An Angel in the Midst of ‘Dark Business’

Lauren Alfred


Gender representations in late Victorian literature have been a widely debated topic with special attention to how women’s roles in these novels both perpetuate and challenge women’s class distinction in relation to men. However, few have analyzed the use of the Victorian ideal of a passive womanhood to shape and inform male gender roles.
My paper will address masculine identity of male characters through their relationships with the female characters in two adventure novels: The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars. Both novels highlight a growing discomfort with colonial interests abroad and feature a feminine character threatened by foreign powers. My definition of the ideal Victorian woman will begin with Martha Vicinus’ essay, “Victorian Masculinity and the Angel in the House” and her representation of the ‘angel in the house’ as a model of love, intuition, beauty, and virtue.
I will argue that this female role not only informs but also creates a masculine identity in the midst of Victorian England where a growing concern about a man’s ability to display the characteristics of strength, valor and gallantry sent many looking to the dark places on the map for true adventure. Through this argument, I hope to reveal the agency in a passive representation of female virtue that gives new significance to her role in Victorian society.


Bram Stoker, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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