In the 19th century __a new__ conceptionof femininity emerged. Trapped in the private sphere of the house, the womanwas expected to be a provider of love, a caring mother to her children and afigure of purity and chastity who unconditionally loved and supported herhusband, submitting to his every wish and desire.
In other words, she was expected to be the perfect Angel in theHouse1.Any woman that threatened the role imposed to them by the Victorian societyturned into/became a fallen woman. Shewas expelled from her own home and ostracisedby the society, becoming a pariah whose only destiny was to die.
Therefore,a myth emerged around/surrounding this woman during this time: once a womanlost her virtue and innocence, Victorian conventions dictated that salvationcould no longer be found in life. Most commonly, she would find redemption in awatery grave.In this essay, I will be discussingthat despite of the efforts of some Victorian painters of mercifully portrayingfallen women, in the end, they perpetuated a myth that was created “by aneurosis of a culture that…feared female sexuality and aggression” (Auerbach157).
As mentioned, there were adovacatesot the fallen woman among the artistic Victorian community. Painters such asAugustus Leopold Egg and George Frederick Watts “recognized the complex emotions within the fallen woman and hersituation” (Lee) and depicted this woman in a compassionate way. Throughtheir representations of falling women lying dead on the shores of the Thamesnot only did these painters brought this Magdalene back to the saintly pedestalshe had fallen from, but also denouncedthe hypocrisy of the Victorian society which proclaimed righteous withoutoffering none of it. The fallen women was a victim of a moral righteous andunforgiven society. Why drowning? Self-drowning was not the principal method women chose to end their lifein Victoria era, but poison look for reference and add.Death by self-drowning wasconnected to madness and love melancholy. As argued by Gates “if men had beentheir main reason to exist…losing them meant indifference to life” (Lovelorn Suicidal Women). Victorian thoughtdrowning was associated with the idea of drowning was associated with baptism.
Water, a powerful Christmas symbol, associated with the washing of the sins, symbolizesspiritual cleansing. Moreover, in the nineteenth century Victorian society,water was strongly associated with femininity. The fascination withfemale drowning can be related to the Victorian patriarchal society. Drowningwas seen as a passive and non-violent way of ending one’s own life. Even indeath women were described as meek and feeble creatures. Thus, “the Victorian iconography of femalesuicide by drowning can be regarded as an important discourse, through whichsuch ideas were propagated” (Messen 104).
One of the most famousrepresentations of female suicide is John Everett Millais’s Ophelia(1851-1852), which was inspired by Shakespeare’s Ophelia from Hamlet. Shakespeare was extremely popular with theVictorian audience, hence, it is no surprise that Ophelia was the subject of somany Victorian painters. In his painting, Millais capturesthe moment of Ophelia’s death. Hamlet’s tragic heroine is submerged in thewater of the brook, the garland made of “crownflowers, nettles, daisies, andlong purples” (Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 7,line 165) floating by her side, surrounded by the beauty described by Gertrudein the play during her recount of Ophelia’s death to Laertes. “There is a willow grows aslant abrookThat shows his hoar leaves in theglassy stream.There with fantastic garlands didshe comeOf crowflowers, nettles, daisies,and long purples,That liberal shepherds give agrosser name,But our cold maids do “dead men’sfingers” call them.
There, on the pendant boughs hercoronet weedsClambering to hang, an envioussliver broke,When down her weedy trophies andherselfFell in the weeping brook. Herclothes spread wide,And mermaid-like a while they boreher up,Which time she chanted snatches ofold laudsAs one incapable of her owndistress,Or like a creature native and induedUnto that element. But long it couldnot beTill that her garments, heavy withtheir drink,Pulled the poor wretch from hermelodious layTomuddy death.” Inthe play, after her father’s murder at the hands of Hamlet, the lover who abandonedher due to her loyalty to her family, overtaken by madness, Ophelia lets herbody be taken by water. She walks passively to her death. Ophelia can be seenas the archetype of the fallen woman in the mid-Victorian era. Having lost herinnocence – as Valerie Messen points out”throughout the play Hamlet there are some indications that Ophelia has losther innocence” (30), such as one of the ballads intoned by her/the self thatcan mirror her own situations since it’s about the seduction of a young maiden-, as any fallen woman, only in death can Ophelia now find comfort. Anotherclue that leads to believe that Ophelia was indeed a fallen woman is one of theexpression used by Gertrude to describe thedrowning.
