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Reader as woman: gender and identification in novels Roberts, Nancy 1993

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READER AS WOMAN: GENDER AND IDENTIFICATION IN NOVELSby Nancy RobertsB.A., Swarthmore College, 1971M.A., Simon Fraser University, 1985A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHYinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIESDepartment of EnglishWe accept this thesis as conforming to the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAApril 1993© Nancy Roberts, 1993In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.(SignatureDepartment of^EnglishThe University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate April 28, 1993DE-6 (2/88)iiABSTRACTThis dissertation, as its title suggests, is a study of gender and identification. Themain body of the thesis is s consideration of four novels (Clarissa, The Scarlet Letter,Portrait of a Lady, and Tess of the d'Urbervilles), all of which are centered around aheroine defined by her suffering.In the figure of the heroine/victim is conjoined the activity of the hero and thepassivity of the victim. Such a conjunction raises perplexing problems. One of these isthat the "heroism" or "greatness" of the heroine is measured by means other than heraction, for as victim she can do or move very little. Her heroism is measured instead bythe pity and sympathy she elicits from other and by the extent to which she moves them(us). What this means for reading is that we cannot study the character without studyingthe response she generates. A study of character becomes a study of response - of boththe responses represented in the text (those of other characters) and of our own responseas readers.I read each of these four novels as a type of "school of sympathy," as a place inwhich readers are instructed how to feel. Novels, in this view, are social agents doingsocial work. Their work, in this case, is the construction of subjectivity. Each novelconstructs the reader's emotions toward the heroine as much as it constructs the heroineherself. Gender plays an important part in this construction. Following some recent filmas well as literary theory, I discuss to what extent the reader's position in these novels isconstructed as male, and then go on to consider what implications this has foridentification with the female. Each novel presents us with a type of cross-genderidentification in which our sympathy for the heroine appears to depend upon theiiiimposition of clear and distinct gender boundaries, boundaries which are establishedonly to be crossed.In my sixth and final chapter, I turn to the work of two twentieth-century femaleauthors, Margaret Atwood and Angela Carter, to see in what ways they "talk back" tothe tradition which has defined woman as other, to see in what ways, if any, they re-define the possibility of female heroism, and, finally, to consider the implications for thereader.ivTABLE OF CONTENTSPage ABSTRACT ^TABLE OF CONTENTS ^  iiiACKNOWLEDGEMENTS CHAPTER 1: Schools of Sympathy: Gender and Identification In Novels ^ 1I - Introduction  ^1Designs ^  1Heroine as Victim ^  4Schools of Sympathy  7Gender and Identification ^  9Choices  ^11II - Identification and Difference: Building a Feminist Theory of Reading . . •^12Problems ^  12Forefathers  16Difference and Desire ^  20Difference and Reading  24Identification and Reading  26Sympathy, Empathy, Identification ^  33CHAPTER 2: Clarissa: Novel as Trial ^  40CHAPTER 3: The Scarlet Letter and "The Spectacle of the Scaffold" ^ 69CHAPTER 4: Changing Places: Gender and Identity in The Portrait of a Lady ..^103CHAPTER 5: A Thousand Pities: The Reader and Tess of the d'Urbervilles ^ 132CHAPTER 6: Testing the Waters and Trying out the Air: Surfacing and Flying - TheWomen Talk Back ^  158I - Introduction  158Reading Like a Man, Feeling Like a Woman ^  158Desire ^  163Voice  165Action/Rescue/Heroism ^  167Borders ^  174II - Margaret Atwood  177Surfacing  177The Handmaid's Tale ^  185III - Angela Carter ^  195The Bloody Chamber  195Nights at the Circus ^  201Postscript ^  208WORKS CITED  213vACKNOWLEDGEMENTSI would like at this time to express my gratitude to the members of mysupervisory committee, Professors Nick Hudson, Eva-Marie KrOiler, and Sherrill Grace, forthe extended support which they have offered me during the long and sometimestortuous process of getting this dissertation completed. Their comments were that bestcombination: challenge and encouragement. Dr. Grace deserves particular mention forthe extraordinary generosity and enthusiasm with which she helped me with this project.Her responses were always quick, thorough and to the point. She was always availableto me and gave generously of her time. I have been extremely fortunate to have hadsuch a supervisor and such a committee and for that I can only say again, thank you.I would also like to acknowledge my husband, Vinit Khosla, and my children,Arjun and Gita, for both their support and their love.1CHAPTER 1Schools of Sympathy: Gender and Identification In NovelsI - IntroductionDesigns"It is my design to make thee feel."' With these words John Belford, ClarissaHarlowe's friend and protector, announces his intention to Lovelace, who is himself bothBelford's best friend and Clarissa's tormentor. The design that Belford claims as his ownis actually the intention of the novel as well. It is Clarissa's design to make us feel. Theplight of its heroine is presented in order to arouse an emotional response. Hersuffering becomes our own (tortured) pleasure.With this short epigraph, I chart out the territory of my own project. It is mydesign to show how novels (Clarissa and others) teach us to feel, and to identify the waythat these structures of feeling serve to produce, replicate, and impose positions ofgender.If I am to rely on Belford's words to this extent, I must pay attention to the exactterms of his address. There are several points to note in this construction of emotion.The first is the very deliberateness of the attempt. One cannot, it seems, rely on aspontaneous eruption of the right sort of feeling. Its construction must instead beSamuel Richardson, Clarissa, 4 vols. Everyman Edition (London: J.M. Dent and Sons,1932) IV:367.2designed or "plotted." The good reader and the good emotional response must beproduced by the text. This is true for all the novels considered in this dissertation. 2The second point to note is that the transaction, as it is presented in Belford'sstatement, is exclusively male. The primary focus of the novel - Clarissa and her plight -shifts in this passage onto the relationship between Lovelace and Belford. One manwrites to another in order to make him "feel." The arousal of emotion is the goal?Such an arousal provides pleasure. In this instance Belford is gratified to learn thatLovelace is angry at him. "It gives me pleasure," he writes, "to find my intentionanswered" (IV:367). This evocation of emotion is at once moral, sadistic and intimate.It is moral in the sense that Belford wants Lovelace to feel the effects of what he hasdone to Clarissa, wants him to experience remorse. It is sadistic in that he does not care- may even prefer it - if the experience of remorse causes Lovelace pain. Finally, it isintimate because it gives Belford pleasure to excite Lovelace. This is an intimacy that isneither kind nor comfortable, but which allows one man access to the emotional life ofthe other.The third point is the logical corollary of the second. To speak of this as a maletransaction is to acknowledge its elision of the figure of Clarissa. She exists here only to2 At this point my argument is closely aligned with that of Wolfgang Iser in The Implied Reader (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1974). Like him, I see the novel as manipulating thereader. Unlike Iser, I do not read this function as ultimately or singly under the author'scontrol. Furthermore, my own intent, unlike lser's, is to draw attention to the socialconstruction of emotional responses like sympathy. The novel in such a view becomes asmuch cultural producer as cultural production.3 The emotion to which Belford refers in this particular instance is anger. (Lovelace isincensed by what he perceives as Belford's meddling in his affairs.) It is, nevertheless,reasonable to interpret Belford's reference as more inclusive, pointing beyond this particularinstance and this particular emotional reaction. His design, we may infer, is the arousal ofemotions beyond anger - sympathy, remorse, love, and despair - to name a few.3the extent that she moves others to feel. In other words, her suffering, or moreaccurately, the representation of that suffering (as it is reported to Lovelace, or as it isreported to us), is of less importance than its effects. It comes to function as a token oran item of exchange between men. She and her suffering are used, have worth, only tothe extent that they produce feeling. Her pain and her own feelings becomecommodified counters in an economy of emotion.'There is one final point to be made about this paradigmatic exchange betweenLovelace and Belford, a point which while considerably complicating the last, does not,as it may appear, contradict it. While it is true that Clarissa's actual suffering is lessimportant than its effects on both characters and readers, the creation of those effects,our feelings, depends on her and her pain. Belford and Lovelace may be locked in amoral, sadistic and intimate exchange that only uses Clarissa, but they need her. Theyget to each other through her. Their feelings for her enable them to feel (for) eachother. She is the agent that produces feeling. This gives her power.Let me reiterate the four ideas which this epigram suggests, points which I will beexploring throughout the thesis. These are: that the emotional effect of a novel isdeliberately designed and plotted, is socially constitutive, and cannot be seen as natural4 I am indebted here to Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's argument in Between Men. Her point,derived in part from the work of Claude Levi-Strauss and Gayle Rubin, is thatPatriarchal heterosexuality can best be discussed in terms of one or another form ofthe traffic in women: it is the use of women as exchangeable, perhaps symbolic,property for the primary purpose of cementing the bonds of men with men.Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia UP,1985) 25-26.See also Luce Irigaray, "For woman is traditionally a use-value for man, an exchangevalue among men; in other words, a commodity. . . . Woman is never anything but thelocus of a more or less competitive exchange between two men." This Sex Which Is NotOne trans. Catherine Porter with Carolyn Burke (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985) 31-32.4or spontaneous; that the emotional exchange (between Lovelace and Belford in theexample, or between author and reader in the novels) appears to be - at leastparadigmatically - structured as an inherently male activity; that the female protagonistin such a transaction becomes reduced to a mere counter or token of exchange betweenmen; and finally, whether in spite of this reduction, or because of it, the heroine gains atype of negative power from her position.Heroine as Victim The status of the novels considered in the central section of this study, Clarissa,The Scarlet Letter, The Portrait of a Lady, and Tess of the d'Urbervilles, bears testimonyto this negative power. Long considered to be among the greatest novels in Englishliterature, their place in the canon has been pre-eminent and secure. The heroines ofthese novels have enjoyed similar prestige. Clarissa Harlowe, Hester Prynne, IsabelArcher, and Tess Durbeyfield have assumed exemplary status in our culture. Becausetheir stories have been read and taught for decades in the schools and universities ofBritain, North America and the rest of the world, they have come to enjoy a sort ofemblematic status. But what are these heroines emblems of, what do they represent?As icons of womanhood in Western culture, what do they tell us about our culture andthe place of woman within it, and more particularly, what type of examples have theyprovided to generations of young female students?In the figure of the heroine/victim is conjoined the activity of the hero and thepassivity of the victim. Such a conjunction raises perplexing problems. One of these isthat the "heroism" or "greatness" of the heroine is measured by other means than heractions. For she can do, can move, very little. (After all, as victim she is less an actor5than one who is acted upon.) Her heroism is measured instead by the pity andsympathy she elicits from others, by the extent to which she moves them (us). What thismeans for reading is that we cannot study the character herself without studying theresponse she generates. A study of character becomes a study of response, a study ofboth the responses represented in the text (that is, by the other characters to theheroine) and of our own responses as readers.'It can be argued, for example, that Clarissa is empty except as a figureestablished to elicit the admiration and sympathy of others. Similarly, Hester Prynne isdefined by the letter A which draws and shapes our attention. Isabel Archer is, in onesense, only a magnet for a group of people who seek to live through her. RalphTouchett, Caspar Goodwood, and Lord Warburton gather around her, touched andsaddened by her fate. Tess is an eroticized object whose appeal lies in her passivevictimization. In each novel the heroine is placed as an icon, the purpose of which is todraw and invite our response. Frequently she is represented as having little life orcharacter of her own; her existence is predicated upon our response to her.Critics, puzzling over this passivity, have sought its source in the heroine herself.They have looked to her "nature," her "character," or her "psyche" in search of clues toher victimization. This type of analysis has prompted critics to identify and to probe theso-called "dark side" of the heroine, to find out why she has come to such a pass,leading one critic to claim that "suffering is fatally desirable to Isabel", 6 and another to5 Nicholas Hudson has coined the term "meta-response" to "refe[r] to the tendency ofreaders to duplicate responses already expressed by characters . . . ." He uses this term in"Arts of Seduction and the Rhetoric of Clarissa," Modern Language Quarterly  50.1 (1990):30.6 Juliet McMaster, "The Portrait of Isabel Archer," American Literature 45 (1973): 50.6find "substantial insights into Tess's character that help us understand the roots of herself-destructiveness." 