A Comparison of Different Resistant Readings


When we choose to produce a resistant reading of a text we are doing what is called Reading Against the Grain. Because we are now choosing how we read the text we can choose which elements we want to focus on, which of the assumptions we want to challenge, which of the unconscious things in the text we want to reveal.


There are many different ways of producing a resistant reading. Here are three main ones:

·          A Feminist Resistant Reading will focus on how a text backs up assumptions and stereotypes about the role of women

·          A Marxist Resistant Reading will focus on how a text backs up assumptions about relationships of power, ownership and control

·          A Psychoanalytical Resistant Reading will focus on what is suppressed or hidden in text, often linking this as Freud did, to sexuality.


Here is an example of how these different Resistant Readings can be applied to the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood.


Because these readings are resistant they do not feel right. We often feel that they are exaggerated or made up to prove a point but there is no reason why these alternative readings of a text are any less valid than our dominant reading.



Little Red Riding Hood





Children should obey their parents because disobedience is dangerous. It is dangerous to talk to strangers. Females are vulnerable but can rely on men to protect them. Males are rescuers. Males are stronger than females and better able to protect themselves and others.

There female figures fall into 3 clear stereotypes of what a woman should be: Mother is a carer; LRRH is a dutiful daughter; Grandma is a helpless victim.


The male figures are: the wolf – a predator who stalks the female child and the woodcutter – who is the typical male hero, rescuing the damsel.


Women are seen as people who should obey instructions. LRRH is implicitly criticized for disobeying her mother, when she was simply exercising childish curiosity.


Women, especially the young, are seen as prizes who can be taken by force.



LRRH, Grandma and Mother own property and have a comfortable life. The wolf is homeless and hungry.


Because of the women’s unwillingness to share, the wolf attempts to satisfy his hunger by taking what he needs to survive – in this case LRRH.


For breaking the rules of ownership, which only work in favour of the rich, the wolf is brutally murdered by a member of the proletariat (the woodcutter) who has been tricked into thinking that he is on the same side as the capitalist property owners.


Parental authority is reinforced as a way of instilling attitudes of submission to authority to help to preserve the structure of society.

LRRH wears red, symbolizing the suppressed pedophiliac desires of male readers.


She enters a dark forest and gathers flowers, a subconscious expression of sexual desire – deflowering.


The wolf attacking LRRH from the bed is clearly suggestive of rape fantasies.


The woodcutter is a strong male father-figure representing an Electra complex on the part of LRRH, i.e. a sexual desire for her father which is clearly unacceptable and so has to be transferred to other men


The violent death of the wolf reinforces this as the father-figure symbolically emasculates his competitor for the child’s affections.