Author Information

Helen Doyle


In his novels No Name (1862) and Armadale (1866), Wilkie Collins explores the social role of women in Victorian England, a patriarchal society that forced women either to submit to the control of a man or rebel at the expense of their own health and sanity. Even though some of his characters eventually marry, thus conforming to social expectations for women, I argue that his portrayal of female characters was subversive. In quests for control over their own lives, Magdalen Vanstone and Lydia Gwilt turn to masochism and sadism, practices which eventually lead to identity loss and self-destruction. Collins suggests that feminine vengeance is provoked by the corrupt laws of the patriarchal order and relocates the source of danger from female sexuality to the social and legal institutions that oppress women.

Note on the Author

Helen Doyle is a senior majoring in English with a concentration in Secondary Education. This paper represents a portion of her honors thesis which she developed under the mentorship of Dr. Kathleen Vejvoda. The research for the thesis was funded by two ATP semester grants.

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