By Jeannette King (auth.)
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Extra info for Discourses of Ageing in Fiction and Feminism: The Invisible Woman
A. Crackenthorpe, in the journal Nineteenth Century in 1894. She argued that middle-class daughters were being unreasonably restricted by their mothers’ fears, unlike workingclass daughters who were educated about the dangers facing them. 28 But Crackenthorpe recognised that older women could provide a model for the young, rather than an enemy: Who can read the record of what women have achieved almost single-handed in England during the last twenty years – the label dames seules is here both true and distinguished – without feeling proud both of their disinterestedness and of their capacity for work of all descriptions.
Gaskell’s version of sisterhood, moreover, crosses generations more easily than is typical of its second-wave incarnation. When Matty decides no longer to stand in the way of Martha’s relationship with her ‘follower’, her decision not to ‘grieve young hearts’ (p. 50) constitutes a deliberate reversal of the opposition of her father and elder sister to her own love affair with Holbrook. Even Miss Jenkyns withdraws her former opposition to marriage by encouraging Miss Jessie’s marriage to Major Gordon.
The contradictions that remain in Gaskell’s representation of the single woman as the embodiment of the maternal ideal are inherent in Victorian gender ideology itself. By dissociating the maternal function from the biological condition of maternity, Gaskell appears to challenge more deterministic views of gender, while at the same time endorsing the view that the caring function of motherhood is woman’s ‘natural’ role. Neither Gaskell nor Eliot ignores the tropes associated with older women in the dominant discourses.
Discourses of Ageing in Fiction and Feminism: The Invisible Woman by Jeannette King (auth.)