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

of the erotic hierarchy and its unworkable inequities for both men and women. The Professor traces the power and the pain of the domination/submission configuration through the experience of the male subject, while Jane Eyre enacts the wish-fulfillment of the female object who is miraculously transformed into an equal subject by the end of the novel. In Shirley the female object's protests against her passive role become too insistent to ignore, disrupting the deceptively smooth conclusion of the novel's events, and in Villette a feminist solution is finally offered to the problem, the solution of a nearly mutual subjectivity in erotic relations.

In Villette the feminine struggle for self-control begun by Jane Eyre and continued with increasing difficulty by Caroline Helstone has become much more complex than simply the effort not to lose a man through the betrayal of feelings. Jane Eyre plays the game of repression and wins, Caroline Helstone plays it much less successfully and nearly loses (amid much bitter protest in each novel against the necessity for such repression), but in Villette we are given a heroine who finally opts out of the game. Lucy Snowe, just as bitterly angry as Jane Eyre or Shirley's implied author about the need to squelch the expression of female desire, at first experiences the kind of love (the "love born of beauty") which demands that she stifle her feelings for Graham, which she does by biting her tongue, swallowing her tears and burying her letters from him. But she then goes on to experience a love that is comfortable and nurturing--at its deepest level a kind of maternal love--and which demands no deception or repression in order to survive. This new love is adult and mutual but also, through its oedipal aspects and its hints of aggression, still erotic; its fulfillment in no way constitutes an anticlimax or a substitute for the real thing (as the final union between Hardy's Bathsheba Everdene and Gabriel Oak appears to, for example), even if we choose to believe in the drowning of M. Paul. 11

Charlotte Brontë courageously explores the complexities of erotic relationships in her work, fearlessly probing both the power and the pain of the male-female domination/submission hierarchy from both the male and the female point of view. Her plain heroines display increasing dissatisfaction with their submissive roles in the erotic hierarchy until finally in Villette, her most powerful and most painful novel, Lucy Snowe achieves a relationship in which she becomes, at least tentatively, the authentic subject of her own desire. In the context of the nineteenth-century novel, this constitutes a major achievement.


NOTES
1.
Ruth Johnston, for whom temporal structure is a key feature of nineteenth- century realism, finds the distinction between Crimsworth's past and present selves much more significant. Johnston's thought-provoking essay is concerned with the way in which The Professor disrupts the usual signifying practices em-

-82-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
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
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
/ 232

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.