Consider the blonde head severed : subverting beauty in Victorian literature

Part of : Γράμμα : περιοδικό θεωρίας και κριτικής ; Vol.11, No.1, 2003, pages 95-106

Section Title:
Bodies wrestling against social and cultural regulation
While glorification of the womanly ideal of the Angel in the House was wide-spread in Victorian culture, there co-existed with this glorification a resistance to the ideal among nineteenth-century British authors of both sexes. Furthermore, the close associationof blonde hair with the kind of holiness usually attributed to angels elicited among some Victorian writers a corresponding urge to desecrate the beauty of the blonde heroine in particular. This essay argues that the urge to desecrate the beautiful blonde can be seen as a kind of sub-theme in Victorian literature, a subtheme that turns the female blonde into a victim of violence, violence that is often portrayed as her own fault. However, while the destructive violence that the blonde inspires may be interpreted as misogynistic, it also has larger connotations, in that it is not only anti-female but anti-aesthetic as well. My essay argues that the urge to destroy human beauty is not far removed from the urge to destroy beautiful things, a hypothesis that I demonstrate through an analysis of specific works by George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Christina Rossetti and Bram Stoker.
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