Killing the angel in the house : explores representations of martial violence and domestic abuse in the English Victorian novel and the role that writers of fiction played in the transformation of attitudes and law

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Authors
Nicholl-Stimpson, Julie
Issue Date
2014
Degree
BA (Hons) in Film, Literature and Drama
Publisher
Dublin Business School
Rights
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Abstract
The aim of this thesis is to explore the representation of marital violence and domestic abuse in the English Victorian novel and the role that writers of fiction played in the transformation of attitudes and the law. Using Victorian fiction as a central focus, this thesis explores the role of women and wives in marital violence and the contradictory attitudes of Victorian society towards the harsh cruelty they endured. Secondary to this, I will look at the portrayal of Domestic Violence in Victorian Literature by writers such as Emily Bronte, Charles Dickens‘, and Sarah Grand. Towards the end of the eighteenth century and throughout the nineteenth century ideologies, theories and policies relating to domestic violence against women changed radically. Through modern feminist thinkers of the period such as Mary Wollstonecraft and John Stuart-Mill, they paved the way for a radical judicial overhaul which led to the punishment of offending husbands. Chapter one establishes the oppressive ideals, history and law of surrounding these abuses throughout the period. Chapter two examines Emily Bronte‘s Wuthering Heights paying particular attention to Heathcliff‘s maltreatment of his wife Isabella. In Chapter three I explicate instances surrounding emotional and mental abuse in Charles Dickens Hard times; through Mr. Gradgrind‘s attempts at the mechanisation of the human spirit. Chapter four observes Sarah Grands Ideala as the 'new woman‘ paving the way for other women to live independent lives away from the oppression of Victorian marriage. Ultimately I conclude the role that these writers played in raising awareness, creating a space for discussion and leading to the changing of attitudes and law in the nineteenth century.