Date of Graduation

5-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

English

Advisor

Danny Sexton

Committee Member

Susan Marren

Second Committee Member

Amy Witherbee

Keywords

Social sciences, Languange, literature and linguistics, Charlotte bronte, Elizabeth gaskell, Henry james, Jane austen, Marriage, Womanhood

Abstract

Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Brontë, and Henry James challenged patriarchal conventions and assumptions by redefining womanhood and marriage in their novels, particularly by breaking from the traditional marriage ending. While Pride and Prejudice, North and South, and Jane Eyre end in marriage, these novels depict a freely chosen companionate marriage based on equality; Villette replaces the typical marriage ending with complete independence; and Washington Square and The Portrait of a Lady both portray the decisive rejection of the marriage ideal for a life of renunciation. This thesis analyzes the ways in which these novels challenge nineteenth-century society, as well as the ways they fail to break free from the confines of patriarchy. It looks at the ways in which each novel portrays womanhood and marriage and questions whether the novel presents a realistic alternative for women struggling to attain independence in an oppressive society.

Share

COinS