7 Some even go as far as V.S. Pritchett who, in 1947, wrote that"Clarissa represents that extreme of puritanism which desires to be raped. LikeLovelace's, her sexuality is really violent, insatiable in its wish for destruction."'There is an interesting repetition of two words in these statements - "desire"(suffering is desirable for Isabel, Clarissa desires to be raped) and "destruction" (Tess isself-destructive, Clarissa's sexuality is a wish [desire] for destruction). The message isclear; these heroines seek out their own destruction. It is as if, however reluctantly, thecritics are forced to conclude that our heroines exhibit masochistic tendencies, that eachin her own way, "asks for it. i 9 Such conclusions resonate for us now, at the end of thetwentieth century, when, in society at large and courts of law in particular, we continueto struggle with issues of woman's "will" and "assent," with issues of power and sex. Itis, in part, this contemporary relevance that makes it so imperative that we look again atthese earlier texts to see how both they and their heroines have been read and judged.Frank R. Giordano _Jr., "I'd Have My Life Unbe": Thomas Hardy's Self-Destructive Characters (University: U of Alabama P, 1984) 163. See also Evelyn Hardy's "The Self-Destructive Element in Tess's Character" reprinted from her Thomas Hardy, A Critical Biography in The Norton Critical Edition of Tess of the d'Urbervilles ed. Scott Elledge, (N.Y.:Norton & Co., 1965) 447-450.8 V.S. Pritchett, The Living Novel (New York: Reynal and Hitchcock, 1947) 28. For afascinating analysis of this and other readings of Clarissa and Tess, see Ellen Rooney's"Criticism and The Subject of Sexual Violence," Modern Language Notes 98.5 (1983): 1269-1278.9 I do not mean to imply that the critics are alone in blaming the heroines, in seeingthem as to some degree "asking for it." There is ample evidence in each text for such aconclusion. I only want to point out the extent to which these critics have uncriticallyfollowed, and in some cases, extended the leads provided by the texts.7Schools of SympathyThe heroines of Clarissa, Scarlet Letter, Portrait, and Tess, victims in spite of theirenergy and strength, present readers with a perplexing conjunction of passivity andheroism. How are we to "read" such characters and respond to the paradox of theirposition? It seems to me that one of the most important things to keep in mind is tofocus not on the heroine as a real person available for analysis, but on the structurewhich represents her and which makes her appear so real. This means we focus on thenovels as "designs" or "plots" constructed so as to make us "feel." Such a focus helps usto de-naturalize their effects, and to see the novels as social agents doing social work.By conceiving of novels in this way, I wish to align myself with those critics who,following Foucault, have attempted to study the novel as something more than aresponse to or escape from social realities. The novel, in this view, is a force with thepower to shape those realities, especially at a personal level.' Fiction's power is thepower to shape us as subjects, to influence and determine our emotions and ourjudgment. It teaches us how to feel and how to be. Foucault has written that "The goalof my work during the last twenty years . . . has been to create a history of the different10 The works I am thinking of include: D.A. Miller's The Novel and the Police (Berkeley:U of California P, 1988), as well as Nancy Armstrong's Desire and Domestic Fiction: APolitical History of the Novel (New York: Oxford UP, 1987).Miller's project is to study and reveal the connections between the novel and theregulatory, disciplinary work of the police. He has written, "In this sense, the novel wouldbe the very genre of the liberal subject, . . . ; the genre that produces him" (215-216).Armstrong seeks to demonstrate the historical and cultural production of desire. Shewrites: "I want to show how . . . domestic fiction helped to produce a subject whounderstood herself in the psychological terms that had shaped fiction. I regard fiction, inother words, as both the document and as the agency of cultural history" (23).8modes by which, in our culture, human beings are made subjects."" The novel issurely one of these modes. It has influenced and continues to influence our sense ofourselves as subjects.One of the social functions that novels perform is to provide instruction in feelingin general and sympathy in particular. Each of the novels under consideration in thisdissertation can be thought of as a sort of theater or school of sympathy. The novelbecomes the place in which we are taught to feel correctly, in which the act of sympathyis both displayed through the performance of certain key characters, and taught byshowing us how we, in turn, might perform it. We observe how it is done and weperform it ourselves. Reading is the performance through which we get a chance toplay at feeling, to learn how to feel, and the novels which teach us how to act are socialagents teaching us to become good subjects. Through this process, emotions likesympathy are coached, trained and disciplined.A key element in this schooling of sympathy is identification. According toLaplanche and Pontalis, identification is thepsychological process whereby the subject assimilates an aspect, property orattribute of the other and is transformed, wholly or partially, after the model theother provides. It is by means of a series of identifications that the personality isconstituted and specified.'"Michel Foucault, The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (New York: Pantheon Books,1984) 7.Foucault sees the "individual" in Western society as an "effect of power" and has saidthat "we should try to discover how it is that subjects are gradually, progressively, reallyand materially constituted through a multiplicity of organisms, forces, energies, material,desires, thought etc."Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972 - 1977,ed. and trans. Colin Gordon (Brighton, Sussex: The Harvester Press, 1980) 97-98.12 J. Laplanche and J. - B. Pontalis, The Language of Psychoanalysis, trans. DonaldNicholson-Smith (New York: Norton, 1973) 205.9I will be discussing novels as structures which facilitate and encourage this process.Identification is the means by which we enter the novel and perform its emotions.Gender and Identification The heroine as victim can move very little herself; her greatness lies in her abilityto move others. In order to measure that greatness, we must measure the extent of thatmovement as represented by the responses of viewers in the text. These novels come tobe as much about the effects of the heroine's sufferings on those who love her as aboutthe actual sufferings themselves. Those who are represented as loving her are, for themost part, male, and because these are stories about how we feel when we see a womansuffer, the novels come to be not so much about Clarissa, Hester, Isabel and Tess asabout Lovelace and Belford, Dimmesdale and Chillingworth, Ralph and Lord Warburton,Angel and Alec."These novels, which I have said both portray and teach correct emotionalresponse, depict primarily male response. Again and again the stories shift away fromwhat would seem to be their primary focus (the suffering heroine), onto the struggles,rivalries and bonds between the male characters. Cousin Morden hunts Lovelace downand kills him, while Belford is reformed. Chillingworth seeks Dimmesdale's secret; thetwo men's lives become unhealthily entwined. Lord Warburton, Ralph Touchett, andCaspar Goodwood draw closer to each other in their appreciation of and sympathy forIsabel Archer. Angel Care and Alec d'Urberville act as doubles and rivals in their13 I am aware that in emphasizing the male response, it may appear that I haveforgotten the Anna Howes and Henrietta Stackpoles who stand by their friends. However,it seems worth the risk of overstatement to point out the pattern of male dominance andmale identification in these texts. (See pages 194-198, Chapter 6 of this dissertation.)10attempts to possess and love Tess. In each case, the drama shifts from one centered onthe trials and troubles of a single female character to one involving only men.What, we need to ask, is the significance of this male clustering? What,particularly, does it mean for the female reader? To the extent that the reader's ownresponse is routed through these male characters, then the reader, male or female, must"apprehend" the heroine through the male gaze and male vision.' We all, male andfemale alike, must learn to read as a man in order to feel as a woman.While this pattern of male dominance and male identification may mean that thefemale reader has to route her identification through a male point of view or gaze, itmay also be true that, since in all these novels there is a cluster of males (and a fewfemales) gathered around a solitary female victim, there is another type of cross-genderidentification going on. It may be that the males have to identify with the female, thatthe lesson taught in these schools of sympathy is not only how to feel for a woman, butalso how to feel as a woman. The patterns of identification appear to be complex andstrictly gender coded.Choices' 4 This has been the predominant view in feminist film theory. See, for example, Issuesin Feminist Film Criticism, ed. Patricia Erens, (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1990), whichcontains several important articles including Laura Mulvey's "Visual Pleasure and theNarrative Cinema" and Mary Anne Doane's "Film and the Masquerade: Theorizing theFemale Spectator." See also, Re-Vision: Essays in Feminist Film Criticism  eds. Mary AnnDoane, Patricia Mellencamp and Linda Williams (Frederick, Md: University Publications ofAmerica, 1984).One of the most central theorists in this area is Teresa de Lauretis. See Alice Doesn't: Feminism, Semiotics, Cinema (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1984). I will be referringextensively to this work.11My choice of material inevitably affects my conclusion. The central part of thisstudy will be concerned with the reader's response to Clarissa Harlowe, Hester Prynne,Isabel Archer and Tess Durbeyfield. It will not be concerned with Dorothea Brooke,Elizabeth Bennett or Jane Eyre. There are two fairly simple reasons for my selection.The first is that the heroines to be considered here are, for the most part, the creationsof male authors. While this restriction lays me open to the charge of biologicalreductionism of the crudest sort (a charge which I hope will be refuted by my argumentas a whole, and by my sixth chapter - which examines work by female authors - inparticular), it also allows me to explore issues of cross-gender identification. I can ask, inother words, what it means for a male author to imagine and create female subjectivityand desire." I can consider ways in which male characters are moved to feel for andfeel as women.The second factor determining my choice was that the heroine's suffering shouldbe central and emblematic, thereby focalizing certain problems in reader identification.The suffering which these heroines undergo is presented in each novel as to somedegree instructive or ennobling. There is a lesson for us in her pain. I am interested inseeing what that lesson might be. By choosing novels in which one figure takes on thecentral role of sufferer, and in which that character is female (as opposed toMiddlemarch or Caleb Williams, for example) the routes of identification and sympathy,15 See _James Carson, "Narrative Cross-Dressing and the Critique of Authorship in theNovels of Richardson," Writing the Female Voice: Essays on Epistolary Literature, ed.Elizabeth C. Goldsmith (Boston: Northeastern UP, 1989) 95-113.See also Madeleine Kahn, Narrative Transvestism: Rhetoric and Gender in the Eighteenth-Century Novel, Reading Women Writing (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1991).12complicated enough at the best of times, are simplified to the extent that coherent studyis made possible.II - Identification and Difference: Building a Feminist Theory of ReadingCritics have been drawn to what they call the "dark side" of Tess, Isabel, Clarissaand Hester, seeing it as a self-destructive or masochistic tendency. Each of theseheroines is represented as choosing her own victimization, and thus as being a masochistof sorts. Clarissa is but half tricked out of her father's house, and spends her last daysmaking her death and funeral into elaborate works of art. Hester voluntarily returns toMassachusetts and takes up her scarlet letter again "of her own free will" long afterthere is any need to be punished. Similarly, Isabel returns to her miserable marriage,rejecting all offers of love or escape. Tess is portrayed as one of a long line of passivevictims, helpless against her fate. In the end she lies on an altar at Stonehenge andwaits for the police to take her away. The novels tell us there is heroism in thesesacrifices. They tell us that it is in the heroines' embrace of tragedy that their greatnesslies, that self-sacrifice and self-destruction represent woman's highest calling and herdeepest desire. Furthermore, these novels teach us that such acts are particularlythrilling when they are observed and approved by others, that being a victim bringsattention.ProblemsIn this section I want to consider the "problems" of female desire and femalesubjectivity, tracing the ways that these have been linked to masochism. I start with aquestion asked by the feminist psychologist and theorist, Jessica Benjamin:13How does it come about that femininity appears inextricably linked to passivity,even to masochism, or that women seek their desire in another, hope to have itrecognized and recognizable through the subjectivity of another?'It seems to me that in order to navigate around and between the binarisms ofactive/passive, male/female and hero/victim, some