Equivocal Objects: The Problem of Women's Property in Daniel Deronda
Deborah Wynne is Reader in English at the University of Chester. She is the author of The Sensation Novel and the Victorian Family Magazine (Palgrave, 2001) and has published essays on Dickens, Gaskell and the sensation novel. Her chapter on The Spoils of Poynton is forthcoming in the Critical Companion to Henry James: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, ed. by Kendall Johnson and Eric Haralson. She is currently working on a book provisionally titled Equivocal Objects: Women and Portable Property in the Victorian Novel.
Written between the passing of the first Married Women's Property Act in 1870 and the second Act of 1882, Eliot's final novel, Daniel Deronda (1876), offers a powerful depiction of the social and legal disabilities faced by women. Her representations of objects and objectification centre on the concept of property, not only portable property such as jewellery and clothing, but also the idea of women themselves as property to be exchanged within the Victorian social system. This essay suggests that Eliot's awareness of the anomalies of the law and the equivocal positions held by women in terms of property ownership informs her depictions of the things women possess, and the sorts of meanings generated by objects. The essay argues that in Daniel Deronda Eliot offers a powerful critique of women's exclusion from the patriarchal processes of primogeniture, and that her ironic use of terms such as 'own' and 'self-possession' in relation to her female characters helps to emphasise her need to move beyond the heroine who renounces the things of this world.
How to Cite:
Wynne, D., (2008). Equivocal Objects: The Problem of Women's Property in Daniel Deronda. 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century. (6). DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/ntn.473