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The later evolution of Trollope's female characters

Karen Kurt Teal, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Dickens, Thackeray and Eliot satisfied specific goals in deploying female characters without hearts, accomplishing satirical needs within their texts. Trollope's anti-heroic female characters also fulfill satirical needs within their texts: Lizzie Eustace of The Eustace Diamonds (1873), Winifred Hurtle of The Way We Live Now (1875), Glencora Palliser of The Prime Minister (1876), and Arabella Trefoil of The American Senator (1877) provide, through their struggles, a rich context for cultural critique of the status of women in nineteenth-century Britain. These characters stand at a distance from those female moral paragons of earlier non-comic Trollope novels. I want to argue that these four characters are the culmination of a mainstream consciousness in conflict with its own creative imagination. They are affronts to the usual dicta, yet resisted discussion as a group for various reasons. Narratorial ambiguity reveals, then hides their feminist agendas. Furthermore, rather than make a point with his characters, Trollope preferred to “drive with loose reins” and let the character make a point through him. This concept will be carefully documented. By looking critically at this ambiguity one can see these characters as forming a group rather than remaining anomalies, which encourages a new perspective on Anthony Trollope's subject, his range of tolerance, and his vision. This study accentuates the ironic relation, currently undiscussed, which Trollope had with conventional thought on the binary opposition of the genders. It looks at ways these later characters put pressure on the implied reader's prejudices. There is some disagreement over whether Trollope simply advertised conventional values or questioned them. My study introduces a new way of answering the question. My strategy involves historicizing the characters in their contexts. Each character's predicament will be seen as a criticism of an institution, and will be studied with the help of a framing text. I will examine how Trollope creates in his characters' situations a cultural/ethical dissonance that cannot be resolved by conventional prescriptions for women's lives. Trollope's narrator and implied reader make daring points without producing the sort of texts that were rejected, like those of suffragism, by the public.

Subject Area

British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Teal, Karen Kurt, "The later evolution of Trollope's female characters" (2000). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9960793.