Dickens' 'Bad Men': Representations of Elder Women in Dombey and Son and in Victorian Reality

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Cindy Malone


The paper focuses on elder women as "moral scapegoats" and grotesque figures in Charles Dickens' Dombey and Son. It also analyzes representations of younger women, focusing on constraints they face as they choose marriage or "spinsterhood." The essay draws connection between Dickens' characters and modern portrayals of elder women. My analysis is grounded in research including nineteenth-century primary documents (medical writings, essays, journals, newspapers), relevant scholarly works, modern texts, and novels preceding and contemporary with Dombey and Son. In particular, Fanny Burney's eighteenth-century novel, Evelina, along with various eighteenth-century documents are utilized to provide a historical context from which the Victorians emerged. The scanty interest in elder women throughout history makes research difficult but rewarding.

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