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Literature / The Woman

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The Woman is a 2011 horror novel written by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee. It is about a feral woman who is one day kidnapped by Chris Cleek, a suburban dad, lawyer and hunter who locks her up in his cellar and, with the help of his family, attempts to "civilize" her. He's... not exactly the best man for the job. Violence, domestic abuse, bloodshed and a harsh feminist attack on misogyny and male dominance ensue.

It was made into a 2011 film directed by McKee. Both Ketchum and McKee also collaborated on the script. The film gained infamy at a Sundance Q&A screening, where a woman fainted and a man went on an angry rant at the director.

The novel is the third in the series of novels that started with ‘’Off Season’’ and ‘’Offspring’’, the latter which was a film in 2009.

A sequel Darlin' (not based on any book) was released in 2019.



  • Adaptational Attractiveness: The Woman is considerably more attractive than her book counterpart, who is described as being covered in various scars.
  • All There in the Script: The name of the Cleek's feral daughter is only given in the credits—Socket.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Miss Raton in the film as revealed in a deleted scene. In the book it’s made clear early on.
  • Amoral Attorney: Chris, though most of his evilness is shown outside the courtroom.
  • And Show It to You: The feral woman kills Chris by ripping out his heart and eating it in front of him.
  • Back from the Dead: The Woman was apparently killed at the end of the previous novel Offspring. The beginning of The Woman reveals she survived her injuries.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Gruesomely averted with Belle and Miss Raton.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: The Woman spares Darlin' and Peggy at the end because of this.
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  • Berserk Button: Chris goes ballistic whenever someone tells him he can't do something.
  • Bilingual Bonus: At one point, the Woman says something in unsubtitled Gaelic to Belle and Peggy. The book confirms that she said, "Will you help me, mothers?" since she could tell that Peggy was pregnant.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Misogynists Chris and his son Brian are dead. However, Belle is killed along with Miss Raton, leaving Darlin' and Peggy the only survivors of the family. Rather than having them being rescued and have a better life, they'd rather go with the Woman and Socket into the woods and become feral like them.
  • Breast Attack: Brian tortures the Woman by pinching her nipples with needle-nose pliers, making them bleed.
  • Bystander Syndrome:
    • In the beginning, Brian sees some boys around his age beating up a little girl. He ignores it in favor of playing with a basketball and hoop.
    • Peggy in the book blames her mother for not doing anything after her father raped and impregnated her.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: At the end, Chris drops all pretense of wanting to civilize the Woman, and proudly declares himself a misogynist who believes women should be oppressed by men.
  • Creepy Child: Brian and Peggy. But there's a DAMN good reason why Peggy's a blank staring introvert.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Two in particular: Miss Raton is fed alive to Socket and the dogs by Chris, and suffers a slow and agonizingly long death. And a short while later, Chris meets a truly satisfying end when The Woman rips out his own heart and eats it in front of him. It's very drawn out and you can see the pain on his face the entire time.
  • Dirty Coward: Chris abandons Brian to die so that he can save himself from The Woman. It fails.
  • Domestic Abuse: Chris Cleek is a narcissistic misogynist who regularly slaps Belle around whenever she speaks out of line, encourages his son to act like him, and (highly likely) raped and impregnated his own daughter, Peggy. What's even worse is that he imprisoned his other daughter and made her feral by locking her up in the barn because she was born without eyes.
  • Enfante Terrible: Brian.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Brian is introduced sitting idly by while a gang of bullies assault a little girl. Things just go downhill from there.
  • Eyeless Face: The Cleeks have another daughter who was born without eyes.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Chris.
  • Fingore: Chris loses his ring finger while inspecting the woman's teeth.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Chris remarks that the feral woman, after she's cleaned up and put in a crisp new dress, looks like one of the wives from a polygamist cult.
    • One day before leaving for work, Chris tells Brian "Don't do anything I wouldn't do". Brian then molests the woman, just like his father did the night before.
    • Brian tries to feed the woman a gingerbread man after breaking it in half. Guess how he dies...
    • Near the end when Chris is yelling at Peg, he says that she's just like her sisters. We've only met one sister. Where's the other one?
