Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Jane, woman, new, Rebecca, Margaret
This thesis focuses on women struggling with social rules and gender restrictions in Victorian and Edwardian English manor houses. The culture of the manor home had an incredibly powerful impact on the female protagonists of the literary texts I analyze, and in this thesis, I demonstrate how it stifled the growth and agency of women. With the end of the age of the British Great Houses in the twentieth century, there was the simultaneous rise of the New Woman, an emerging cultural icon that challenged conservative Victorian conventions. With the values and ideologies surrounding the New Woman in mind, this thesis analyzes the protagonists of Jane Eyre, Howards End and Rebecca in order to present the infiltration of the New Woman in the Great House genre, and how she brought about its end. The progression of the texts is quite significant, as Daphne du Maurier drew heavily from the gothic tradition of the nineteenth century to write Rebecca, a ghostly retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. E.M. Forster’s Howards End is included in between these texts in order to present Margaret Schlegel, an Edwardian woman who confronts, and struggles with both images of Victorian and New Woman femininity. Throughout the thesis there is a concern with gender, specifically in terms of performativity, gendered spaces within the Great Houses themselves, and in analyzing this, I seek to apply the image of the New Woman to the characters of Jane Eyre, Margaret Schlegel, Mrs. de Winter, and Rebecca so as to demonstrate the damaging and oppressive culture within the gilded cage of the Great House tradition.
Billings, Katelyn, "A Gilded Cage: A Feminist Analysis of Manor House Literature" (2016). Honors Theses. 121.