The Divided Heroine: A Recurrent Pattern in Six English Novels

The Divided Heroine: A Recurrent Pattern in Six English Novels

The Divided Heroine: A Recurrent Pattern in Six English Novels

The Divided Heroine: A Recurrent Pattern in Six English Novels

Excerpt

Plato's figure of the charioteer and the horses in the Phaedrus is so richly suggestive, so accommodating of meaning, that it is perhaps not altogether outrageous to lift it out of its context and apply it in non-Platonic ways. The figure concretizes the opposed pulls to which the charioteer is subject; and if in Plato it serves to represent a tripartite soul, it also lends itself to an image of dual being, with the two horses projecting a division within the charioteer, the manner in which he is pulled by two opposing forces. Such a view, indeed, is consistent with what Socrates says earlier in the same dialogue: "Let us note that in every one of us there are two guiding and ruling principles which lead us whither they will; one is the natural desire of pleasure, the other is an acquired opinion which aspires after the best; and these two are sometimes in harmony and then again at war, and sometimes the one, sometimes the other conquers."

In elaborating the figure of the charioteer and the horses, Plato is primarily concerned to describe how the unruly steed, the one that is "of a dark colour" and said to be "bad," repeatedly "plunges and runs away" when the charioteer sees "the vision of love," taking "the bit in his teeth and [pulling] shamelessly." When this happens, Plato envisages two possibilities: either the dark horse gets his way and forces both the charioteer and the white horse (which is said to be "good") "to approach the beloved," making them "yield and agree to do as he bids them"; or the charioteer succeeds in reining in "the wild steed," covering "his abusive tongue and jaws with blood," forcing "his legs and haunches to the ground," and doing this again and again until he is "tamed and humbled" and follows the charioteer's will (pp. 257-58). But the figure also allows for two further -- if non-Socratic -- possibilities: the white horse may succeed in pulling both the charioteer and the dark horse in the direction he . . .

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