The Madwoman In The Attic: The Woman Writer, By Susan Stoker

analytical Essay
735 words
735 words

To look at Stoker's female characters, one has to take into account the Victorian ideas of gender performance. An age named after its long-reigning female ruler Queen Victoria, the Victorian period was anything but a women's world (Abrams 1). Queen Victoria may have been the figurehead of the nation and the era, but that did not mean that the rest of the public sphere was a welcoming place for women in general (Abrams 1). A woman's place was in the domestic sphere (Abrams 3). She was the so-called angel of the house as Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar point out in their work The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the
Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination:
The angel in the house is a woman in white […] her dutiful chastity manifested …show more content…

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that the victorian period was nothing but a women's world. queen victoria was the figurehead of the nation and the era, but she wasn't welcome in the public sphere.
  • Analyzes how the victorian angel of the house was not the only view of women in the time. the new woman heralded a new age for ambitious women.
  • Analyzes how stoker's novel can be read as a warning against the new woman. lucy and the vampire women are too aggressively sexual in their behaviour towards men. mina seems to remain true to victorian ideals of female sexuality.
  • Analyzes how motherhood was seen as an affirmation of a woman's femininity, as seen by mina harker in dracula.

They had the roles of wives and mothers (Abrams 6). Motherhood was an affirmation of a woman's femininity (Abrams 6). She may have been a wife before but her duty as a woman was only fulfilled when she had a child to care for (Abrams 6). Women who were not able to conceive were pitied and seen as a failure (Abrams 6). Childless women were often urged into the role of governess or nursery maid to make up for their loss (Abrams 6). Motherhood as seen as an innate urge of women is also remarked upon by Mina Harker in Dracula when she comforts Arthur Holmwood after his fiancée, Lucy Westenra, dies: "We women have something of the mother in us that makes us rise above smaller matters when the mother-spirit is invoked; I felt this big, sorrowing man's head resting on me, as though it were that of the baby that some day may lie on my bosom, and I stroked his hair as though he were my own child" (Stoker …show more content…

A so-called New Woman started to emerge and with her the idea that women could become independent and inhibit a space outside the home (Buzwell). This emergence of the New Women heralded a new age for ambitious women. As Lynn Abrams in an article for the BBC states: "The aim of first-wave feminists was to gain better education and employment opportunities for middle-class women, better working conditions and wages for working-class women, and eventually the vote - so that women might have some influence over their fate" (9). This New Woman can also be seen in Mina who works as a schoolteacher (Stoker 55), typewrites (Stoker 55), uses a stenograph (Stoker 55) and assists the men in their work (Stoker 208). However, the operative word here is assist. Although Mina exhibits many traits a New Women would have, she is still confined by Victorian norms. She is the men's assistant and more often than not excluded and not included in their vampire hunt. Mina symbolises an interim state between the Victorian angel and the feminist New Woman – not completely independent but not entirely domestic

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