Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 18

Thread: Dickens' Most Vacuous Heroine

  1. #1
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Somewhere in the South East of England
    Posts
    1,231

    Dickens' Most Vacuous Heroine

    The Dickens Fellowship of London is holding an event later this year to debate who is the most vacuous heroine in his work.

    http://www.dickensfellowship.org/Eve...acuous-heroine

    Who would you vote for?

    Jackson
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

  2. #2
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Reading, England
    Posts
    2,193
    Tricky,
    I have read:
    • A Christmas Carol
    • Oliver Twist
    • David Copperfield (Agnes Wickfield)
    • A Tale of Two Cities (Lucy Manette)
    • Bleak House (Esther Summerson)
    • Hard Times
    • Great Expectations
    • Our Mutual Friend


    There's a heroine in Oliver Twist who is so vacuous that I can't remember her name so it would have to be her. She was in the boring middle part. Esther Summerson is not too bad really. Lucy Manette has to be pure and vacuous or how could Sydney Carlton loathe himself so much for having syphilis? Agnes Wickfield and Dora Spenlow would appear to reflect Dickens' own marital problems, so it is unfair to castigate them. Say Dora was Dickens' wife, Catherine Hogarth and Agnes Wickfield was Ellen Ternan, the girlfriend. Dickens was apparently very moved when he re-read David Copperfield before starting Great Expectations, which was just after he split from his wife and took up with his mistress, so there might be something in that. I cannot remember the name of heroine in Hard Times, but she has been damaged by her upbringing, so it's unfair to blame her. Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend had quite tough female characters. I think Dickens was getting criticised for weak female characters while he was alive. I read somewhere Charlotte Bronte had a go at Esther Summerson.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  3. #3
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Beyond nowhere
    Posts
    5,903
    I think you mean Rose Maylie, Olivers Aunt. I agree with you.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rose_Maylie
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  4. #4
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Somewhere in the South East of England
    Posts
    1,231
    What makes many of Dickens’ heroines boring and unconvincing is not so much that they are vacuous as that they lack any individuality, other than their circumstances, which are typically being uncomplaining victims.

    Emma Haredale is the formal heroine of Barnaby Rudge – she is rescued by the hero from danger and marries him. I don’t think she has a single line of dialogue. She has no character any more than Rose Maylie (who is irrelevant to the plot), Madelaine in Nicholas Nickleby or Mary Graham in Martin Chuzzlewit.

    At last Dickens recognised his weakness and describes and mocks his infatuation with a pretty, vacuous girl in the person of Dora. Dora may be a vacuous girl, but as a character she is up with the best of them with Jingle, Bumble, Swiveller , Mrs Nickleby, Mrs Gamp, Miss Havisham and the rest. She is genuinely funny. And – a stroke of genius – she recognizes as she is dying what David can never admit – that he should never have married her. I don’t find that at all sentimental. I find it convincing and very moving.

    Having got over his sentimental attitude to young women by creating Dora, Dickens can then go on to create Estella, Flora Finching and Bella Wilfer. (We still have Rosa Budd and Lucie Manette though.)

    Jackson
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

  5. #5
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Reading, England
    Posts
    2,193
    I liked Dora, for me she was the best character in the book.
    Last edited by kev67; 01-20-2018 at 12:40 PM.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  6. #6
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Somewhere in the South East of England
    Posts
    1,231
    Esther Summerson may be toe curlingly embarrassing with her sentimentality but she isn't vacuous. Her eagerness to please can be seen as a reaction to her horrendously emotionally deprived childhood and she can see right through frauds like Skimpole, Mrs Jellaby and Mr Turveydrop. She is also the only Dickensian heroine not to be pretty and lose what looks she has with smallpox, although I wish she wasn't so twee about letting us know.

    The role of uncomplaining beatiful female victim in Bleak House is not Esther but Ada. I find her very boring as a character, but I appreciate her situation as a result of her love of Richard (a middle class Dick Swiveller with a tragic ending and not so amusing on the way.)

