Beautiful Blemishes: Gender and Female Criminality in Four Victorian Novels

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Megan Deann Lease (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site:
Jill Ehnenn

Abstract: This thesis analyzes the close connection between female criminality and gender in the Victorian novels Adam Bede, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Lady Audley’s Secret and Armadale. Each of the female criminals in these novels demonstrates gender deviance, while maintaining the appearance of conforming to the standards of femininity. Therefore, under the guise of femininity, these criminals act out gender deviance through cunning and violent behavior, making these female criminals especially dangerous to patriarchy and male homosocial bonds in particular. Also, the rural setting of these novels highlights the growing fear that crime and dangerous activity is not simply a problem of the unruly city. In order to contain these threatening females, the patriarchal gaze is drawn to them in an attempt to penetrate their feminine façade. The working class female criminals in Adam Bede and Tess of the D’Urbervilles are easily caught and punished publicly for their crimes. The middle class females in the sensation novels, Lady Audley’s Secret and Armadale, are more deceptive, demonstrating the ability to reverse the patriarchal gaze, and they both suffer quietly for their crimes against patriarchy. All of these female criminals are seen as dangerous, unwomanly, unchristian, unEnglish and in need of being controlled. Ultimately, this thesis works to begin a new conversation about female criminality and female masculinities and its connections to male homosocial, homoerotic, and homosexual bonds.

Additional Information

Lease, M.D. (2010). Beautiful Blemishes: Gender and Female Criminality in Four Victorian Novels. Unpublished master's thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2010
Gender, Criminality, Female masculinities, Victorian novels, Social class

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