Woman of Andros Too Slim to Entertain or Enlighten

The title character of Thornton Wilder’s The Woman of Andros is an hetaira, a highly cultured and highly discriminating courtesan of ancient Greece.  However, if you are looking for steamy sex, look elsewhere.

Chrysis is the topic of gossip on Brynos primarily because she’s a foreigner from Andros but also because she reaches above her social and economic status. The islanders could tolerate her allowing favored young men to spend the might if she didn’t put on such airs.

Although she is scarcely above slave status, Chrysis reads and recites poetry and encourages young men to study philosophy and debate the best way to live.

For Chrysis, the debate is academic. She’s 35 and dying.

Chrysis has a younger sister.  Glycerium sneaks out to get away from her too-restrictive older sister. By accident she meets Pamphilus, son of one of the island’s leading citizens. Soon she’s pregnant.

When Chrysis dies,  everyone in her household is sold into slavery.  Glycerium, however is rescued by her lover’s father. He takes her to his home where Glycerium dies giving birth to a child, who also dies.

Wilder’s novel is scarcely longer than a short story. The Woman of Andros has some lovely description and an intriguing glimpse into ancient Greek life, but the slender plot is depressing.

Worse, what plot there is lacks substance to hold up a serious philosophical discussion.

The Woman of Andros
Thornton Wilder
Boni, 1930
162 pages
1930 bestseller #3
My grade: C-

© 2010 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda Aragoni

I read. I write. I think. I make big ideas simple. I help teachers teach expository writing to teens and adults. In my free time, I read and review old novels.

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