Dissenting Women in Dickens' Novels: The Subversion of Domestic Ideology


Given their pedagogical nature, many Victorian novels are politicized; their narratives are filtered through the value schemes, social views, and conscious purposes of their authors. Victorian women were largely expected to dedicate themselves to the social and moral betterment of their families. The woman was supposed to be soft, meek, quiet, modest, submissive, gentle, patient, and spiritual. These expectations were repeatedly endorsed by the advice books of the period, which encouraged people to adhere to "proper" behavior. In an age when fiction was seen as a vehicle for propagating moral and behavioral norms, the Victorian novels frequently presented the woman as the angel in the home. On the surface, Dickens' novels certainly advance the view that women should be subordinate to men. But on closer look, Dickens' works also challenge the Victorian conceptions of how women should behave. This book provides an illuminating analysis of how the Dickens text modifies and subverts conventional Victorian ideology through a convoluted characterization of women that fails to promote domesticity.