Fallen angels female wrongdoing in Victorian novels

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FALLEN ANGELS,FEMALE WRONGDOING IN VICTORIAN NOVELS. GRETCHEN H U E Y BARNHILL,Bachelor of Arts With Distinction. University of Lethbridge 2003,Submitted to the School of Graduate Studies. of the University of Lethbridge,in Partial Fulfillment of the. Requirements for the Degree,MASTER OF ARTS,English Department.
University of Lethbridge,LETHBRIDGE ALBERTA CANADA. Gretchen Huey Barnhill 2005,DEDICATION, To my husband Al Barnhill who continues to encourage me to turn my dreams into. In the Victorian novel gender based social norms dictated appropriate behaviour. Female wrongdoing was not only judged according to the law but also according to the. idealized conception of womanhood It was this implicit cultural measure and how far. the woman contravened the feminine norms of society that defined her criminal act. rather than the act itself or the injury her act inflicted. When a woman deviated from the Victorian construction of the ideal woman she. was stigmatized and labelled The fallen woman was viewed as a moral menace a. contagion Foreign women who committed crimes were judged for their lack of. Englishness Insanity evolved into not only a medical explanation for bizarre behaviour. but also a legal explanation for criminal behaviour Finally the habitual woman criminal. and the infanticidal mother were seen as unnatural Regardless of the crime committed. female criminals were ostracized and removed from respectable English society. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS, I wish to express my appreciation to those who contributed so generously to the. completion of my thesis I would like to thank my committee members Dr Morgentaler. Dr Arnold Dr Hosgood and Dr Stovel for their insightful comments and criticisms all. of which greatly added to my thesis, I wish to especially thank my supervisor Dr Goldie Morgentaler who. contributed countless hours as my mentor not only discussing my ideas but who also. read and re read my drafts providing direction and support I wish to also thank Dr. Hosgood who assisted me by directing the historical component of my research and. Peter Scott LLB who tirelessly assisted me by offering his expertise in the legal portion. of my research,TABLE OF CONTENTS,INTRODUCTION 1,CHAPTER ONE THE FALLEN W O M A N 7.
OLIVER TWIST EASTLYNNE TESS OF THED URBERVILLES,CHAPTER T W O T H E FOREIGN W O M A N 49. BLEAK HOUSE UNCLE SILAS,CHAPTER T H R E E T H E MAD WOMAN 74. JANE EYRE LADY AUDLEY S SECRET MAN AND WIFE,CHAPTER FOUR THE UNNATURAL W O M A N 115. ADAMBEDE ARMADALE,CONCLUSION 149,BIBLIOGRAPHY 154,K E Y TO ABBREVIATIONS. A Armadale by Wilkie Collins,AB Adam Bede by George Eliot.
BH Bleak House by Charles Dickens,EL East Lynne by Ellen Wood. JE Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, LAS Lady Audley s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. MW Man and Wife by Wilkie Collins,OT Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. T Tess of the d Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy,US Uncle Silas by Sheridan LeFanu. INTRODUCTION, I like to hear of adventures dangers and misfortunes.
and above all I love a mysteiy,LeFanu Uncle Silas, The dark side of human nature replete with intrigue secrets and mysteries is. compelling Everyone loves a mystery While our better natures may bristle at the. thought of peeking through a keyhole or listening at a closed door the reader s interest is. piqued when he hears Do you want to know a secret A story filled with mystery. murder and passion provides a legitimate form of intimacy with the dangerous side of life. as well as a vicarious participation in the secrets passions and struggles of others. The fascination with the dark side of life is not a recent phenomenon For. centuries mankind has been fascinated by crime The eighteenth century Gothic novel. rape sadism incest ghosts vampirism permanent imprisonment natural. and man made cataclysms and other such inducements to horror. deliciously stirred the sensibilities of readers who had fed too long on the. bland diet of the domestic novel and polite essay Altick Studies in. Scarlet 67, Together with the Gothic novel during the eighteenth century newspapers broadsides. and street ballads sensationalized crime for public consumption Typically broadsides. were peddled at executions detailing the crime as well as the confession of the criminal. embedding within their texts the moral that crime does not pay. The Newgate Calendar first issued in 1773 was a series of books that reported. the details of criminal cases heard at the Old Bailey in London The popularity of the. Newgate Calendar reflected an unmistakable indication of the increasing and enduring. taste for tales of fatal violence Altick Studies in Scarlet 44. Influenced by the success of the Newgate Calendar and in response to the. public s taste for crime the Newgate novel sometimes referred to as the penny. dreadful gained in popularity during the 1830 s The Newgate novel was typically a. narrative of murder or robbery ending with the criminal s demise on the Newgate. gallows Altick 72 The Newgate novel focused on the depravity of crime and like the. eighteenth century broadsides the Newgate novel celebrated the moral lesson that. honesty is rewarded and crime is punished, During the mid nineteenth century the sensation novel gained popularity. Authors such as Wilkie Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon exploited the public s. fascination with violence As Elaine Showalter notes sensation novelists. made crime and violence domestic modern and suburban but their. secrets were not simply solutions to mysteries and crimes they were the. secrets of women s dislike of their roles as daughters wives and mothers. These novelists made a powerful appeal to the female audience by. subverting the traditions of feminine fiction by expressing a wide. range of suppressed female emotions and by tapping and satisfying the. fantasies of protest and escape Showalter A Literature of Their Own. Furthermore the melodramatic style of nineteenth century journalism encouraged. sensationalism Victorian newspapers echoed Disraeli in suggesting that there were two. Englands There was the ideal Victorian society that existed in English minds and the. reality of poverty passion and criminal sensation that existed in the streets Boyle 34. Undoubtedly it was the sensational England that mesmerized readers. Women accused of wrongdoing held a special fascination for the Victorians. Their blend of passion eroticism and danger served to spark the Victorian imagination. Dickens who witnessed the hanging of Maria Manning and her husband Frederick was. much impressed by the spectacle that accompanied their execution In fact in 1852. three years after the event he stated in an article Lying Awake that he was unable to. those two forms dangling on the top of the entrance gateway the. woman a fine shape so elaborately corseted and artfully dressed that it. was quite unchanged in its trim appearance as it slowly swung from side. to side Qtd in Lindgren 9, Dickens s description is a seamless merging of the horror of the execution with the. attraction of the erotic woman The mingling of death and erotic attraction is also evident. in Thomas Hardy s account of the execution of Martha Browne on August 9 1856. I remember what a fine figure she showed against the sky as she hung in. the misty rain how the tight black silk gown set off her shape as. she wheeled half round back Qtd in Kalikoff The Execution of Tess. d Urberville at Wintoncester 113, Both of these descriptions conflate the mysterious and macabre with the erotic woman.
