By K. Krueger
This ebook addresses a seriously ignored style utilized by ladies writers from Gaskell to Woolf to complicate Victorian and modernist notions of gender and social house. Their leading edge brief tales ask Britons to reassess the place ladies might stay, how they can be pointed out, and whether or not they might be contained.
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Additional info for British Women Writers and the Short Story, 1850–1930: Reclaiming Social Space
67 Spinsters, consequently, suffered in depictions of their emotional penury: with no husband or children to care for, they must necessarily have no emotional life at all. The spinster became an object of ridicule during this period in large part because the idealized ‘rise’ of the middle class, despite the more complicated demographic realities of the mid-Victorian period, created a concomitant investment in the emotional image of the nuclear family. Popular rhetoric regarding women’s roles in family life elevated 40 British Women Writers and the Short Story, 1850–1930 marriage as the only suitable avenue for women.
This dramatic shift, in a single phrase, rewrites their previous reserve through a contrast that reveals their affection and concern for their dead friend and his surviving family. But, there is also a lie in the phrase ‘no one regarded it’ because, of course, Mary does. Mary ‘regards’ in two senses: she both observes the moment, and she begins to respect the women in it. She is the one whose initial anecdote focused on the inflated importance of the new carpet, and here, she is the one who subtly undercuts previous assumptions about the frivolity or ridiculousness of these women.
The movement from exterior to interior, from surface to depth, is mimicked in spatial movement as well as character development. These are not static characters; nor are their actions predictable or ossified. They do not move in ruts. Cranfordians are capable of development, change, surprise, and revelation – and therein lay the stories of Cranford, but one must move past the exterior walls and into their drawing rooms and parlors in order to witness such transformations. In order to examine how Cranford’s generic innovations help Gaskell to win sympathy for the neglected figure of the spinster while simultaneously broadening readers’ understanding of the function of the drawing room and the hearthside, I use five pivotal stories from the Cranford series that exemplify the primary generic patterns and thematic preoccupations of the series.