Victims of circumstance: obedient girls and transgressive women in 1860s sensation novels

Attridge, Michelle (2007) Victims of circumstance: obedient girls and transgressive women in 1860s sensation novels. BA dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    The aim of my dissertation is to analyse the female characters in four sensation novels written during the 1860s - The Woman in White (1860) by Wilkie Collins, East Lynne (1861) by Ellen Wood, Aurora Floyd (1863) by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Strathmore (1865) by Ouida - in order to determine the purpose of sensation novels. For example were sensation novels written to highlight the restrictive role of women and protest against Victorian traditional conventions, or were they written to shock a Victorian society which was in love with all things scandalous, thus guaranteeing good sales of their novels? To answer these two key questions I will look at how the female characters are portrayed in each novel, with particular focus on transgressive women who deviate from the Victorian feminine ideal, and obedient women who adhere to the 'angel in the house' model. Furthermore, I will explore how each novel concludes, looking at in particular whether the transgressive woman who breaks the rules of femininity is punished, how she is punished, and why she deviates from the conventions, Victorian society set out for her, in the first place. In the first chapter I will look at the female characters who do conform to Victorian society's ideal woman, and how they are juxtaposed with transgressive female characters, in order to determine how the authors wanted the reader to react to them. In the second chapter I will focus on the women characters who do not fit into either category, in the sense that they are not perfect examples of traditional femininity but are not fallen angels either. I will explore the ambiguities surrounding them, and how circumstance affects the way they act and behave. My third chapter will look at the 'fallen angel', with particular focus on why she transgresses and how she is punished. I will also look at how the author treats her in order to determine what he/she was trying to achieve by writing sensation novels.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries > School of Media and Performing Arts
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2011 12:47
    Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015 11:13

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