FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS IN WOMEN'S NOVELS (JANE AUSTEN, GASKELL, CHARLOTTE BRONTE, KATE CHOPIN, EDITH WHARTON, WOOLF, BOWEN, ATWOOD, MARY GORDON)
This dissertation studies portrayals of father-daughter relationships in European marchen and in the novels of nineteenth- and twentieth-century women writers. The marchen section includes representative fairy tales from a number of European countries. The nineteenth-century works discussed are Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Kate Chopin's The Awakening, and Edith Wharton's Summer. The modern works are Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, Elizabeth Bowen's Eva Trout, Margaret Atwood's Surfacing, and Mary Gordon's Final Payments. In European marchen, the father of daughters frequently are shown as tyrannical or possessive in their behavior toward their daughters. To attain maturity and independence, a young female protagonist must outwit her father and challenge his authority. This theme is sustained in the novels discussed here. These nineteenth- and twentieth-century women writers view conflict with the father, or father-figure, as an inevitable and essential element in their heroines' progress toward maturity. Commonly, the conflict occurs during a young woman's adolescence and is resolved when a father is able to accept his daughter as an independent adult. If a father refuses to relinquish his authority over his daughter, or if she fails to confront him, her emotional growth is inhibited and she remains childlike and dependent. The feminist argument implicit in these novels employs the father-daughter conflict as a metaphor for the struggles of women in a patriarchal society. The female protagonist's ability to cope in that society is represented through her ability to challenge her father's authority.