Mobility and Modernity in Women’s Novels, 1850s–1930s: Women by W. Parkins

By W. Parkins

Interpreting novels by way of girls writers from the 1850s to the Thirties, this e-book argues that representations of mobility supply a fruitful technique to discover the positioning of ladies inside of modernity and, in particular, the possibilities for (or boundaries on) women's enterprise during this interval, contemplating the mobility of the feminine topic within the urban and past.

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Dinah herself subsequently claims to be called to mobility, drawing on the biblical precedent of the itineracy of the Apostles in the book of Acts to justify her determination to leave Hayslope and return to Snowfield (35). Despite a sense of divine calling, however, Dinah also admits to conflicted feelings about her mobility, acknowledging the dilemma of the competing claims of duty to family and ministry, as well as her own desires and emotional connections to particular places and people. 16 Dinah, ostensibly an independent single woman, is torn between a religious calling that requires mobility and her desire for roots.

The repeated references to the panorama (440, 441) – a popular visual attraction from the late eighteenth century onwards in which spectators could enjoy ‘the happy feeling that the world was organised around and by them’ (Comment 1999: 19) – underlines the extent of Arthur’s self-deluding fantasies, both of his own capacities and of the lives of others as simply figures in a landscape – his landscape. If Arthur harbours aristocratic pretensions about his capacity to intervene in a social world newly spread before him, there is nevertheless considerable prevarication about his agency in the narrative.

Or is this statement Hetty’s exaggerated memory of her past life coloured by the extreme contrast with her present state of deprivation and desperation? If the latter, the statement becomes merely another instance of Hetty’s inability to comprehend her identity in relation to others and also represents her distance – in every sense – from her connections. The analogy between (purposeful) mobility and agency is further explored in the description of Hetty’s suicidal episodes. After she has formed the plan to take her own life, the reader is told that Hetty begins to ‘walk again, and take cheap rides in carts, and get cheap meals, going on and on without distinct purpose, yet strangely, by some fascination, taking the way she had come, though she was determined not to go back to her own country’ (385).

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