Stereotypical Femme Fatale as Depicted in
Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret
The issue regarding how woman is portrayed in literary works such as novel, poetry, or drama has been becoming one of the most interesting topics to be discussed until today. Each work represents its period and how society in that period in seeing woman. Victorian literature has its own way in representing woman. Some of the stereotypical gender roles we can easily found in many Victorian literatures are the portrayal of women as the angel in the house and the fallen angel. The angel in the house is the perfect helpmate as it was presented in Charles Dickens' Agnes Wickfield (David Copperfield) or Esther Summerson (Bleak House). She serves and obeys her husband, she is moral adviser and guidance to the children, and ensures peace and stability in her home. Angel in the house usually is depicted as beautiful, sweet, passive, and self-sacrificing, her identity is derived solely from her role as wife and mother. While the fallen angel denoted a woman who breaks gender norms which can include anything from simply appearing unfeminine to confirmed sexual contact outside of marriage. Some of these depictions can be found in Ruth, Oliver Twist, East Lynne, and Tess of the d'Urbervilles.
In the Victorian novel, women were stereotyped to ensure the dominance of the patriarchy. Presented as a role model and ideal for the family fireside readers, the sweet and beautiful angel is the arbiter of domesticity in the face of an uncaring world. In return for her loving devotion, she is rewarded by a marriage that provides her security and identity. In contrast, those women who are too willful or intelligent or who are embittered and unlovable are punished through spinsterhood. Despite of those two...