The Victorian masculine woman in Wives and Daughters, Middlemarch, and Jude the Obscure
Bartlett, Christina Nichole
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According to Judith Butler, both today's progressive society and the industrialized British Victorian era use binary genders to create a system of heterosexual reproduction that ensures the survival of the species. In Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters, George Elliot's Middlemarch, and Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure the main female characters rebel from the bourgeois feminine gender roles of the beautiful wife and nurturing mother, expressing a preference for the masculine pursuit of intellect. Without a corrective motherly feminine influence, Molly Gibson, Dorothea Brooke, and Sue Bridehead delve into the masculine realms outside of the conventionally feminine domestic sphere. Neglecting their dress and other standards of loveliness, their masculinized bodies do not reflect the encoded bodily messages of their feminine middle-class standing. When confronted with the contrast of the excessively feminine charms of Cynthia Kirkpatrick, Rosamond Vincy, and Arabella Donn; the masculine scholarly interests of the heroines appear sexually unattractive and lowers their wifely value. However, once the heroines are introduced into the scripted interaction of heterosexual relationships, jealousy of their feminine rival and societal punishment for their gender confusion causes Molly, Dorothea, and Sue to acquiesce to proper middle-class respectability. Although confined to the boarders of middle-class femininity, Molly and Dorothea find methods of masculine intellectual expression in their companionate marriages, while Sue, resigned to her subjugated fate, suffers in an inequitable marriage.
Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of English