attention to what has been called the"problem" or the "impossibility" of female subjectivity might be useful, and since theseare "problems" or "impossibilities" which continue to haunt and to challenge feministtheory, we might look for some clue to help us decode and understand the figure ofheroine as victim.The study of female subjectivity, derived in large part from psychoanalytic theory,has been predominantly employed in two areas of contemporary Western thought. Thefirst is the area of feminist literary theory, particularly as it pertains to female authorship.This has involved questions such as how, and in what ways, women can claim"authority" of their own, can "master" language, voice and pen which have until nowbeen defined as masculine.' The second area to which the issue of female subjectivityhas been central is feminist film theory, which has placed most of its emphasis on theposition of the female spectator. In other words, feminist literary theory, broadlyspeaking, has been most interested in the problem of woman as producer of texts,whereas film theory has put more emphasis on the position of the female viewer. Onlyrecently have literary theorists, prodded perhaps by the challenging and provocative16 Jessica Benjamin, "A Desire of One's Own: Psychoanlaytic Feminism andI ntersubjective Space," Feminist Studies/Critical Studies, ed. Teresa de Lauretis (Bloomington:Indiana UP, 1986) 85.'See Part 1 of the Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth -Century Literary Imagination by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar (New Haven: Yale UP,1979), 3-104. Also, Tillie Olsen, Silences (New York: Delta, 1978).14work done in film theory, begun to explore what the "problem" of female subjectivitymight mean for reading.'Why should female subjectivity be such a problem? There are, to put it simply,two reasons. The first is that subjectivity - the ability to say "I" 19 - has been defined asan essentially male prerogative. The feminine has been defined as existing outside thesystems of language and logic. Any woman taking on the role of subject defines herselfas male and thereby participates in the logic and the language that has oppressedwomen. This is the view explored by French feminism. The second problem for femalesubjects is that in post-structuralist theory the whole concept of a stable and unifiedsubject, male or female, has been queried and brought into doubt. This was signalledby Barthes's and Foucault's simultaneous announcement of the "death of the author."'This announcement has had profound implications for feminists in the midst ofattempting to appropriate male voice, speech and "authority" for themselves. Nosooner did they feel that they had begun to assume some of the mastery and power that18 One femininst study of reading is Patrocinio P. Schweikart, "Reading Ourselves:Toward a Feminist Theory of Reading," Gender and Reading: Essays on Readers, Texts, andContexts, eds. Elizabeth A. Flynn and Patrocinio P. Schweikart (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP,1986). This essay, while never addressing feminist film theory directly, does reach someof the same conclusions about the reader/viewer: "it draws her into a process that uses heragainst herself. It solicits her complicity in the elevation of male difference intouniversality" (42).19 As Emile Benveniste puts it, "Ego' is he who says 'I." (quoted at the beginning ofKaja Silverman's The Subject of Semiotics) no page number - frontispiece (New York: OxfordUP, 1983).20 Roland Barthes, "The Death of the Author," in Image - Music - Text, trans. StephenHeath (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977) 142-148, and Michel Foucault, "What is anAuthor?" in Language Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews by Michel Foucault, ed. Donald F. Bouchard, trans. Donald F. Bouchard & Sherry Simon (Ithaca:Cornell UP, 1977) 113-138.15men had always enjoyed, than they learned that the coherent subject was a myth. Thisput women in something of a bind. As Nancy Miller puts it in her article, "Changingthe Subject":[T]he postmodernist decision that the Author is dead, and subjective agency alongwith him, does not necessarily work for women and prematurely forecloses thequestion of identity for them.'However, this premature foreclosure does not mean that feminists should ignore,or sidestep, poststructuralist thought. The school which has been labelled "Frenchfeminism" has attempted to use poststructuralist theory in order to explore woman'sblocked access to subjectivity. I would like to consider, quite generally, some of thewritings of this group, and to pay a bit more attention to the work of Luce Irigaray inparticular. This "school," or line of reasoning, can be traced to Simone de Beauvoir'scontention in The Second Sex that woman can only be thought of as the "Other," canonly be described or known in relation to "man" which constitutes the norm.' Theirwork is also, and perhaps more centrally, derived from recent developments inlinguistics and psychoanalysis. The argument, as developed by Irigaray, Hèlêne Cixous,Julia Kristeva and others, is that the very language and logic of Western discourse is soinherently and absolutely masculine, that any assumption of speech or action by womanis problematic. In order to speak or act, a woman must assume the voice and thelanguage of the system which has excluded and oppressed her. This is not to say that21 Nancy Miller, "Changing the Subject: Authorship, Writing, and the Reader" inFeminist Studies/Critical Studies, ed. Teresa de Lauretis (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1986)106.'On the connection between Simone de Beauvoir and later French feminists, see ToriiMoi's Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory (London: Routledge, 1985) 98.16actual women cannot and do not speak, write, or act in our culture, but that theirassumption of these roles has been beset by practical difficulties which are by now alltoo familiar. What these feminist studies have attempted to do is to seek and reveal allthe theoretical bases (in philosophy, in language, and in psychoanalytic theory) of thesepractical difficulties, to show how they have been established, defined and defended inthe patriarchal system, and thereby to clear a space for the return of the feminine whichthey see as having been repressed. By turning briefly to the sources of this argument,we can identify its foundations as well as its key terms. The structural models created bySaussure, Derrida and Lacan have greatly influenced French feminism.ForefathersThe linguist, Ferdinand de Saussure, claims that meaning is found neither in thesignified itself, nor in the relationship between signifier and signified since thisconnection, he asserts, is purely arbitrary. Instead, he argues, meaning is generated outof differences:. . . in language there are only differences.. . . a difference generally implies positive terms between which the difference isset up; but in language there are only differences without positive terms.'Language, then, comes to be structured around a lack.Derrida provides a similar model in his description of the "transcendentalsignified" of western metaphysics. This, he says, is the central term, whether it be God,consciousness, truth, or being, around which our philosophical systems have been'Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics,  trans. Wade Baskin (New York:McGraw-Hill, 1966) 120.17organized.' Derrida argues that the importance of each of these terms is notimmanent, not inherent in itself. God can be replaced by Being, Being by Truth, Truthby Consciousness; the structure stays the same. Derrida's argument is that although itmight appear that the transcendent central term controls and provides significance andvalue to the structure, it is actually the structure which produces the meaning and thevalue for the central term. All of the term's power, all of its meaning, is derived fromits place in the structure. This is the way that Kaja Silverman explains it:By drawing our attention to the possiblity of replacing one such term by another,Derrida helps us to understand that in fact none of them exists apart from thesystem it helps to determine. . . .^Derrida's writing emphasizes the principle of"structurality" against that of "essence." (Subject of Semiotics 32-33)In each of these models (Saussure's and Derrida's), meaning is generated throughthe play of difference, rather than inhering in any central tenet or signified. Meaning isan effect or even an illusion produced by the system, a system which is hollow, empty atits center. To repeat Saussure's dictum, "there are only differences with no positiveterms."These concepts of "lack" and "difference" were to prove fundamental to Frenchfeminism. Just as the lack at the center of Saussure's linguistic and Derrida'smetaphysical systems fuelled those operations, so the French feminists have argued, thepatriarchal system is structured around woman and her lack. Julia Kristeva, for example,writes, "What I mean by 'woman' is that which is not represented, that which isunspoken, that which is left out of namings and ideologies." 25 Woman serves as24 Jacques Derrida, "Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences,"Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass. (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1978) 278-293.25 Julia Kristeva, "Interview" (1974, reprinted in Polylogue, Paris, 1977), trans. ClairePajaczkowska, m/f, no. 5/6 (1981), 166, quoted in Alice Doesn't by Teresa de Lauretis, 95.18spectacle to attract the active and controlling male gaze. Woman is the heroine overwhom men fight. She is the exchanged commodity in a masculine economy, but sheherself can find no active role to play. Her image is everywhere (in western art asmadonna or the nude), but she has no voice, no gaze of her own.One reason that woman has served so well as the lack at the center of the system,is that she herself (at least in psychoanalytic theory) is defined by her own lack (of apenis). As if to compensate for this deficiency, woman has been glorified; absence hasonce again been masked as presence. Like the transcendental signified in Derrida'smodel, woman has been conceived of as vacancy, the nothing out of which meaning ismade.Not only is female subjectivity itself not represented, but some would argue thatthis very non-representation is essential and constitutive, rather than accidental toWestern discourse. Discourse in this view depends on such a systematic exclusion. AsMary Jacobus puts it, "In this theoretical scheme [French feminism], femininity itself -heterogeneity, Otherness - becomes the repressed term by which discourse is madepossible."' Just as in the linguistic and metaphysical models proposed by Saussureand Derrida, the system - in this case, the patriarchy - is organised around an absencemasked as presence.The concept of lack is also central to the work of Jacques Lacan. "Indeed," writesSilverman, "one could say of the Lacanian subject that it is almost entirely defined bylack" (151). Although Silverman claims that Lacan extends the notion of lack to includethe male subject as well as the female through his insistence on the distinction between26 Mary Jacobus, "The Difference of View" from Women Writing and Writing AboutWomen, ed. Mary Jacobus, (London: Croom Helm, 1979) 12.19the penis and the phallus (139), her argument is not entirely convincing. As she herselfacknowledges: "Despite Lacan's repeated assertion that the penis is not the phallus, it isclear that there is a very important relation between the two" (185). The message isclear. For women the lack is even more absolute and fundamental. For women there isnot even the illusion of plenitude and potency that men, however anxiously, enjoy.After all, as Silverman notes, "the phallus is a signifier for the cultural privileges andpositive values which define male subjectivity within patriarchal society, but from whichthe female subject is isolated" (183).Just as Derrida reveals the emptiness at the heart of Western metaphysics, soLacan reveals what seems to be a similar vacancy at the center of human subjectivity.For Lacan, the subject (male or female) is structured around a split that is not historicallydetermined (as it would be in Foucault's scheme, for example), but is fundamental andunbridgeable.' In the mirror stage the young subject perceives a difference betweenits coherent representation in the mirror and the disorganized self it feels itself to be.There is a split between its own perceived inadequacy and the apparent coherence ofthe figure it sees. "The mirror stage," writes Lacan, "is a drama whose internal thrust isprecipitated from insufficiency to anticipation" (4). The subject, feeling itself to beinsufficient, is attracted by its mirror image and anticipates a fuller identity as thatimage, an identity it can never achieve. The subject, thereby, gets caught up in a stateof incessant desire, desire to achieve an identity it will never reach.27 Jacques Lacan, Ecrits: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Norton, 1977) Seeespecially "The Mirror Stage," 1-7.20Difference and DesireDesire, which depends upon a perceived lack or insufficiency, has come to be acentral term in post-structuralist feminism. Mary Ann Doane claims that, "Subjectivity inits psychoanalytic formulation is always a desiring subjectivity. H28 Feminists, anxious tounderstand female subjectivity, see the question of desire as central. Luce Irigaray, forexample, in This Sex Which Is Not One seeks to reclaim female desire. She claims thatsexuality and desire in Western culture have been defined and constructed in such a wayas to have become thoroughly and exclusively masculine. "Female sexuality," shewrites, "has always been conceptualized on the basis of masculine parameters" (This Sex,23). If this is so, then it becomes almost impossible to imagine what female sexualityand desire would be since, according to Irigaray, they have been so ruthlessly repressed.She imagines female desire as something to "be recovered only in secret, in hiding, withanxiety and guilt" (30). Repressed to such an extent, it can only be described by what itis not:Woman's desire would not be expected to speak the same language as man's;woman's desire has doubtless been submerged