    Jackson
    Last edited by Jackson Richardson; 01-20-2018 at 10:24 AM.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

  7. #7
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Beyond nowhere
    Posts
    5,903
    I think all these vacuous Dickensian girls obeyed a model of 19 C heroines. Almost each of his novels contains at least one of them. As a contrast the Bröntes created heroines with stron wills and strong personalitys.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  8. #8
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Reading, England
    Posts
    2,193
    Quote Originally Posted by Danik 2016 View Post
    I think you mean Rose Maylie, Olivers Aunt. I agree with you.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rose_Maylie
    Yes, that's her.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  9. #9
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Tweet @ScherLitNet
    Posts
    23,904
    Quote Originally Posted by Danik 2016 View Post
    I think all these vacuous Dickensian girls obeyed a model of 19 C heroines. Almost each of his novels contains at least one of them. As a contrast the Bröntes created heroines with stron wills and strong personalitys.
    I agree with you, Danik. In Dickens' novels, female characters are often props, either supporting or hindering the main character, often shallow and weak. Dare I suggest they reflect Dickens' view of women in his life?

    For me, TGE is the novel with most worthy female characters, which is, I realise, the opposite of what the OP is asking.

    That event does seem interesting
    Might consider attending.
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  10. #10
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Somewhere in the South East of England
    Posts
    1,231
    I'm still bemused as to what TGE is.

    Googling for it I came up with this letter to the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/society/...seeking-refuge
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

  11. #11
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Somewhere in the South East of England
    Posts
    1,231
    TGE = Great Expectations?

    In Victorian women novelists i do not get that sense of women characters without individuality. Compare Hetty Sorrel in George Eliot's Adam Bede with Little Em'ly in David Copperfield. Both working class fallen women, but Hetty has a full inner life, pretty limited person that she is.

    I've just noticed Dickens' fondness for calling women "Little". Nell Trent, Emily Peggotty and Amy Dorrit. Mind you, Amy and Nell both have to struggle heroically with the failings of their father figure.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

  12. #12
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Tweet @ScherLitNet
    Posts
    23,904
    Quote Originally Posted by Jackson Richardson View Post
    I'm still bemused as to what TGE is.

    Googling for it I came up with this letter to the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/society/...seeking-refuge
    I am sorry. I meant to say GE (Great Expectations). Typing on the Forum app is tricky at times.

    I remember reading that Dickens was a serial womaniser and treated women in his life less than honourably at times so it's no surprise that female characters in his novels do not get treated very fairly.
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  13. #13
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Tweet @ScherLitNet
    Posts
    23,904
    There are Victorian male novelists who produced strong female characters. "Vanity Fair", for example. Or "The Way We Live Now" and "Tess of the D'urbervilles" (though printed a little later, I think?).

    So, I am not sure it is a simple case of female authors creating stronger female characters.
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  14. #14
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Beyond nowhere
    Posts
    5,903
    Just to amuse yourselves here is the ideal of the Victorian Woman:cademic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/novel_19c/thackeray/angel.html

    And here is what Virginia Woolf wrote about it:
    https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/woo...chapter27.html



    Cute avatar, Jackson!
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  15. #15
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Somewhere in the South East of England
    Posts
    1,231
    Thank you for that Danik. When I studied To the Lighthouse at school it was an aspect of Mrs Woolf (as we were taught to refer to her) that wasn’t mentioned. (Although Mrs Ramsey in To the Lighthouse seems to be a Bloomsbury Angel in the House, as far as I remember.)

    But I wonder if it is relevant to Dickens’ vacuous heroines. The Angel in the House may be an infuriating stereotype, but running a home with affection and efficiency requires character and backbone.

    Dora Spenlow is hopeless as a housekeeper, despite all her efforts. She seems to me a parody of the pretty, vacuous heroine. I doubt whether Dickens’ earlier drippy heroines would be any better.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. The Heroine of Jienda. (With light illustrations)
    By gene777 in forum Short Story Sharing
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: 06-13-2013, 04:45 AM
  2. Favorite Literary hero/Heroine ?
    By waterfallin in forum General Literature
    Replies: 20
    Last Post: 10-05-2009, 08:03 PM
  3. The Ultimate Bronte heroine?
    By brambleshire in forum Villette
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 01-05-2008, 07:26 PM
  4. If The Above Were A Superhero/Heroine
    By Pendragon in forum Forum Games
    Replies: 55
    Last Post: 11-15-2007, 02:26 PM
  5. The heroine
    By sumalan monica in forum Jane Eyre
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: 11-14-2007, 05:16 PM

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •