms and categories into which the term “adultery” fits, and in which it must be differentiated. On the one hand, there are terms such as “desire,” “passion,” “sexuality,” and “sexual liaison.” Taken by themselves, such terms could be encompassed by a category such as the erotic in literature, or even pornography. The identity involved is the individual’s alone. On the other hand, however, lie such terms as “marriage,” “family,” social contract and “religious covenant.” These point to the fact that adultery (sexual relations with someone other than one’s spouse) is a social act, and literature deals with the social or socioreligious repercussions of unfaithfulness in marriage as well as with questions of individual identity. Shifts in the social identity of the adulterer or adulteress are ultimately shown to be of more significance than the personal in certain literary genres and historical periods.