The Gospel in Dickens
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June 26, 2012


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You know, I had this long rant all planned out about how Lucie is not much better than Lara Croft as far as being purely a product of Male Fantasy. Then, after having thought with it, I realized although it's a deliciously fun ranting topic, I don't really agree with that.
Lucie does not seem to be trapped in domesticity. My original comment along those lines was a little more nuanced. I think she's treated like a child by many of the male characters in the book: Lorry and Darnay especially. I think you are right: she is a woman who, were she real, would have the creation of a perfect home as a personal goal. That being said, she does come unrealistically close to the Confucian (and perhaps Victorian) ideal of "Dutiful Daughter, Good Wife, Wise Mother", and there are only subtle indicators that she might have her own thoughts aside from wanting to demurely satisfy all the needs of her father, husband and children, and her own feelings independent of theirs. What is troubling, although not necessarily true, is the thought that this might be how Dickens really did perceive women--as lesser beings whose purpose revolved around making himself and other males comfortable while quietly smiling and keeping her mouth shut.
What made me step away from railing against her just another cookie cutter example of the vision of the female character as either a Madonna or Whore is that there are parts of the story where she seems to gently contradict the men around her: (Spoilers!)
+The other blog already mentions that she hesitates instead of running directly to her haggard father--there is a personal struggle she has to overcome before nurturing him.
+She almost seems irate with Charles when he badmouths Sydney Carton as a case of carelessness and recklessness on their first night home from their honeymoon.
+She does manage to keep Carton's confession to her a secret from her husband--I've always wondered whether she ever does tell him. This indicates that she does have at least one thing in her "secret heart" that does not belong to her husband or father.

PS. I've posted here before as Scrabcake.

Lucie is one of my less-favorite Dickensian heroines but then I'm not that big a fan of AToTC in the first place. I don't feel like she in particular is trapped in domesticity - there might be a few heroines (Lizzie Hexam, Little Dorrit, etc.) who are moreso, but that actually seems to be more what Lucie WANTS to do (like Esther Summerson).

*jawdrop* Oh, Scrabcake!! I didn't recognize you under your other name. When I first started reading your comment, I thought, "How did Rokujo Lady find her way over here . . . ?" :-) Well, I'm glad you dropped in, under any name! And I particularly like your very last point -- I think there's definitely an innate, secret sympathy between Lucie and Carton that is very interesting and that I wish had been explored more.

Nina, I'm intrigued by the distinction you make between Lizzie & Amy, and Lucie & Esther. Would love to hear more about it, if you feel like it!

Ahaha, sorry, I missed your last comment Gina! Yeah, I can explain what I mean. :) I'm not sure if they had any other kind of opportunities if Lizzie or Little Dorrit would change their ways, but they, compared to Lucie/Esther, are poor and abused and basically trapped. Lucie and Esther are surrounded by people who love them (at least later in life) and they have greater wealth/mobility/ability to decide about their futures. For instance, Esther CHOOSES to stay on at Bleak House and consider the idea of marrying Jarndyce - it's mainly her own personality that compels her to do things she doesn't most want (i.e. thinking she "should" marry Jarndyce, "should" nurse Charley through smallpox, etc.) but theoretically she could do as she pleases. Even Agnes Wickfield has greater obstacles than someone like Esther or Lucie in that there are circumstances beyond her control greatly affecting her fate.

On the other hand, girls like Lizzie and Amy Dorrit are impoverished and therefore trapped in domesticity, the only options available to them. Lizzie is bossed around by her brother and harassed by both Headstone and (to some extent) Eugene. She doesn't have many marketable skills and is mainly desired for her beauty. She CAN'T really choose what she wants because of the society she's living in. The same goes for Amy Dorrit who is literally born into imprisonment. These girls are at the bottom of the social rank (at least in part of their books) and are literally trapped in a tiny selection of options and are surrounded by people (including their own family) who want only to take advantage of them. Like I said, they might do that anyway were they given the chance, but unlike some of the other Dickensian girls, they aren't given that chance.

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