Women and Authority: Moll Flanders, Emma, and Jane Eyre College
The struggle between women and authority has been a central concern for novelists throughout the ages, yet the rise of the novel in the 18th century brought with it the increase in number of female narrators and authors, giving women a platform from which to voice issues surrounding misogyny and misrepresentation. Since its publication in 1722, readers of Daniel Defoe’s Bildungsroman Moll Flanders have debated the feminist implications of the text, and although ‘female sociological conditions are an inevitable focus’, arguably Moll adheres to the gender roles dictated by the dominant ideology of her historical time. I would argue that the female authors Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë create protagonists who, unlike Moll, redefine the traditional structure of female authority. In Austen’s 1815 comic novel Emma, although the protagonist is in a unique hereditary situation, her financial situation allows her to present a strong sense of agency over her middle-class rural surroundings. Similarly, the Victorian proto-feminist novel Jane Eyre is a text which does more than simply give a voice to a victim of the patriarchy through Brontë transferring both financial and domestic power from the dominant grasp of Rochester to the hands...
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