A chameleon role : how adoption functions in nineteenth-century British fiction

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Dudley, Shawna L.
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Arts and Science
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Faculty of Arts and Science, 2001
In my thesis I look at adopted characters in nine nineteenth-century works: Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning's Aurora Leigh, George Eliot's Silas Marner, Rudyard Kipling's Kim, and both Bleak House and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. From these works we see that the figure of the adopted child both destabilizes and expands the Victorian concept of the family, a concept which the literature of the time was often concerned to reinforce. Since adoption implies the injection of a foreign element into the fabric of family life, it serves to underline the fragility of blood-ties. In this sense, the adopted child functions as a figure of subversion and instability within the heart of the family. But because adoption also implies a looser acceptance of what family means, it may serve to expand the definition of kinship. The tension between these two ideas is dealt with in my thesis. No two novels treat adoption in the same way and the possibilities for adoptive relationships are endless, with potential for good and bad relationships, allegory and realism, expansion and deconstruction of the family.
150 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.
Adoption in literature , Family in literature , English literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism , Dissertations, Academic