by the logic that has dominatedthe West since the time of the Greeks. (25)There are a couple of things to note here. The first is the way that desire isintimately linked to speech. In fact, it seems to be either a kind of speech itself or avoice that wants to speak. The second is the notion that there is, or might once havebeen, an essential female desire which has since been lost or repressed. Having lost herown desire in the service of the patriarchy (it has become the lack around which the28 Mary Ann Doane, The Desire to Desire: the Woman's Film of the 1940's(Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1987), 11.2 1entire system is structured), Irigaray wonders how woman can participate in what seemsto be an absolutely masculine economy:Woman, in this sexual imaginary, is only a more or less obliging prop for theenactment of man's fantasies. That she may find pleasure there in that role, byproxy, is possible, even certain. But such pleasure is above all a masochisticprostitution of her body to a desire that is not her own . . ." (25)Woman participates, then, in masculine desire, and may even derive pleasurefrom it, but for Irigaray such pleasure is always at, at least, one remove. By identifyingwith, and feeling through her male lover, her pleasure becomes vicarious and evenmasochistic. She feels by "proxy," becomes a type of masochist by converting what,Irigaray would say, must be her own disinterest and displeasure into an alienated kindof pleasure by identifying with the desire of her male lover. Such an identification,Irigaray insists, creates "a desire that is not her own," and makes it difficult if notimpossible to discover what her own might be.Recalling Woolf's statement that a woman needs a room of her own, Irigaray'sown call for woman to seek a desire of her own comes to act as a familiar, and evendistinctive, feminist move, one which has been made again and again. A system isrecognized as masculine in nature, as alien to the feminine, and is thereby rejected.Woman is urged to assert her difference, to name her identity as not-man. In this case itis the structure and economy of desire itself that is masculine, and that represents "adesire that is not her own."I would like to suggest that this initial step - the assertion of difference, that, "Thisis not me, this is not mine, not my gaze, not my desire, not my story," - has been afundamental and necessary (constitutive) first step for feminism. To label it a first step isin no way intended to minimize its radical importance. Its effect can be, in fact it hasbeen, enormous. Already systems both in the academy (the changing shape of canons22for example) and in society at large - systems that had appeared universal, unshakable,even eternal - have been shaken.It is the second step, however, which is proving more difficult to negotiate. Forexample, the step taken by the French feminists towards essentialism seems to havebeen a mis-step or a step backwards. By essentialism I mean the move toward adefinition of some eternal feminine essence which has escaped culture, history andpatriarchy, and which can be recovered in its pure state whenever we call upon it.Irigaray's contention, while compelling, leads her to a logical and tactical dead-end. In an oft-quoted rejoinder to Irigaray, Shoshana Felman lays out some of thedifficulties:If, as Luce Irigaray suggests, the woman's silence, or the repression of hercapacity to speak, are constitutive of philosophy, and of theoretical discourse assuch, from what theoretical locus is Luce Irigaray herself speaking in order todevelop her own theoretical discourse about woman's exclusion? . . . But whatdoes 'speaking for women' imply? What is 'to speak in the name of  thewoman'? What, in a general manner, does 'speech in the name of mean? Is itnot a precise repetition of the oppressive gesture of representation, by means ofwhich, throughout the history of logos, man has reduced the woman to the statusof a silent and subordinate object, something inherently spoken for? [This] .. .could thus mean, once again, to appropriate and to silence.'Felman is pointing to several problems at once. The first is that by insisting thatthere is something essentially feminine outside of phallocentric discourse, Irigaray runsthe risk of merely reinscribing the feminine back into its original position ofpowerlessness, marginality, silence and inherent (inescapable) difference. The secondpoint is that by proclaiming woman's essential difference from the universal norm of"man," such a view may merely create a new monadic universality - this time, the' Shoshana Felman, "Women and Madness: The Critical Phallacy," diacritics 5.4, (1975):323feminine - paying no heed to differences within that new unity. Such a move may, infact, tend once again to appropriate and to silence difference. The most obvious andfrequently noted of these differences are race, class, and sexual orientation.The very force and effectiveness of what I referred to as the first step in feministcritical practice - the assertion of difference and non-identification (this is not me, this isnot mine) - means that this step can be repeated almost endlessly, fracturing everytotality or group as soon as it is made. It seems to me that feminist criticism is indanger at present of being caught in this mise-en-abyme in which every assertion ofdifference with its concomitant establishment of a new identity, merely creates the nextassertion of difference, the next new identity. The process is, at least theoretically,infinite.Having sketched out the limitations of this line of reasoning, I want to stress thatthe original impetus in the work of Irigaray and others remains some of the mostinescapable and far-reaching done in feminism. The insistence on difference, which Ihave called the first and most important step, has continued to animate and fuelfeminist theory. The second step is still being negotiated.Difference and Reading The direction of the second step is important for the construction of a model ofthe reading process. If reading is constructed out of both identification and difference,most feminist reading theory has emphasized difference over identification. Thisemphasis is certainly the basis of both Jonathan Culler and Judith Fetterley's feministreading theories. In On Deconstruction, Culler wonders what difference it would make if24"the informed reader of a work of literature is a woman."' He then goes on to claimthat "to read as a woman is to avoid reading as a man [which women have been trainedto do], to identify the specific defences and distortions of male reading and applycorrectives" (54). Culler is influenced here by Judith Fetterley and other theorists whohave shown that women have by and large learned to read as men.' Fetterley, likeIrigaray, sees women as having overidentified with and through men. She urges thefeminist critic "to become a resisting rather than an assenting reader" in order that weall might "exorcis[e] the male mind that has been implanted in us" (xxii).Fetterley's vigorous call is weakened by the same essentialism that weencountered in the work of Irigaray. Surely, to conceive of patriarchal ideology as aunified and malignant growth preying on the pure and virtuous female consciousness isnaive.' Such an assertion undermines Fetterley's otherwise energetic and astuteargument. As soon as difference is asserted, there seems to be a temptation to over-30 Jonathan Culler, On Deconstruction: Theory and Criticism After Structuralism  (Ithaca:Cornell UP, 1982) 43.31 As Fetterley puts it, "To read the canon of what is currently considered classicAmerican literature is perforce to identify as male." The Resisting Reader: A FeministApproach to American Fiction (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1978) xii.32 This is where Foucault's analysis of power is so helpful. He abandons the traditionalpolarization whereby a repressive monadic totality overwhelms a powerless and thereforeinnocent entity, in favor of a model in which power circulates so that it is exercised by allparties and is as productive as it is destructive:Power is employed and exercised through a net-like organisation. And not only doindividuals circulate between its threads; they are always in the position ofsimultaneously undergoing and exercising this power. They are not only its inertand consenting target; they are always also the elements of its articulation. In otherwords, individuals are the vehicles of power, not its points of application.Power/Knowledge, 98.25polarize, to posit some entire and substantive essence that has survived behind andbeyond repression.The other point to be made about both Fetterley's and Culler's stances is that thecall for a resisting reader is a call for a hypervigilant reader, alert to the dangers ofseduction (in this case, by the male mind). Seduction is a form of movement ordisplacement. To be seduced is to be moved from one's place, not exactly against one'swill, but perhaps against one's better judgment. The resisting reader who refusesseduction, is always saying, or is ready to say, "this is not me, this is not mine." Such areading position would, it seems to me, prove both unpleasurable and unprofitable. Ifthe reader does not allow her or himself to be moved or seduced by the text, then theproject (of reading novels at least) will be a failure. Novels depend upon the reader'sbeing moved. (What we still have to find out is if they also depend upon the heroinebeing caught and arrested.) Irigaray claimed that the female placed herself in the realmof male desire through identification and implied that such a move was done in badfaith, that the female would be better served by not engaging in "vicarious" or "proxy"relationships. But is there any other way to read a novel?Identification and Reading What I am attempting to describe is a new model of reading, one that reliesneither on the stability and unity of the reader/subject, nor on the stability and unity ofthe text. This model would, instead, envision reading as a fluid series of identifications,involving a complex network of shifting positions of gender and power.The model provided by the French feminists by way of Saussure, Derrida andLacan can be adapted to our own purposes. But while theirs depended solely on26difference, we might imagine a system of reading as a system based on bothidentification and difference. Like the structures outlined above, this depends upon anempty center which appears to be full (in this case occupied by the figure of theheroine/victim). The elements which are substituted and displaced in the readingprocess are neither the linguistic units of Saussure's system, nor the transcendentalsignifieds of Derrida's, but the fictional characters and roles through which we constructour identification, through which we feel and are "moved."' The structure of readingand identification works through a system of substitutions and displacements, a systemthat depends upon desire.The work of Shoshana Felman may help us conceive of an alternative modelwhereby the feminist reader can both resist and be seduced. Felman, like Irigaray, isconcerned with the problem of female desire and subjectivity. In her essay, "RereadingFemininity," based on Freud's lecture, "Femininity," Felman re-thinks the very problemwhich she addressed in her comments on Irigaray: what place has been constructed, inphilosophy in general, and in psychoanalysis in particular, from which woman mayspeak and desire? She begins by quoting the opening remarks of Freud's lecture:Throughout history people have knocked their heads against the riddle of thenature of femininity. . . . Nor will you have escaped worrying over this problem -" It seems to me that the process of identification or "being moved" by fiction issomething like the process which Shoshana Felman calls "transference," which she sees as"the rhetorical function of any signifying material in psychic life, as the movement and theenergy of displacement through a chain of signifiers." Writing and Madness: Literature/Philosophy/ Psychoanalysis trans. Martha Noel Evans and Shoshana Felman(Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985) 182.27those of you who are men; to those of you who are women this will not apply -you are yourselves the problem."Felman responds to this passage in the following manner:Women . . . are considered merely as the objects of desire, and as the objects ofthe question. To the extent that women 'are the question', they cannot enunciatethe question; they cannot be the speaking subjects of the knowledge or thescience which the question seeks. ("Femininity" 21) (her emphasis)Felman calls her own commentary a kind of "interference" in Freud's writing. Hermodel of this interference provides us with a provocative model of the reading processfor women. She ponders Freud's question:His question: "what is femininity?" in reality asks: "what is femininity - for men?"My simple (female) reiteration of Freud's question . . . has somewhat redefinedthe "riddle" and implied a slightly different question: what does the question -"what is femininity - for men?" mean - for women? (21)This model is structured something like the Russian dolls, each of which holds asmaller version of itself inside itself. Outside of and containing the initial question,"what is femininity," is the secondary question of what femininity might be for men.Encompassing that in turn, is the still more complex question of what this might meanfor women. This series of concentric circles, of question within question, I see as apossible model for feminist reading, a means through which women can re-assert theiragency and subjectivity, their speech and their desire, and still read and still identify, tosome degree, with the masculine. In the first stage of the model, men look at womenas objects, thereby appropriating all gaze and active agency. But when women look atmen looking at women, the subject/object relations are reversed or, at the very least," Sigmund Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanlaysis trans. and ed. JamesStrachey. (New York: Norton, 1965) 113, quoted by Shoshana Felman (her ellipsis) in"Rereading Femininity" Yale French Studies 62 (1981): 19.28problematized and blurred. Such a model involves cross-gender identification of acomplex and