  • Going Native: At the end of the film, Darlin', the youngest daughter, joins the feral woman and heads off into the woods to live with her. Peggy hesitates, but then starts to follow them as well.
  • Gorn
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: The Woman chops Brian in half at the waist with a lawnmower blade.
  • Hate Sink:
    • Chris Cleek is a corrupt country lawyer who kidnaps the eponymous feral woman, claiming that he wants to civilize her when he actually rapes and tortures her for his own pleasure. Cleek is also a toxic misogynist, striking his wife for crossing him and repeatedly raping his daughter until she became pregnant. He then feeds her teacher to his dogs and his eyeless daughter whom he kept locked away in the barn.
    • The apple didn't fall far from the tree with Brian, who is on his way to becoming just as much of a vile woman-hater as his father. Any sympathy he might have had as a victim of brainwashing by his father goes out the the window at the revelation that he enjoys it. He stands idly by while a gang of boys beat up a little girl, sticks gum in a female classmate's hairbrush just to see how painful it would be for her, rapes the Woman while torturing her with pliers, and laughs gleefully as Miss Raton is ripped apart by Socket.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Chris, and Brian as well.
  • Hot Teacher: Miss Raton.
  • Housewife: Belle.
  • Human Pet: Despite his claims of wanting to civilize her, it's clear this is what Chris and Brian intend to treat the Woman as. The Cleeks also have a daughter born without eyes named Socket, whom they also keep locked up and treat like a dog. In the end, after the Woman is freed, she tames Socket as a loyal dog.
  • Hypocritical Humor: "That is not civilized behavior!" Coming from the man who's keeping a woman locked in his cellar.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The feral woman has no qualms with biting off Chris' finger or Belle's face. For that matter, the other feral woman Chris has locked up doesn't have a problem with eating Miss Raton alive.
  • Jerkass: Chris and Brian.
    • Asshole Victim: They both earned their gruesome deaths at the hands of the woman.
  • Kill the Cutie: Belle.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: Chris pretends that he only wants to rehabilitate the woman, but he blatantly spells out towards the end that he's just a revolting He-Man Woman Hater who likes to keep women subjugated.
  • Only Sane Man: Peggy is the only one who seriously criticizes Chris' capture of the feral woman, what with Belle being too henpecked to stand up to him and Brian being too much like his dad.
  • Obvious Pregnancy: During the boiling showering scene, the Woman stares at Peggy's torso and utters "baby...".
  • Parental Incest: Chris thinks that Miss Raton is insinuating that he raped and impregnated Peggy. The worst part is that he's probably right... and that she's probably right as well. Though, it can be debated on who really impregnated Peggy in this case. Given that Chris has no problem with his own son's behavior, it could also be assumed that Brian molested her. Whatever the case, it is highly likely someone within the family.
  • Parental Neglect: Belle disregards Peggy's pregnancy and berates her for not going to school due to not feeling well.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Belle goes through the whole movie meekly going along with Chris' schemes. But when she finds out that her son was raping the woman and Chris doesn't care at all, she finally snaps and calls him out on everything he's been doing.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Peggy. Poor, poor Peggy...
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The feral woman gets one at the end.
  • Sarcastic Confession: Chris is asked about his bandaged hand at work and makes a joke about having reached out to a "sweet smelling lady" who responded by biting his finger off - this of course is exactly what happened save, presumably, for the "sweet smelling" part.
  • Shrinking Violet: Belle, likely as a result of years of domestic abuse.
  • Sore Loser: Brian loses to a girl in a game of basketball. He retaliates by tricking her into getting gum in her hair, and smiles when she is forced to rip out some of her hair and screams.
  • Standard '50s Father: Chris is a very dark subversion.
  • Stepford Smiler: Both Chris and Belle.
  • The Stinger: A bizarre live action/animation hybrid featuring Darlin' on a boat landing on a desert island.
  • Straw Misogynist: Chris. His claim that he's trying to "civilize" the feral woman is merely an attempt to justify his misogyny, and is played alongside his abuse of the women around him. This is made explicit during the climax, where we see that this isn't the first time he's done this.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Peggy.
  • The "The" Title
  • Torture Porn
  • Turn Out Like His Father: Brian is growing up to be the same kind of misogynistic jerkass that his father, Chris, is.
  • Wild Child: The feral woman.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Darlin' is the youngest and only child of the family who is not affected by Chris' sexism or any abuse for that matter.


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