The Stone and the Scorpion: The Female Subject of Desire in the Novels of Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy

By Judith Mitchell | Go to book overview

replaced by a hopeless bitterness. Certainly the "artificial system of things" is partly to blame for his disaffection, but in examining his novels for traces of desiring female subjectivity, we can see that Hardy's own inability to break free of patriarchal psychic configurations constitutes his most restrictive limitation.


NOTES
1.
See, for example, Elaine Showalter's well-known objection to Irving Howe's praise of the opening of The Mayor of Casterbridge ( "Unmanning" 102).
2.
T. R. Wright contends that the heroines of Hardy "middle period" (from Far from the Madding Crowd to Two on a Tower) progress beyond the mere objecthood of the earlier novels to full-fledged erotic subjectivity. "From Bathsheba Everdene onwards," Wright remarks, "Hardy's heroines are not content simply to remain passive. They actively enjoy exploiting their charms, increasing the element of mystery which they recognise to be part of their fascination, exercising power and control over their male victims" (49). But within the terms of my study such an ability to manipulate male desire by the female object constitutes female subjectivity only in the most traditional view of gender relations; I think it would be more accurate to speak of a "progression" from voyeurism to fetishism in these novels, as I shall show.
3.
For a detailed exploration of Hardy's use of free indirect speech, see Christine Brooke-Rose, who, although she does not discuss this device specifically in terms of gender, acknowledges the "rare examples" of it in connection with Sue's presentation, while Jude is "treated constantly" with it ( "III Wit"38-42).
4.
Rosemarie Morgan labels Bathsheba's blushing look in the mirror "auto- eroticism" (35). It may well be, but as we only have Gabriel's perceptions of Bathsheba's thoughts and feelings and not her own, the overall erotic impression of the scene remains voyeuristic.
5.
For example, Rosalind Miles refers to "the perennial tension of Hardy's ambivalence about women" (36); Marjorie Garson suggests that "Hardy's fiction expresses certain anxieties about wholeness, about maleness, and particularly about woman" (3).
6.
Janet Freeman, too, stresses that the ability to "see" Tess correctly functions "as if it were a test, a measure of value. . . . None of [the male characters] sees her as she is. That distinction is reserved for Hardy himself" (314-15).
7.
Kaja Silverman comments of the seduction scene that "the action taken by Alec . . . has assumed the status of a seduction in some analyses of the novel not so much because Tess's 'own' sexuality seems at any point engaged, as because the narrator entertains a complexly ambivalent relation to that action projected onto her as acquiescence" ( "History"9); more generally, Penny Boumelha notes that "all the passionate commitment to exhibiting Tess as the subject of her own experience evokes . . . in the narrative voice . . . erotic fantasies of penetration and engulfment [that] enact a pursuit, violation and persecution of Tess in parallel with those she suffers at the hands of her two lovers" (120). Jean Lecercle, too, argues that "the violence of style is Hardy's main object in Tess" (2).

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The Stone and the Scorpion: The Female Subject of Desire in the Novels of Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Women's Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents ix
  • 1 - Introduction: The Erotic Subject 1
  • Notes 26
  • 2 - Charlotte Bronte 29
  • Notes 82
  • 3 - George Eliot 85
  • Notes 153
  • 4 - Thomas Hardy 155
  • Notes 207
  • 5 - Conclusion 209
  • Works Cited 213
  • Index 221
  • About the Author 229
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