productive type."What does a woman want?" asked Freud and it is this question which echoesand reverberates throughout all the novels considered in this thesis.' What doesClarissa want? Lovelace thinks that he knows. He suspects that at bottom, despite heravowed piety, Clarissa really wants him, and that once her "trial" is complete, she willprove to be as lustful and as adoring as all the other women he has known and"ruined." Ralph Touchett is not quite sure what it is that Isabel Archer wants. But it isthis very uncertainty which piques his (and we assume the reader's) curiosity, causinghim to persuade his father to leave her a fortune. He wants, he says, to "have the thrillof seeing what a young lady does who won't marry Lord Warburton" (159). What doesa woman want? What will a woman, utterly free of obligation, "do"? Female desireremains the mystery around which each novel circles.An attempt by a man to answer a question such as "what does a woman want" isan attempt at identification. It involves putting himself, at least to some degree, in herplace. To try to imagine the answer to this question he must try to feel as she mightfeel, see as she might see. These attempts may be limited, they may be blinded by self-interest (we have to wonder, for example, why the woman that man sees and feels is sooften a victim), but they are approaches to the question. Similarly women, if they are tounderstand how they have been constructed and controlled by the male gaze, have tolearn (if they haven't already) how to see and to think like a man, have to be able toassume that gaze and use it. Much has been written on the apparent necessity of this35 Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, eds. Lionel Trilling and StevenMarcus (London: The Hogarth Press, 1961) 377.29type of identification in art, film and literary theory.' Little has been written aboutthe necessity and frequency of male identification with or through the female.'When men look at women as victims in these novels, they both feel for them andattempt to feel as they do. In the process of writing or reading about woman, the maleauthor/character/reader plays the role of woman, attempts to experience what it mightbe that a woman feels. The process for female readers would appear to be morecomplex. They may have to read as men in order to feel as women. The processresembles that sketched by Felman: women looking at men looking at women.I said that Felman's rereading of Freud's "Femininity" offers a possible model ofreading, one which involves cross-gender identification, but does not demand self-abnegation on the part of the female reader. Such a model retains the ironic andpolitical distancing recommended by Fetterley and Culler while avoiding the dead endof essentialism. In other words, it retains difference, the ability to say "this is not me,this is not mine" while, at the same time, allowing room for identification. Men try toidentify with women when they ask what a woman wants, when they try to feel as a36 This, as mentioned above, is Fetterley's contention. Also see Elaine Showalter's"Women and the Literary Curriculum," College English 32 (1971), 855. Similarly, much offeminist film theory would say that women already know how to see as men; they have toadopt the male spectatorial position in order to view film. See, for example, Laura Mulvey,"Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," Visual and Other Pleasures (Bloomington: IndianaUP, 1989) 14-26.John Berger also argues that women already know how to assume the male gaze:"Men survey women before treating them. Consequently how a woman appears to a mancan determine how she will be treated. To acquire some control over this process, womenmust contain it and interiorize it. . . . The surveyor of woman in herself is male: thesurveyed male." Ways of Seeing (London: Penguin, 1972) 46-47.37 This is changing. Some recent explorations of male identification with the femaleinclude Tassie Gwilliam's two articles, "Pamela and the Duplicitous Body of Femininity"Representations 34 (1991): 104- 133, and "'Like Tiresias': Metaphor and Gender inClarissa," Novel 19.2 (1986): 101-117.30woman. Women take on the roles of men when they look at, feel for theheroine/victim. My proposed model of feminist reading allows or envisions a route bywhich the circulation of desire and curiosity (What does she want? What does he thinkshe wants?) continues. It allows us to participate in a desire not our own - knowing (andhalf forgetting) that it is not our own. It is, furthermore, based on the models outlinedabove, those sketched by Saussure and Derrida in which meaning is generated by thesubstitution and displacement of one signifier or one item by another and can not beisolated in any one static unity existing outside of or above the system. In this case, thesubstitution and displacement are the work of identification.Some of the most important and far-reaching work on identification, desire andnarrative has been done by Teresa de Lauretis. Using the Oedipus story as well as thetheoretical work of Greimas, Propp, and Lotman, she investigates the place constructedfor the subject in narrative and the way that sexual difference determines that place.She comes to the conclusion that, in the first place, all narrative is structured by "themovement of," what - following Greimas - she calls, "the actant subject toward anactant-object" 38 and, secondly, that the actant subject is always and absolutelyconstrued as male. In other words, even if a woman were to act in such a role, shewould be acting as a man. She would be taking the male role in the narrative.According to de Lauretis, all active roles in narrative are male, while "Female is what isnot susceptible to transformation, to life or death; she (it) is an element of plot-space, a38 Alice Doesn't 112.31topos, a resistance, matrix and matter" (119). Her compelling argument is that thestructure of narrative is consistently sexually differentiated and differentiating.'Having demonstrated the pervasiveness of this division, she goes on to speculateabout its implications for the female reader or viewer:If Lotman is right, if the mythical mechanism produces the human being as manand everything else as, not even "woman", but non-man, an absolute abstraction(and this has been so since the beginning of time, since the origin of plot at theorigin of culture), the question arises, how or with which positions do readers,viewers, or listeners identify, given that they are already socially constitutedwomen and men? In particular, what positions are available to female readers,viewers, and listeners? (121)This is essentially the same question asked by Irigaray and Felman. Excludedfrom desire, from speech, from agency, what place is there for women? For de Lauretis,the question is closely tied to the problem of identification because it is through novels,movies, and narratives of all kinds that we form our sense of our selves and our place inculture. Identification is the source of our subjectivity, or as de Lauretis puts it,"subjectivity is engaged in the cogs of narrative . . . so that the very work of narrativityis the engagement of the subject in certain positionalities of meaning and desire" (106).For de Lauretis, identification for the female spectator of film is a tricky business.Influenced by Laura Mulvey's assertion that the female spectator's identification isformed by an oscillation between identification with the voyeuristic male gaze of thecamera and with the representation of the female spectacle on the screen, de Lauretisadmits that "[c]learly, at least for women spectators, we cannot assume identification to' De Lauretis returns to this argument and develops it in later work: "For the subjectof violence is always, by definition, masculine; 'man' is by definition the subject of cultureand of any social act""The Violence of Rhetoric: Considerations on Representation and Gender." The Violence ofRepresentation: Literature and the History of Violence eds. Nancy Armstrong and LeonardTennenhouse (London: Routledge, 1989) 250.32be single or simple" (141). Her own preference is to describe the female spectator'stype of identification as "double," that is as including both the masculine and thefeminine:Could we say that identification in female spectators alternates between the twoterms put in play by the apparatus: the look of the camera and the image on thescreen, the subject and the object of the gaze? (142)This resolution, however, is not wholly satisfactory. After all, as Mary AnneDoane wonders,[W]hy should it be the case that processes of identification and spectatorialengagement are more complicated (if not convoluted) for the female spectatorthan for the male? (The Desire to Desire, 7)and why should it be:that masculinity is consistently theorized as a pure, unified, and self-sufficientposition. . . . But theories of female spectatorship constantly have recourse, atsome level, to notions of bisexuality - Mulvey's transvestism or de Lauretis'sdouble identification. (8)Woman's place, as theorized by feminist film theory, still seems a complex position, onethat is difficult to negotiate. What I hope to show is that man's place is no lesscomplex, no more easily negotiated. The central and probably most significant claim offeminist film and reading theory has been that the female reader or viewer must identifywith the male gaze in order to see or read correctly. My own reading of these novelswould suggest that it may be equally true that males need to identify with the female inorder to feel correctly.These issues are as important for readers and literary theorists as they are for filmgoers and film theorists. They lead us to ask: does the female reader of Clarissa andTess have to split her identification between the male gaze (represented by Belford,Lovelace, Morden et al, in one novel, and Alec and Angel in the other) and the spectacle33of the female victim? And what if the male gaze is in itself already split, alreadyidentified with the female victim?Sympathy, Empathy, IdentificationThe novels considered in this study span more than two hundred years. The termidentification, as de Lauretis presents it, is a recent psychoanalytic usage. I am going tohave to rely on other terms as well - terms like sympathy, empathy, and pity - to traceand study the nature of the emotional response constructed for the reader over thosetwo hundred years. I will try to show that, although the terms may shift, certain issuesof connection, power and emotion remain intact.' I will be studying each novel's useof these terms and the varying gender and power relations the terms inscribe. Forexample, the term "sympathy" will be primarily employed in my discussions of Clarissa and The Scarlet Letter because sympathy was a central concept in the eighteenthcentury, and Hawthorne consciously played on this centrality in his nineteenth-centurynovel about the past. The term empathy is more recent and deserves some attentionhere.Empathy has recently been claimed by feminists as an emotion of their own. AsJudith Kegan Gardiner states, "Empathy in twentieth-century Western culture has becomea specially marked female trait."' Gardiner bases her argument on contemporaryAmerican psychoanalytic work. She writes:For more on the history of the term empathy, see Wilhelm Worringer, Abstraction and Empathy, trans. Michael Bullock (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1953).Judith Kegan Gardiner, Rhys, Stead. Lessing, and the Politics of Empathy(Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1989) 2.34Nancy Chodorow claims that girls, hence women, "have a basis for 'empathy'built into their primary definition of self in a way that boys do not."'If this claim is true, then it reaffirms the accepted notion that women feel and identifywith others more readily than men. While I do not want to argue this issue here, I dowant to point out that the empathetic position is considered, both in common practiceand in some recent psychoanalytic theory, to be the feminine position.The problem with a claim such as Gardiner's is the degree to which empathy ispresented as an unproblematic and ultimately positive response. Stephen Greenblatt, inRenaissance Self- Fashioning,  provides us with a somewhat different view. He writes ofempathy being "deployed" during the Renaissance and the age of exploration as amechanism of power, as a means of wresting control from those who are apprehendedand pitied. In this view, empathy becomes less a "tender" feminine response and morea masculine tool of aggression. He sees "modern man" as using improvisation and"psychic mobility" (the ability to understand others and perform their roles, act as theydo) to encounter and ultimately conquer other civilizations. Empathy, according toGreenblatt, can be viewed as an example of the "psychic mobility that has continued tocharacterize . . . Western consciousness."' He goes on to cite Daniel Lerner'sassessment of Western society as highly adaptable and responsive to new cultures andnew demands. Lerner calls this capacity to see oneself in another's place "empathy,"but Greenblatt warns that we are misled if we believe that empathy is simply "an act of42 Nancy Chodorow The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychology and Sociology ofGender (Berkeley: U of California P, 1978) 167, quoted by Gardiner, 165.43 Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare  (Chicago:U of Chicago P, 1980) 224.35imaginative generosity, a sympathetic appreciation of the situation of the other fellow"(227). He goes on:What is most disturbing . . . in Professor Lerner's definition of empathy . . . isthat the imagined self-loss conceals its opposite: a ruthless displacement andabsorption of the other. Empathy, as the German Einfulung suggests, may be afeeling of oneself into an object [sic], but that object may have to be drained ofits own substance before it will serve as an appropriate vessel. (236)It seems to me that this view of empathy is very close to the notion I want toconstruct. Greenblatt refers to empathy as a tool whereby one culture may be"displaced and absorbed" by another. I would argue that it is the figure of the heroineas victim which is displaced and absorbed in the reading process. Like the object of"einfalung," she must be drained of her