The fascination that the woman criminal held for the Victorians flowed in part. from her deviation from the nineteenth century notion of ideal womanhood The ideal. Victorian woman or the angel of the house was defined by her role within the home. because the family served as a sanctuary for the preservation of traditional moral and. religious values Zedner 12 The qualities valued by Victorian society in the ideal. female were submissiveness innocence purity gentleness self sacrifice patience. modesty passivity and altruism The middle class Victorian woman was to have no. ambition other than to please others and care for her family Zedner 15 According to the. Victorian ideal a woman was to be a monument of selflessness with no existence. beyond the loving influence she exuded as daughter wife and mother Auerbach 185. The woman of the nineteenth century occupied a position of duality within. Victorian culture She was either Madonna or Magdalene pure or ruined familiar or. foreign Within this cultural construct the criminal woman was defined largely by her. departure from the ideal Victorian woman who was passionless chaste innocent. submissive and self sacrificing In contrast to the Victorian ideal the woman who. contravened the idealized conception of womanhood whether by sexual misconduct or. criminal act was viewed as deviant and unnatural She represented an unsettling anomaly. that both repelled and fascinated the Victorians, In this thesis I intend to argue that during the nineteenth century morality helped. to define what constituted a criminal act As a result gender based social norms greatly. influenced societal attitudes towards female wrongdoing Criminality was often measured. by a failure to live up to the feminine ideal of the angel in the house When a woman. contravened societal expectations she was judged far more harshly than her male counter. part I will also touch on how the sex of the author impacted on the representation of. female wrongdoing in the Victorian novel, In addition I will examine the role that class played in defining female. wrongdoing in Victorian novels Typically women of the middle and upper classes who. committed criminal acts in Victorian novels tended to be judged within the private sphere. rather than in the public sphere of the criminal justice system. I will also argue that the woman who committed wrongdoing represented a. disease to the Victorian mind Her wrongdoing was viewed as a poison in society and. she was viewed as the medium of contamination The notion of the woman criminal as a. contagion is reflected in the Victorian novel She was stigmatized and ostracized because. of her deviance from the Victorian notion of the ideal woman and punished by removal. from respectable society Whether she died at the end of her story was executed. transported or sent to the mad house the criminal woman was expunged and the. contagion was removed from society The woman criminal was rarely if ever. rehabilitated and reintegrated into respectable society She represented a rent in the. social fabric of respectable society that could only be restored by her removal. The chapters in this thesis are arranged according to the labels attached to women. who committed wrongdoing At the beginning of each chapter I provide an historical. framework of the social and or legal culture of the day in order to supply a context within. which the literary criticism is placed, In my first chapter I discuss the Fallen Woman in Oliver Twist East Lynne and. Tess of the d Urbervilles arguing that female wrongdoing was defined largely by how far. a woman deviated from the Victorian conception of idealized womanhood and less by the. wrong committed I will also argue that while society viewed these women as fallen and. as morally and socially corrupt they were in fact victims of male domination and. In my second chapter I examine the Foreign Woman in Bleak House and Uncle. Silas I argue that the women in these novels are judged for their lack of Englishness. They are represented in the novels as being outside the parameters of respectable British. society and accordingly they are condemned more for their Frenchness than for the acts. they committed, My third chapter focuses on the Mad Women in Jane Eyre Lady Audley s Secret. and Man and Wife My examination of Bertha in Jane Eyre centers on that text as. supplying a prototype for the Victorian notion of the madwoman In Lady Audley s. Secret and Man and Wife however I argue that both Lady Audley and Hester Dethridge. possess the necessary mens rea guilty mind and commit the actus rea guilty act to be. held legally accountable for their actions I argue that it was not mental instability but. rather the male dominated law that created the explosive natures in these women While. Lady Audley and Hester Dethridge may have been the victims of the social system of the. day they were not the passive victims of their own physiology. My final chapter examines the Unnatural Woman I discuss Hetty Sorrel in Adam. Bede as a representation of the infanticidal woman and Lydia Gwilt in Armadale as an. example of the female career criminal I will argue that the women in these two novels. are portrayed as unnatural They are both represented as passionate with a strong desire. to transcend their class regardless of social barriers and constraints They are judged on. the basis of their departure from the feminine ideal rather than on the basis of their. criminal acts, In all of these novels female wrongdoing is purged from respectable England by.
removal of the woman criminal The woman who committed wrongdoing in the. nineteenth century novel was doubly condemned While male criminals may have been. denounced and expunged from society their acts were not seen as an affront to manhood. In addition I will examine the role that class played in defining female wrongdoing in Victorian novels Typically women of the middle and upper classes who committed criminal acts in Victorian novels tended to be judged within the private sphere rather than in the public sphere of the criminal justice system

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