Adultery in Literature and Film

An overview of the theme of adultery as it has been dealt with by literature and film over time.

This paper discusses how, when a book is published today that includes the story of an affair between a married man and/or woman, hardly anyone raises an eyebrow in protest, since, in today’s society, extramarital affairs occur regularly in real life and even more so in literature and films. It looks at how the situation was quite different in earlier centuries when affairs were looked upon much differently, and novels covered the topic of marriage, but not of illicit love affairs. From works such as D.H Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover and modern-day films such as The Good Girl, it attempts to show how the subject takes on a much greater significance in the past than its media portrayal today.
In the 20th century, the theme of adultery has become much more common, especially since it is more acceptable and openly discussed in Western society. However, it many cases, the results are not any more reassuring. In his 1998 novel Rabbit, John Updike has Rabbit cheat on Janice and indirectly cause the death of his daughter. In the second book of the series, he separates from Janice, but cheats on his girlfriend, who is killed in a fire. In the third book, he is prevented from consummating his lustful desires and nobody dies. But in the fourth novel, he cheats on Janice yet again. It is the same theme of adultery as in 19th century literature, but this time the book is written with humor and fun. And, once again, the readers can actually imagine that they, too, could be or have been a character like Rabbit. For Rabbit is the story of every person a mixture of the good and the bad.”