She used the expression “mermaid-like” – “her clothes spreadwide,/And mermaid-like a while they bore her up” (Hamlet, Act 4, Scene, line172-73). Ophelia singing reinforces thecomparison to a mermaid or that she was mermaid-like. In Victorianimagination, the image of the mermaid symbolized the fear of femininesexuality. In a sense, the mermaid andthe fallen women are alike since they are “a watery setting, they put theirbodies on display, and they were the objects of a judgemental gaze” (Cooper194).
Thefollowing paintings that I shall discuss were all inspired by Thomas Hood’spoem The Bridge of Sighs (1844), a poemthat describes the suicide of a fallen woman who threw herself from the WaterlooBridge. As Barbara T. Gates argues “invisual arts the Thames and its bridges came to represent the end of the linefor such desperate women” (Gates). InFound Drowned2(1849-50) George Frederick Watts depicts a lost Victorian Ophelia driven to awatery suicide out of guilt and remorse.
The painting shows the body of a womanlying stretched on the shoes of the Thames, beneath the Waterloo Bridge/thesame bridge of Hood’s poem. In the gloomy sky of industrialized London, aglowing star shines down on the dead fallen woman, her the only source of thelight in the dark hues painting. The locket in her hand suggests unrequitedlove or the abandonment of a lover. In Watt’s painting, there is a religious symbolism:the fallen woman in stretched in a Christ-like form, martyr to Victorianmorality. The painter shows that eve a fallen woman can find redemption. Thisscene is echoes in the third painting of Augustus Egg’s 1858 series, Past and Present (1858). AugustusEgg’s Past and Present triptych acts as a critique to the Victorian society –it questions the patriarchal institutions that punish the fallen woman, and herdaughters/children too, so severely. Eggs triptych follows the discovery of awife’s infidelity by her husband and her aftermath.
Inthe first panel, the husband learns of his wife’s betrayal, exiling her fromthe family home. In the second scene, set five years later, the father haspassed away, leaving the daughters orphan. The two girls are all lone eventhough their mother is still alive – Victorian law denied maternal custody rights.comparison with Eve Inthe final scene, the mother holds on her arms a child, born of her infidelity,under the Adelphi arches, a place commonfor prostitution and criminality at the time.
She has fallen from herposition of a respectable middle house-wife, nothaving been given the chance of atonement. Behind the mother, it can be seen a poser with the word “victims”written on it, revealing that the painter’s sympathies lie with this woman.She is staring at the moon, symbol of “virginity and chastity” (…) partly through itsconnection with virgin goddesses Artemis or Diana and partly because itslight is cold (130), waiting for the riverwater to wash her away – “if the tide is out of for the moment, it will not befor long; the woman’s beloved moon will see to that” (Gates, Found Drowned).
The fallen woman is passively waiting for her death, in hope to find theexpiation that she could not find in life. A woman passively walking to herdeath can also be seen in Millais’s The Bridge of Sighs. An illustrationfrom Passagesfrom the Poems of Thomas Hood, it depicts a young fallen woman, throwout of her home after an illegitimate pregnancy, standing on the bank on theThames. The tall bridge behind her was popularly known as the Bridge of Sighsbecause so many people chose to commit suicide there.
Comparison withThe Outcast Anotherpainting where Shakespeare’s Ophelia influence can be seen is in Drowned! Drowned!3by Abraham Solomon. The painting takes its title from Gertrude’s lament whenshe tells Ophelia’s brother, Laertes, that she drowned. Solomon’s recreated/painted/depicted/the moment of discovery of the drowned angel. The girl is surrounded by people,her face illuminated by a bullseye lantern. In this painting, Solomon went astep further, by painting the man who ruined the woman’s life (the man standingnear the dog) and his new conquest (a woman standing by his side) that isunaware of what is happening – unware that she may be the next girl founddrowned. Onthe whole, the fallen women depicted are surrounded by an aura of peacefulness(what all painting have in common) and quietude. There is a sense of tranquillity.The bodies of the drowned angels were unharmed by the tumultuous waters.
Through death, beauty and innocence were restored and these fallen women becameonce again angelic figures. never speak ill of the dead. Inthe paintings analysed, these Victorian painters depicted the fallen womanunder a sympathetic light and accused the Victorian society that would ratherban women that didn’t live up to the ideal from their homely haven into themurky and cold waters of the Thames than showing compassion. Thus, instead ofdispelling the myth of the fallen woman (many women shoved by the society wouldend up finding their way in again), and turn the generalized idea that femaleswere passive and submissive figures, they ended up reinforcing a myth that was “invented” by theVictorians in order to remind all women of the eventual demise of those whocould be categorized as sexually transgressive and threatened to destabilizemale order. mencionar conclusão no ínicio/fazer ligação 1 2 3