In nineteenth-century England, masculinity embraced a variety of components, including race, class, and gender. The concept of “manliness,” essential to the Victorians, underwent some changes: “To the early Victorian it represented a concern with a successful transition from Christian immaturity to maturity, demonstrated by earnestness, selflessness and integrity; to the late Victorian it stood for neo-Spartan virility as exemplified by stoicism, hardiness and endurance,” explains J.A. Mangan (1).
In late Victorian and early Edwardian culture, Englishness itself was identified with masculinity and manliness and as such it became an important marker of literature. Fiction of this period addressed the paradigms of English masculinity and its modeling. The combination of virility, manliness and social respectability is explored throughout the works of many writers of the period. Men continue to find themselves trapped by the construct of a “gentleman”: a “strict doctrine of male virtue placed tremendous pressure on men, who represented in a sense the purveyors of patriarchal respectability,” as Annette Federico notes (56). Englishness as an identity is based upon the ideal of the gentleman and male characters of this period comply with this ideal. In the world of a rising middle class, imperial conquests, shifting gender roles and economic changes, it was getting harder for men to achieve the ideal of being gentlemen.
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...de murder, burglary and even incest.
SELDEN: (JUXTAPOSE FOR STAPLETON)
Conan Doyle complicates the construction of masculinity with the possibility of atavism in the novel. There is an anxiety about the ‘atavistic reversion’ of manhood1 that threatens normative masculinity represented by Sir Henry. Stapleton, an aristocratic descendant, is juxtaposed to Selden, a murderer and escaped convict. Selden’s physical description associates him with degeneration: “an evil yellow face, a terrible animal face, all seamed and scored with vile passions. Foul with mire, with a bristling beard, and hung with matted hair, it might well have belonged to one of those old savages who dwelt in the burrows on the hillsides” (Doyle 96). He is indeed a representation of primitive, prehistoric men, capable of committing crimes of “peculiar ferocity and . . . wanton brutality” (Doyle 57).
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