Dombey and Son

Florence's Failed Expectations: The Unfulfilled Daughter Coming Into Her Own in Dickens College

Charles Dickens’ novel Dombey and Son displays the patriarch Mr. Dombey in his obvious and complete disappointment in his daughter. Florence, as the only surviving heir to Mr. Dombey, has no worth to him, which he outwardly acknowledges, yet Florence still pines for his affections and will do anything to earn them, blaming herself for the lack of reciprocation. Other motherless daughters play similar roles in Dickens’ books, like Amy in Little Dorrit and Estella in Great Expectations. These daughters live under harsh pressures from parental or other familial expectations and obligations, which interfere with their autonomy and their ability to grow fully into womanhood. I argue that this results from an unresolved model of triangular desire, as explained by René Girard. Once Dickens resolves this issue, however, if he chooses to do so, the women in his stories can finally come into their own, with less oppression, emerging all the better as people from their childhoods, or pseudo-childhoods, which is often the case. Neither fully child nor fully adult, these dynamic female characters struggle for autonomy while maintaining a kind of authority that is unique to their positions.

Florence is often demonstrated throughout Dombey...

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