The Angel in the House and the Fallen Angel: Female affiliation versus Heterosexuality in Wollstonecraft‘s The Wrongs of Woman and Sarah Waters‘ Fingersmith
Nebot Dey, Alicia
MetadataShow full item record
The figures of the angel in the house and the fallen angel have been used in women‘s literature to portray the horrors that women had to suffer in patriarchal society. Their legal helplessness implied that their safety remained in the hands of men, who even had the power to declare them insane and, therefore, confine them to a madhouse. Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman (1798) by Mary Wollstonecraft, an illustration of her previous philosophical work A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), is a clear representation of how women at that time sometimes found comprehension and friendship among their own sex rather than in their husbands. Female affiliation as an alternative to heterosexuality is also clearly represented in the Neo-Victorian novel Fingersmith (2002) by Sarah Waters, a contemporary novel portraying the Victorian world. This essay attempts to demonstrate that, despite the importance given to marriage at that time, women found themselves prisoners of their husbands and female affiliation was sometimes a better option to escape that fate. These novels illustrate the concern about the oppressive situation of women at that time and how female affiliation worked as a strategy to overcome such oppression. Nowadays, feminism is already part of modern society, but it is interesting to see how it started to flourish in the 18th century through female writers like Wollstonecraft, who argued that women were not naturally inferior to men, but that they appeared to be so because of their lack of education. Waters provides contemporary readers with an alternative representation of Victorian society in which the main characters represent the invisible and marginalized homosexual women as a metaphor of their condition. In order to analyse this, I will focus on feminist theory to examine social and gender roles, cultural ideas about proper feminine behaviour, the treatment of madness in women, and the genre of the female gothic as a tool to criticise patriarchal ideas.
European research projects
The following license files are associated with this item: