Alien Women: Strong Victorian Binaries and Feminine Norms in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Hossein Mobaraki


In the Victorian novel, gender-based social norms ordered appropriate behavior. Female bad actions were not only judged according to the law, but also according to the idealized conception of femininity. It was this absolute cultural measure and how far the woman violated the feminine norms of society, that defined her criminal act rather than the act itself or the injury her act strengthened. When a woman deviated from the Victorian norms of the ideal woman, she was branded and labeled. The fallen woman was viewed as a moral threat, an infectious disease. During the Victorian era, the view of women as being fallen or pure, good or bad became mixed with other notions of duality such as strange or familiar, and beastly or civilized. In this society the woman who was not considered to be completely pure and without blemish fell into the category of the fallen woman. This article examines the notion of the fallen woman in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles. This novel narrates the fate of a young, single and innocent girl who is tempted by a man more highly placed than her socially. In this situation, the irreversible mistake brings shame and estrangement. Left alone in her sorrow and guilt, the woman sees no hope of a better life: death is the only solution to her difficult situation. The woman goes through a fall; a change in the state of being, a fall from innocence to social banishment.

Key words: Binaries; Feminine Norms; Victorian; Fallen Woman

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