own substance before serving "as anappropriate vessel" for our own emotion and our pity. Our full empathetic responsedepends upon her empty passivity; it can only be constructed out of her emptiness andher pain.I call upon one final critic in my attempt to construct a feminist model of reading.In "Phenomenology of Reading," Georges Poulet gives an extraordinarily sensitiveaccount of his own reader response. Of particular note in this account is Poulet'sinsistence upon, and exaggeration of, the shifting power and gender positions taken bythe reader. He sees himself now as victorious hero-rescuer, and now as victim or prey.These shifts, which are presented as the result of being "moved" by pity, sympathy, orempathy, seem to depend upon a "drained" and feminized spectacle.Poulet begins by musing on the objectness of books, a state which rouses his pity:"When I see them on display, I look at them as I would at animals for sale, kept in little36cages, and so obviously hoping for a buyer."' Although Poulet's explicit analogy isbetween books and animals, I am struck by the unexpressed analogy to women ondisplay. These books are like Sleeping Beauties waiting to be rescued by the prince (inthis case, a lowly reader):On a table, on bookshelves, in store windows, they wait for someone to comeand deliver them from their materiality, from their immobility . . . . Made ofpaper and ink, they lie where they are put, until the moment some one shows aninterest in them. They wait. Are they aware that an act of man might suddenlytransform their existence? They appear to be lit up with that hope. Read me,they seem to say. I find it hard to resist their appeal. No, books are not justobjects among others. (53)These books seem more like prostitutes on the street corner, wallflowers at a schooldance, or heroines in romantic novels than they do animals for sale in a pet shopwindow.' Poulet's empathy is aroused by what he sees as the tragedy of subjectscaught in object-hood. This particular conjunction stirs and emboldens him until he isunable to "resist their appeal." It allows him to imagine himself as transformer, life-giver, hero. As reader he is active, free, and a potential rescuer. The books, in contrast,lie mute, on display and somehow ashamed of their objectified status. In Greenblatt'sterms, it would seem to be the extent to which they are drained of their "ownsubstance" (subjectivity) that allows them to "serve as appropriate vessels" for thereader's emotional investment. They lie like the jewels of the Orient, or the forests ofthe new world, ready to be "appreciated" and consumed by the empathetic appetite.Georges Poulet, "Phenomenology of Reading," New Literary History 1.1 (1969) 53.45 Teresa de Lauretis would argue that the gender associations are unavoidable sincenarrative always offers only the "two mythical positions of hero (mythical subject) andboundary (spatially fixed object, personified obstacle)." The first is obviously masculine, thesecond feminine. Alice Doesn't, 123.37The only power granted to the books is that of seduction. This is the seduction ofpathos, a seduction based on helplessness and humility. Like the heroines in Clarissa,Scarlet Letter, Portrait of a Lady, and Tess of the d'Urbervilles, unable to movethemselves, they are thus dependent upon their ability to move others. As readers arelured toward these objectified, pathetic texts, they experience growing feelings ofpotency, a potency created in response to the books' apparent impotence. What thiswould imply is that one subject's power depends upon the representation of another'spowerlessness, that one feels oneself most free and most powerful when confronted withone who is not free. We earlier discussed the way that Western discourse has to somedegree depended and been built upon the exclusion of femininity. Here we seem tohave another example of a lack (powerlessness, object-ness) which is productive, whichbuilds the confidence and potency of the reading subject.The reader's active and heroic position is not, however, maintained, at least inPoulet's account. He suggests later in the same article that it is the reader who is underbondage to the book: "I deliver myself, bound hand and foot, to the omnipotence offiction. . . . I become the prey of language. There is no escaping this take-over" (55).What is so remarkable about this statement is the extreme nature of the switch. Thereader who was so activized, heroicized and masculinized as rescuer, is now feminized,victimized - a masochist. This switch from one role to another is, as I shall hope to showin my study of other texts, fairly common. The reader who, in one sense is madepowerful by his or her empathy with the heroine as victim, runs the risk of over-identification, of getting "infected" by her powerlessness and victimization.38This is the paradox: that the reader should be both masculinized - roused toaction and full subjectivity by the spectacle of female suffering - and feminized - madepassive and unable to feel except through the agency of others. According to Poulet:Reading, then, is the act in which the subjective principle which I call I, ismodified in such a way that I no longer have the right, strictly speaking, toconsider it as my I. I am on loan to another, and this other thinks, feels, suffers,and acts within me. (57)Reading is the act in which one finds oneself only to lose it, in which one feels "on loanto another" who "thinks, feels, suffers, and acts within me."The novel's social work is the creation of this subject-effect. But what sort ofsubjectivity is constituted by this suspension of self, this sense that I am both myself andanother? We feel the proximity of a subject and are initially confused. What is it thatwe feel? Where does this feeling come from? Does it come from the hero/ine, theauthor, ourselves? To whom are we responding when we read? This confusion of roles,the sense that we cannot tell ourselves from the character or the author, is what we callidentification. Flaubert said of his heroine, "Madame Bovary, c'est moi," and Pouletquotes Rimbaud, "Je est un autre" (57). The confusion is, I believe, as productive as it isunresolvable."The novel is the "place" where consciousness is created for us to possess, tocolonize, and to empathize (with). It is the place in which our own emotions areproduced and designed through identification. The reader changes places, assumesroles of both sexes, plays at being hero, plays at being victim. The figure of the heroine" I realize that here it may seem that I am ignoring all of those theorists (Wayne Boothand others) who have attempted to resolve just these confusions. My point, nevertheless,is that however much theorists attempt to disentangle terms such as author, narrator,narratee, and character, the novel's work seems to be to blur them again and get ustangled in the process. That tangle is productive, is an essential feature of the novel's work.39victim activates a certain sort of identification. She becomes a "charge" or a "field ofemotional power" in and through which readers re-charge themselves.The feminist critic both enters this field to experience the identifications first handand watches from the outside to see the way that the paths and routes of identificationare constructed, noting the power that different positions produce.40CHAPTER 2Clarissa: Novel as TrialIn Volume I of Clarissa, Clarissa Harlowe's uncle writes to her:Everybody loves you . . . But how can we resolve to see you? There is nostanding against your looks and language. . . . For my part, I could not readyour letter to me, without being unmanned. How can you be so unmovedyourself, yet be so able to move everybody else? (1:304)"There is no standing against your looks and your language." Alarmed by the intensityof the response that Clarissa generates, her uncle seeks to check it by holding her atarm's length, refusing to see her or to read her letters. He is afraid of her ability tomove him. Clarissa, like all the heroine victims studied in this dissertation, is able tomove very little on her own, but is intensely capable of moving others. It is thiscapacity to move both characters and us, the readers, that makes her a heroine. Inorder to study such a heroine, therefore, we need to look not so much at what she does,as at our own response, at the way she "moves" us.Although it may appear that Uncle Harlowe is overreacting in not allowingClarissa into his sight for fear of losing his composure, the novel would teach us that heis not. He worries that a close encounter will "unman" him, that in letting himself loveher he will lose his own sense of self. In one sense, his particular reaction is depicted asextreme and even unjust, but we are, I believe, meant to take seriously the potency ofClarissa's effects. She is a figure that must be approached cautiously; her power is real.When the uncle says he fears being unmanned, we are reminded that by loving her we41might lose our sense of ourselves, our sense of a separate and autonomous identity.'What the novel attempts to teach us is how to approach and love her without sacrificingany of our own integrity. It may be that she has to be held and "arrested" in order thatwe may keep our own identity and sense of active subjectivity alive. Frozen as the fixedobject of our investigative eye, she is held so that we are free to investigate, probe andknow her. This makes it easier for us to examine her sexuality, her will, and her desireand not be "unmanned" or disarmed in the process. We are able to retain (or create)our own sense of agency and power out of her arrest. To the extent that that sense ofpower is masculine, all readers, male and female alike, will read as male. This processof arrest and examination is called a trial.In Volume II of Clarissa Lovelace writes to Belford that "a trial seems necessary forthe further establishment of the honour of so excellent a creature [Clarissa]" (11:40). Thisstatement could equally well stand as the project of the novel as a whole. The novel isan extended trial - an exploration or putting to the test - of Clarissa's honor! ThisIn the introduction I spoke of the novel as a type of social agent whose work it is tocreate the "subject-effect," that sense of ourselves as potent and active agents, able to feeland to move. The role through which we experience that subjectivity in novels is almostalways masculine.2 The O.E.D. (Shorter, Third Edition) gives several definitions of the verb "to try."Among these are:"#2. To separate the good part of a thing from the rest, esp. by sifting or straining,hence to sift or strain. Usu with out. - 1790.""#3. To separate (metal) from the ore or dross, by melting; to refine, purify by fire.Usu with out -1686.""#5. To ascertain, find out (something doubtful, obscure, or secret) by search orexamination - 1761.""#6.To determine the guilt or otherwise of (an accused person) by consideration ofthe evidence; to judge.""#10. To subject to a severe test or strain; to put to straits, afflict - 1539."All of these uses are operative in Clarissa.42chapter will be a consideration of Clarissa as a type of trial or theater of punishment.Clarissa is the star of this trial or theater, the object of our attention and our gaze.In The Rise of the Novel, Ian Watt, having explored analogies betweenphilosophy and literature, turns to "another group of specialists in epistemology, thejury in a court of law. Their expectations, and those of the novel reader coincide," heclaims, "in many ways" 3 . Watt sees the reader's position - spectatorial, democratic, andjudgmental - as being analagous to a juror's. While I believe that this insight isfundamentally correct, it seems to me that the reader's position is more problematic andless secure than the one Watt suggests, that once the reader enters the theater ofpunishment, he or she is implicated through identification in positions of both innocenceand guilt, becoming at once prisoner and judge.Clarissa is a novel obsessed with the problems of judgment. Its language issuffused with the vocabulary of trial and courtroom. Not surprisingly perhaps, a similarlanguage has permeated the responses of its readers. Diderot "tried" his friends by theirreaction to Richardson's novels: "They [the novels] have become my touchstones; thosewho are displeased by them are judged for me." A recent controversy has continuedto use the same language. Terry Castle sees Clarissa as an "exemplary victim" of'Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding  (Berkeley:U of California P, 1967) 31.Denis Diderot, "Eloge de Richardson," Eighteenth Century French Novelists and theNovel, ed. and trans. Lawrence W. Lynch (York, S.C.: French Literature Publications Co.,1979) 130. The original French reads: "Depuis quills me sont connus, ils ont ete ma pierrede touche; ceux a qui ils deplaisent sont juges pour moi." Oeuvres de Diderot, ed. AndreBilly (Bibliotheque de la Pleiade, 1957) 1099.Of a woman who laughs at Clarissa rather than pitying her, he declares, "I say to you thatthis woman can never be my friend" (Lynch, 131). "Je vous dis que cette femme ne peutjamais etre mon amie" (Billy, 1100).43hermeneutic violence, and argues in her defence because, as she sees it, Clarissa's "isthat voice which repeatedly fails to make itself heard" on its own. 5 William Warner, onthe other hand, feels that it is Lovelace who needs to be defended against the artfulClarissa and all those critics who, he feels, have condemned him so unjustly.' TerryEagleton turns on the critics who he says have tried "to convict" Clarissa and argues that,"even when the most damning evidence [against her] has been gleefully summoned forthe prosecution, it remains on balance, remarkably feeble."'These comments are striking in two ways. The first is that the critics should beresponding as if the characters were real people.' The second - connected to the first -is that readers seem to feel a strong need to defend and to accuse. That readers arefrequently "pulled into" Clarissa in an immediate and startling way has been noted onmany occasions.' What I would like to point out is that these readers so frequently5 Terry Castle, Clarissa's Ciphers: Meaning and Disruption in Richardson's Clarissa(Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1982) 22.6 William Beatty Warner, Reading  Clarissa: The Struggles of Interpretation (New Haven,Yale UP, 1979).7 Terry Eagleton, The Rape of Clarissa: Writing, Sexuality and Class Struggle in Samuel Richardson (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1982) 71-72.'Castle's insistence, for example, that Clarissa has been somehow silenced by the text -not allowed to speak - would seem to imply that there is a real, full-of-speech Clarissaawaiting rescue somewhere beyond the text's representaion of her. Warner seems to beimagining a similar, live, Lovelace when he writes: "perhaps now he's mocking all oursentiment and seriousness" (54).9 Diderot - "Oh Richardson! we become involved in your works, willingly or not; webecome involved in the conversations" (Lynch, 121). "0 Richardson! on prend, malgrequ'on en ait, un role dans tes ouvrages, on se mele a la conversation" (Billy, 1090).See also John Preston, The Created Self: The Reader's Role in Eighteenth-CenturyFiction (London: Heinemann, 1970) 38-93.Warner claims that "an unwary critic . . . may discover himself playing a supportingrole in an interpretive alliance directed by the text he intended to master" (3).44seem to get pulled into "judgmental" positions. They plunge into the text to blame orto defend, to vindicate or to accuse. This may be a novel that demands ourparticipation, but we still need to ascertain what role it is that the reader is expected toplay in this courtroom of emotion. Are we to be judge or witness, victim orexecutioner?Readers drawn into such positions are not experiencing identification as we woulddefine it in the late twentieth century. They do not, after all, feel so much that they areClarissa or that they become Lovelace as they feel called upon to defend and to accusethese characters. Neither do readers seem to feel that they have to take a positionwhich is consistently pro Clarissa or pro Lovelace; in fact, some inconsistency or "play" inallegiance is desirable. What is essential is that the reader enter in some way into theplay of judgment and sympathy which provides the novel with both its form and itscontent. The reader enters into this play by assuming various roles, roles of thecourtroom.In order to give the terms theater and trial full consideration, in order toappreciate the connections and the tensions between the two, we have to make a detourinto some eighteenth-century thought on "theatricality." I have referred to Clarissa asboth a trial and a theater of punishment. The connections between these two arenaswere disturbingly close for some thinkers and writers in the eighteenth century. The trialis usually conceived of as the place where truth is revealed and discovered. Its veryexistence is based on the premise that such truth is not self-evident, obvious or ondisplay. It is only through the accumulation of evidence, acute observation andobjective analysis that truth can be produced. The subject who acts as judge in a trialrelies on detachment and objectivity and must not become emotionally involved with45the object on trial. He (the position has traditionally been a masculine one) is active,vigilant, and aggressive in his search for truth.The theater, in contrast, is involved with illusion and fantasy. That which itdisplays is not apprehended through reason, logic and argument. Instead, the theaterseeks to entice the emotions through visual display. In this case the subject whowatches, as opposed to the subject who judges in a trial, is passive and lets him orherself be moved by, and emotionally involved with, the spectacle presented. Whenone is "moved," "seduced," or "enthralled" in this way, one gives up one's identity tothe other, loses one's own sense of self in feeling for the other. This type of relationshipbetween spectator and spectacle troubled eighteenth-century thinkers such as Diderot,Rousseau and Bernard Mandeville. They worried that the passions were lured too easilyinto sympathy, love, pity, or hate, that the eye could be too easily tricked or deceived.It is this response to the theater that Michael Fried analyzes in his Absorption and Theatricality. 10 There he writes of the prevailing distrust of anything or anyone whocourted the beholder's attention. This distrust was based on the belief that virtue lay inappearing not to pander to, or in any way solicit, the regard (in both the French and theEnglish senses) of another. To put oneself on display or to show oneself became a kindof degradation akin to prostitution. This extreme distrust of anything that courted thegaze led, Fried claims, to the paradox that, "it was only by negating the beholder'spresence" that a painting could in fact claim the attention of the viewer (Fried, 103). Awork of art gained value by seeming to be oblivious to its own "theatricality," to the factthat is was produced to be admired. The paradox is that viewers or spectators would be10 Michael Fried, Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and Beholder in the Age ofDiderot (Berkeley: U of California P, 1980) 103.46drawn toward and come to value works that denied their own existence. The spectatoror viewer would have to enter into a kind of aesthetic contract with the artist andbecome an accomplice to the illusion that the work was never intended to be seen:But it seems clear that starting around the middle of the eighteenth century inFrance the beholder's presence before the painting came increasingly to beconceived by critics and theorists as something that had to be accomplished or atleast powerfully affirmed by the painting itself; and more generally that theexistence of the beholder, which is to say the primordial convention thatpaintings are made to be beheld, emerged as problematic for painting as neverbefore. (Fried, 93)Fried demonstrates that this reaction to painting was but one part of a widely-baseddistrust of all spectacle-spectator relations.One of the strongest examples of anti-theatrical writing of this time is Rousseau'sLettre a d'Alembert. Led by his belief in the danger and power of spectacle, Rousseauurges the citizens of Geneva not to open a theater. Its influence, he argues, could onlycorrupt. For Rousseau, an actor is hollow because, in the process of emptying himselfout to play another, he has lost possession of himself, has offered himself up to theother." Acting, he writes, "is a trade in which [the actor] performs for money,submits himself to the disgrace and the affronts that others buy the right to give him,and puts his person publicly on sale" (79). The actor then, as described by Rousseau, isessentially a prostitute. Not only does acting degrade by making actors appear to sellthemselves; there are other sexual disturbances as well. To act, Rousseau hints, is in" Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Politics and the Arts: Letter to M. D'Alembert on the Theatre.trans. and ed. Allan Bloom (Glencoe, Ill.:The Free Press, 1960) 80-81.Rousseau's vision of the actor as hollow, or emptied out, is similar to StephenGreenblatt's assessment of the one who is pitied as "drained." See Chapter 1, page 39.47some sense to feminize and thereby disgrace the self.' This is a kind of double movewherein Rousseau first disgraces actors by calling them womanly and then insults womenby referring to them as actors. (The latter charge would most likely carry less weightsince women were already held to be inherently duplicitous and fickle.")What Rousseau proposes in the theater's stead is a ball for unmarried youth.(Lettre, 127-131) There, everyone would be both spectator and part of the spectacleitself. In this way no one would have to take on the demeaning role of actor, andsociety could adopt a seemingly innocent method of policing itself. Not only is thedegradation of effeminacy averted, but a ball like this can harness what appears to bean inherently powerful and sexually loaded act (looking) to a socially beneficial function(arranging marriages). The ball is a place where unmarried youth can "see and beseen." The sexuality of the look is thereby neutralized or harnessed for society'sbenefit."12 For more on Rousseau, women and theatricality, see Rousseau's "Letter toD'Alembert" (83) and M. Fried (168-9). For an account of the historical background of theconnection between femininity and theatricality see Laura Levine's, "Men in Women'sClothing: Anti-theatricality and Effeminization from 1579 to 1642." Criticism 28.2 (1986):121-143.13 An article which comments on this tradition is "Pamela and the Duplicitous Body ofFemininity" by Tassie Gwilliam, Representations 34 (1991): 104-133. (This reference is alsogiven in Chapter 1.)14 As others have noted, Rousseau's ball seems, in its interest in regulation of the gaze,to be a precursor of Jeremy Bentham's panopticon. See Foucault's "Eye of Power," inPower/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977, ed. Colin Gordon,trans. Colin Gordon et al (New York: Pantheon, 1980) 152.See also Martin Jay, "In the Empire of the Gaze: Foucault and the Denigration ofVision in Twentieth-Century French Thought," Foucault: A Critical Reader, ed. David CouzensHoy (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1986) 175-204.48Drawing on much the same sense of distrust as that fuelling Rousseau's attack onthe theater, Denis Diderot attempted to establish new aesthetic criteria that wouldsidestep or neutralize the morally ambivalent theatrical relations between spectator andspectacle in painting and drama. In his art criticism, he valued paintings whose subjectsdid not appear to solicit the spectator's gaze. The paintings that he admired typicallyrepresented a subject (most often female) absorbed in reverie. This figure, who did notlook at the viewer, would in no way acknowledge his presence (and in most cases thecoy suggestiveness of the scenes could imply only a male viewer). The paradoxicalresult, as Fried states, was "that Diderot's conception of painting rested ultimately uponthe supreme fiction that the beholder did not exist" (103).In drama, this view manifested itself in Diderot's famous advice to playwrightsand actors that they should envision a fourth wall separating them from their audience:Whether you compose or act, think no more of the beholder than if he did notexist. Imagine, at the edge of the stage, a high wall that separates you from theorchestra. Act as if the curtain never rose.'The best acting, in other words, results when actors act as if they are not acting. Thebest drama (and painting) should not appear to have been designed and plotted for usto see. The effect should be that we just happen to come across these scenes as if byaccident. This aesthetic creed has prevailed to a great extent in all narrative art,including drama and the novel up to the present day.'15 Denis Diderot, Discours de la poesie dramatique, 230, quoted and tranlated by M.Fried, p. 94, 217n.16 Brecht is, of course, the exception that proves the rule for drama. Similarly, theemphasis on artificiality and self-referentiality in some modern and post-modern worksdefies the tradition of naturalism or realism that was established in the eighteenth century.Nevertheless, almost all television and mainstream film narrative still rely on thoseconventions.49In painting, in drama, and in society at large, thinkers such as Rousseau andDiderot tried to warn against the moral threat of theatricality. What was it that worriedthem so? Rousseau distrusted the actor and thought that his attempts to win applauseand attention threatened his autonomy, "fullness," and self-possession. That need forrecognition by the other, in Rousseau's view, weakened an individual's ability to be self-sufficient.According to Rousseau in his Second Discourse, The Discourse on Inequality, thedesire to look and to be looked at had resulted in nothing less than the fall of mankind:Everyone began to look at everyone else and to wish to be looked at himself, andpublic esteem acquired a value. The one who sang or danced best; thehandsomest, the strongest, the most skillful, or the most eloquent came to be themost highly regarded, and this was the first step toward inequality and vice."If thinkers such as Rousseau worried that spectators had to protect themselvesagainst the enticement of spectacle in order to preserve their integrity and autonomy,Adam Smith in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) speculated about the role whichsympathy might play in bridging the distance between such autonomous individuals.Like Rousseau and Diderot, he couched his argument in terms of the theater.Sympathy, for Smith, is in itself an inherently theatrical relation because itdepends upon the sufferer's being able to represent his or her pain in such a way thatthe other may recognize it and respond accordingly. The pain or distress must bedisplayed if it is to be acknowledged. Similarly, if sympathy is to be performedcorrectly, the one who watches must also seek to attune his or her own reaction to thesufferer. As David Marshall puts it,17 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The First and Second Discourses Together with the Replies toCritics and Essay on the Origin of Languages ed. and trans. Victor Gourevitch (N.Y.: Harper& Row, 1986) 175.50For Smith, sympathy depends upon a theatrical relation between a spectator andspectacle, a relation that is reversed and mirrored as both persons try to representthe other's feelings.'In other words, there can be no sympathy without a code of conventions - signalswhereby we can read each others' distress. Even at that, Smith wonders how it is thatwe can ever claim to experience the pain of another: "Though our brother is upon therack, as long as we ourselves are at our ease, our senses will never inform us what hesuffers."' He concludes that our capacity for imagination is responsible for allowingus access to the sensory life of another:By imagination we place ourselves in his situation, we conceive ourselvesenduring all the same torments, we enter as it were into his body, and become insome measure the same person with him. (3)This transfer or exchange of our own state for another's, taking place through theagency of imagination, sounds remarkably like the transfer that takes place in reading.For Smith, however, the act is not so much aesthetic as social:. . . this is the source of our fellow-feeling for the misery of others, . . . it is bychanging places in fancy