19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, No 6 (2008)

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Equivocal Objects: The Problem of Women's Property in Daniel Deronda

Deborah Wynne

Abstract


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.

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