Women and independence in the nineteenth century novel : a study of Austen, Trollope and James
'Women and independence in the nineteenth century novel : a study of Austen, Trollope and James', begins with the concept of independence and works through the three most common usages of the word. The first, financial independence (not needing to earn one's livelihood) appears to be a necessary prerequisite for the second and third forms of independence, although it is by no means an unequivocal good in any of the novels. The second, intellectual independence (not depending on others for one's opinion or conduct; unwilling to be under obligation to others), is a matter of asserting independence while employing terms which society recognizes. The third, of being independent, is exemplified by an inward struggle for a knowledge of self. In order to trace the development of the idea of self during the nineteenth century, I have chosen a group of novels which seem to be representative of the beginning, the middle, and the end of the period. Particular attention is given to the characterizations of Emma Woodhouse, Glencora Palliser, Isabel Archer, Milly Theale and Maggie Verver. Whereas in Jane Austen's novels the self has a definite shape which the heroine must discover, and in Anthony Trollope's novels the self (reflecting the idea of socially-determined man) must learn to accommodate social and political changes, in Henry James's novels the self determined by external manifestations (hollow man) is posed against the exercise of the free spirit or soul. Jane Austen's novels look backward, as she reacts against late eighteenth century romanticism, and forward, with the development of the heroine who exemplifies intellectual independence. Anthony Trollope's women characters are creatures of social and political adaptation; although they do not derive their reason for being from men, they must accommodate themselves to men's wishes. And Henry James looks backward, wistfully, at Austen's solid, comforting, innocent self and forward, despairingly, to the dark, unknowable self of the twentieth century.