The Victorian period is representative for adult females ‘s advancement towards independency in the sense that in that period adult females ‘s desire to hold a life outside their places became more acute, “ adult females claimed rights runing from the franchise to economical and personal liberty, including a adult female ‘s right to command her organic structure. ” ( Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Thought 148 ) Womans were disconsidered by the patriarchal Victorian society and they were confined to the domestic domain. The Victorians were really stiff when it came to a adult female ‘s behaviour, function and topographic point in the society and for them the ideal adult female was “ the angel in the house ” , a term coming from Coventry Patmore ‘s verse form with the same name. The adult female was supposed to take attention of the house and kids, to back up her hubby in any manner possible and anytime and to be above all feminine, that is “ reasonably, delicacy, fragile, soft, nurturing, lovingness, mending, inactive, egotistic, ambidextrous, irrational, powerless. ” ( Encyclopedia of Feminist Literary Theory 151 ) At the terminal of the 18th century Mary Wollstonecraft, who is regarded as the first women’s rightist in history, published her book A Vindication of the Rights of Women where she draws attending to the jobs refering adult female ‘s status. Her book influenced many women’s rightists who in the 19th century began to oppugn the ideal “ angel in the house ” and claimed that adult females have the same rights as work forces and that they should hold the right to an business outside the sphere of the house and to instruction.
The first chapter will be a theoretical one where I shall show the historical and cultural model and the theoretical foundation on which the analysis of the novel will be based. As the theoretical foundation I shall utilize Judith Butler ‘s theory on gender and gender functions. The 2nd chapter will dwell in the analysis of the novel The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins that will be focused on Marian Halcombe. I shall do comparings between Marian Halcombe and the other characters of the book, her sister Laura Fairlie, who is the stereotyped Victorian adult female, and the male characters. These comparings are made with the intent of demoing how Marian ‘s individuality and muliebrity are shaped and whether they are in the criterions of the clip or non. The last portion of the thesis will be the decision.
The status of adult female in Victorian England
1.1The Victorian Feminine Ideal
The purpose of this chapter is to show the manner in which the adult female was seen in the Victorian period, the period of Queen Victoria ‘s reign that lasted between 1837 and 1901, and to specify and depict the Victorian ideal of muliebrity. On the footing of the thoughts and impressions exposed in this chapter I shall demo in the 2nd chapter why Marian Halcombe is non in the criterions of Victorin muliebrity and does non stand for the Victorian feminine ideal.
In the Victorian period adult females were considered to be perfectly different from work forces and what is most of import they were treated as inferior existences because of their organic structures and generative map and harmonizing to Lynn Abrams “ The physical distinction of adult females from work forces was thought to account for the moral and societal differences between the sexes. ” ( 20 ) The construct that if a adult female ‘s organic structure is weak her head is excessively led to a series of misconceptions about adult female ‘s nature and gender function and to the phantom in the 19th century of “ a Europe-wide political orientation that placed adult females in the place. ” ( Abrams 3 ) This “ domestic political orientation ” ( Abrams 3 ) was present in Victorian England excessively and it shaped and influenced the image of the Victorian feminine ideal. The thought that there are biological and mental differences between genders produced the thought that there should be a distinction of gender functions excessively “ a adult female being more delicate, fragile, reserved, yet virtuous, loving, and reasonably was decently confined to the family domain. ” ( Loeb 19 ) Therefore, the Victorian society was constructed on the thoughts that “ adult female was to exert her influence in the domestic domain, while adult male exercised his power in the risky, hostile, public sphere. ” ( Pykett, ‘Improper feminine ‘ 12 )
The Victorian feminine ideal was represented by “ the angel in the house ” , a term coming from Coventry Patmore ‘s verse form, a verse form dedicated to his perfect married woman. The impression of “ angel in the house ” that was at the beginning associated with the adult female from the middle-class but the state of affairs changed by 1850 because Queen Victoria “ was dearly portrayed as the ideal married woman and female parent ” ( Abrams 102 ) and it came to stand for the ideal adult female from all the societal categories. Harmonizing to Nina Auerbach the perfect adult female in the Victorian society was “ an angel, submersing herself in household, bing merely as a girl, married woman and female parent. ” ( 4 ) In short, the perfect adult female was the domestic adult female, who dedicated her full life and resources to the well being of others. She was expected to do a end from delighting others ne’er showing wants of her ain and this meant that she had no power over her ain individual or head.
Lyn Pykett after discoursing William Acton ‘s “ representation of respectable muliebrity ” ( 16 ) presented in his book The Functions and Disorders of the Generative Organs ( 1857 ) claims in her book The ‘improper ‘ Feminine: The Women ‘s Sensation Novel and the New Woman Writing that the ideal of Victorian muliebrity was constructed around “ the construct of ‘proper ‘ feminine or respectable feminine. ” ( 16 ) Harmonizing to this construct of proper feminine a adult female has to be the angel in the house, nonsexual, passionless, guiltless, renunciant, committed to duty, self-denying, dependent, break one’s back, victim ( 16 ) and the list can travel on.
However, in resistance with the proper feminine is what Pykett names the ‘improper feminine ‘ . In the instance of the ‘improper ‘ feminine the adult female is seen among others as devil, a insurgent menace to the household, endangering sexual, pervaded by feeling, cognizing, self-asserting, pursuing, seeking self- fulfilment and ego individuality, independent. ( 16 ) For the Victorians any adult female that transgressed from the traditional gender functions or manifested any mark of rebellion in behaviour or linguistic communication was inscribed in the class of the improper muliebrity. In the 2nd chapter of this thesis I shall demo that Marian Halcombe is the type of adult female that deviates from the traditional Victorian conventions of muliebrity and that she can good be the paradigm of the class of adult females that falls under the umbrella of the construct of ‘improper ‘ feminine.
If the Victorian feminine ideal is the submissive and domestic “ angel in the house ” it is clear that this ideal is come-at-able merely in the context of a matrimony and “ the married province was surely held up as the desirable norm for adult females. ” ( Abrams 89 ) Marriages in that period were seldom based on love and frequently adult females married from economical grounds and to submit to a greater societal position. Furthermore, immature adult females were forced to get married older work forces by their relations and even if they expected to have fondness from their hubbies they more so frequently did non. ( Abrams 81 ) So, the matrimony was a manner to restrict adult females in the domestic domain of the house and at the same clip it was seen as a agency of striping adult female of passion and her sense of gender and “ her gender had to be suppressed and redeemed by taking on the functions of married woman and female parent. ” ( Abrams 157 ) Since the ideal of muliebrity was the domestic “ angel in the house ” , passionless and sexually passive the matrimony was the perfect Victorian establishment that assured its being in Victorian England. Therefore, being the perfect adult female in the Victorian period meant to be a good married woman and female parent and muliebrity was non understood the manner it is today, it was “ modesty, forbearance, selflessness, piousness, domesticity and maternity. ” ( Abrams 40 )
The Victorian feminine ideal was a portion of the domestic political orientation that was present in Victorian England and on the footing of the gender differences adult females had good established gender functions that were discussed in the old paragraphs. These gender functions limited a adult female ‘s activity to the domestic domain “ most businesss outside the place were closed to her. ” ( Loeb 33 ) and whoever adventured outside the house was considered a “ fallen adult female. ” ( Auerbach 9 ) Every decent and good Victorian adult female had to hold and expose the conventional properties of muliebrity if she wanted to be seen by her household and society as the ideal adult female.
Gender and Gender functions