Medusa's Ankles

Byatt, A. S. (Antonia Susan)

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Sirridge, Marjorie
  • Date of entry: Mar-06-1997
  • Last revised: Jan-23-2013


This is the story of the experiences of a middle aged university teacher when visiting her regular beauty salon. A copy of Matisse’s painting, "Rosy Nude" is part of the decor of the salon and is actually what attracts her to the salon in the first place. The main character’s self image and her desire to maintain a natural appearing hairstyle are central to the story.

Her relationship with the owner, who is her personal hair dresser, is also central and the body images of him and others who work in the shop or are customers add interest and color to the story. The conclusion is theatrical and unexpected and points out the many differences in the way we view ourselves and the way in which we are viewed by others.


This story provides a critical look at the importance of self-image to women, especially as they age, and the role of the beauty industry which plays a central role in serving them. It was very useful in our course, The Body Image in Medicine and the Arts.


Primary Source

The Matisse Stories


Random House

Place Published

New York



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