with the sufferer, that we come either to conceive or tobe affected by what he feels (3)David Marshall sees this social vision of Smith's as a kind of dream or fiction becauseSmith "can't believe . . . that fellow-feeling is automatic or even natural" (180). Hegoes on:The Theory of Moral Sentiments,  then, must describe what it is like to want tobelieve in the fiction of sympathy, and what it's like to live in a world wheresympathy is perhaps impossible. (181)18 David Marshall, The Figure of Theater: Shaftesbury, Defoe, Adam Smith and GeorgeEliot. (New York: Columbia UP, 1986) 190. This book offers an excellent look at Smith'stheories on sympathy, and one which is more detailed than I am able to provide here.19 Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (London: T. Cadell and W. Davies,1804) 2.51If we accept Marshall's assessment of Smith's vision of sympathy as an unrealizabledream, we might see the work of the novel as an agency which fosters that dream,keeps the fantasy alive.'One reason that Adam Smith is important for a discussion of Clarissa is that whileother eighteenth-century writers tend to picture the passions as a threat to judgment,Smith sees sympathy itself as a kind of judgment. Both of these views - that there is adanger in being moved because sympathy tends to trick reason, and that sympathy isthe highest form of judgment - paradoxical and yet twinned, are explored in and are atthe heart of Clarissa.I have discussed the eighteenth-century issues of theatricality and sympathy atsome length because they provide the context within which I can place my own study ofthe reader's position in Clarissa. Theatricality was threatening because it seemed tocarry with it certain inextricable erotic and political implications whereby the spectaclewas a form of seduction and the spectator its dupe. The theater was the place in whichthe spectator willingly lost his or her own sense of self and in which actors lost theirautonomy and self-possession. This imagined loss is the basis for Clarissa's uncle's fearof seeing her in person: "There is no standing against your looks and language."Clarissa is a novel within the tradition of eighteenth-century writing abouttheatricality. Just as Diderot worried about the spectator's place before a painting, andas both he and Rousseau speculated on the relationship between actor and spectator inthe theater, so Richardson is careful to establish the reader's place in his novel in such a20 According to James Carson, one of Samuel Richardson's goals as novelist was thepromotion of sympathy for the moral and social good: "Imaginative identification is thecentral term in Richardson's ethics: Briefly, "a feeling heart" produces sympatheticidentification, which in turn promotes moral action" (99).52way as to maximize sympathy and to avoid as far as possible the dangers of theatricality.To do so, he relies on the conventions of the trial as a sort of antidote, or regulatorycheck on the theater. The question that remains, however, is to what extent the trial isalready "infected" with theater, with - that is - the political and erotic lure of thespectacle.In order to demonstrate the way that the text guides us to our proper place andfixes us in our position of spectatorship (whether in theater or courtroom), I will beginwith the opening letter from Anna Howe to Clarissa:I am extremely concerned, my dearest friend, for the disturbances that havehappened in your family. I know how it must hurt you to become the subject ofthe public talk; and yet upon an occasion so generally known, it is impossible butthat whatever relates to a young lady, whose distinguished merits have made herthe public care, should engage everybody's attention. (1:1)This passage establishes (at least) three things. The first is that Clarissa is anobject of interest, one worthy of our attention. Not only is she "distinguished," but she"should engage everybody's attention" (my own emphasis). The use of "should" and"everybody" as well as the earlier "it is impossible" establish a mildly regulatory tone, anormative pressure on the reader to conform.The establishment of Clarissa as an object of interest is compulsively repeated insubsequent paragraphs. There, it is presented in the frame of concerned and worthygossip: "Mr. Diggs, the surgeon . . . told me," "Mr. Wyerley drank tea with usyesterday; and . . . both he and Mr. Symmes blame . . .," "They say . . .," "This I amtold . . .," "There are people who love not your brother, . . . these say . . ." (1:1) (All ofthe emphases are my own). The effect of these repetitions - these "they say"s and "hetold me"s - is to demarcate a circle of gossip and attention within which characters -Clarissa, a brother, a family, and Lovelace - begin to appear. Such markers function like53the dimming lights and lifting curtain in the theatre. Their function is to distinguish, tomark off or frame, certain individuals and certain attitudes as worthy of our attention.'The second point that is established in this passage is that to be "the subject ofthe public talk," "must hurt." Why this should be so is explained on the next page:so desirous, as you always said, of sliding through life to the end of it unnoted;and, as I may add, not wishing to be observed even for your silent benevolence; ... Rather useful than glaring, your deserved motto; though now to your regret,pushed into blaze (1:2)It is essential, for the establishment of Clarissa's virtue, that she be presented as wantingto slide through life unnoticed. A reluctance to be on display is perhaps the definingfeature of her virtue. "But I will not," she declares, "if I can help it, be made a show of;especially to men of whose characters and principles I have no good opinion" (1:212).Again, after her rape, she pleads with Lovelace to send her to Bedlam if he must, butbegs, "don't let me be made a show of" (11:212). Even after her death, her willdeclares that "it is my desire that I may not be unnecessarily exposed to the view ofanybody" (IV:416), and she is especially concerned that Lovelace "might not be allowedto see my corpse" (IV:416).It is as if to show herself would be bad enough, but to show herself to men ofbad character and especially, therefore, to Lovelace would be to risk a special kind ofdegradation. This is why the text is so careful only to allow us to look at her in the"right" way. It constructs us, or rather helps us to construct ourselves, as readers of"characters and principles" of which Clarissa would approve. It sanctions our position as21 These "attention markers," which tell us that others are paying attention and thus thatwe should too, appear throughout the text, but most noticeably in: "Every eye, in short,is upon you"( 1:3), "All your acquaintance . . . talk of nobody but you" (11:4), and "Everyeye (as usual wherever you are . . . ) was upon you" (111:4).54beholder and Clarissa's position as the beheld by absolving her of any charge of seekingour gaze. We may look, but we must look carefully; our gaze has the power to "hurt."Anna's awareness of Clarissa's probable pain, evident in the phrases "must hurt,"and "I am extremely concerned," creates the third effect - the establishment of sympathyfor the heroine. David Marshall, in The Surprising Effects of Sympathy, definessympathy as "the capacity to feel the sentiments of someone else."' It is that capacitywhich is being constructed for the reader here. Clarissa, Anna reminds us, "is thepublic's care." The text, thereby, delivers her to us as an interesting object of attention,but with the admonition that we must "care." Our relationship toward her is establishedas one of concern and pity. We are urged to look, but only on the condition that welook "correctly" and feel "correctly." Our gaze and our emotional response are coachedand disciplined.Within the first paragraph, only two sentences long, the dynamics for reading thisnovel have been established. The heroine, by being the "subject of the public talk,"becomes the object of our attention as well. That talk and that attention will, in turn,"hurt" her. This hurt (prefiguring the further pain she will be made to endure) arousesour sympathy. Attention, pain and sympathy mark out the field the novel will explore.This triad (of attention, pain and sympathy) forms the essential structure of thenovel, a structure it shares with both the theater and the courtroom. The elements inthis structure, however, are neither static nor fixed. Instead, attention, pain andsympathy circulate in a process whereby each succeeds the other and each sparks theother off in a self-perpetuating economy of punishment and pleasure.n David Marshall, The Surprising Effects of Sympathy: Marivaux, Diderot, Rousseau, and Mary Shelley (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1988) 3.55One of the features of such a process is that just as the triad itself is not fixed,neither are the positions of the characters who act within it. No one remains solelyvictim or prosecutor. The roles of judge, witness, criminal, lawyer, jailer, andexecutioner are played by various characters in turn.' While Clarissa is obviously theprimary victim, she is certainly not the only one. Neither is Lovelace the only villain.Roles shift in this novel. When, for example, Clarissa complains to her mother: "Andhere I cannot but express my grief that I should have all the punishment and all theblame" (1:117), her mother replies: "Say not all the blame and all the punishment isyours. I am as much blamed, and as much punished as you are; yet am more innocent"(1:118). Indeed, her mother is amply punished at the end of the book. She and all thefamily members are made to suffer enormously for the hurt they caused Clarissa.No one gets all the punishment and all the blame in this novel. Instead, roles areplayed interchangeably by one character after another. Punishment and blame,innocence and guilt: characters seem to "try on" these attributes as they might clothing,and through them, the readers are able to experience the same freedom. Anna, forexample, sees herself at varying times, as judge, as witness ("A stander-by may see moreof the game than one who plays," 1:7), or even as executioner."23^writes that when Clarissa examines herself, "This is done by acting out a trial,in which Clarissa is at once defendant, prosecutor, and judge" (23-24).24 In Volume I, Solmes is her target: "If my eyes would carry with them the executionwhich the eyes of the Basilisk are said to do, I would make it my first business to see thiscreature" (284). In Volume IV, she is after Lovelace: "Oh, that I had the eye the basiliskis reported to have, thought I, and that his life were within the power of it! - directly wouldI kill him" (18-19). A basilisk is a mythological creature which was said to be able to killwith a look, an apt beast for this novel.56Lovelace assumes many of the roles of the courtroom. One of his favorites iswitness or lawyer. He tends to dwell on the effects of his power:The ladies, elder and younger, had their handkerchiefs to their eyes at the justtestimony which I bore to the merits of this exalted creature; and which I would ... bear at the bar of a court of justice (111:408)What an admirable lawyer should I have made and what a poor hand would thischarming creature, with all her innocence, have made of it in a court of justiceagainst a man who had so much to say and to show for himself! (IV:230-231)He is equally taken with imagining himself a prisoner. He writes to Anna Howe:I will be content to do it [meet Clarissa] with a halter about my neck; andattended by a parson on my right hand, and the hangman on my left, bedoomed, at her will, either to the church or the gallows. (111:425)Clarissa herself, though preeminently the victim of this novel, also appears atdifferent times as lawyer, judge, prosecutor, and witness. Cousin Morden acts asdetective, judge and executioner. Members of Clarissa's family are at once torturers,judges, executioners (her father's curse is the most compelling example of this) and, atthe end, victims themselves. Readers, drawn in by the epistolary style and the rapidlychanging viewpoints, are encouraged, like the characters, to move from one role toanother.I would like to consider two trial scenes in Clarissa which play out some of theissues of courtroom theatrics which have been discussed here. These scenes are notablefor several reasons. The first is that they reverse the roles which the main charactersgenerally play in the rest of the novel. Lovelace, usually presented as jailer, torturer orexecutioner, is himself on trial in the first scene. Clarissa, prisoner and victimextraordinaire, plays the role of judge in the second.These scenes are also notable for the means by which they instruct the reader onthe proper way to know and to judge. Readers are invited both to identify with, and at57the same time to judge, characters within the text. We are thereby permitted to playthe role of criminal, of victim and executioner even as we purportedly learn how tojudge, allowing us to experience simultaneously the pleasures and the pains ofpunishment.In Volume II, Lovelace enjoys a daydream, a fantasy about what would becomeof him and his friends if they were to rape Clarissa, Anna Howe, her mother and a maidas they sail to the Isle of Wight. Typically, the rape itself is described as an act ofpunishment - a punishment, interestingly enough, of Mrs. Howe's attempt to judge himand Clarissa, and of Anna's treatment of him. (How tangled these relationships ofpunishment and judgment become.) As always, rape is a means of asserting power. Heexplains:But why upon her mother, methinks thou askest...? [because] she believes she actsupon her own judgment; and deserves to be punished for pretending tojudgment when she has none. Every living soul, but myself, I can tell thee, shallbe punished, that treats either cruelly or disrespectfully so adored a lady. What aplague! Is it not enough that she is teased and tormented in person by me?(11:419)Lovelace plays on the notions of punishment and judgment. He will judge hisjudges for not judging well. He will judge and then he will punish. However, althoughhe has said that "Every living soul, but myself, . . . shall be punished," it is the idea ofhis own punishment (for punishing - i.e. raping) the women which seems to delight himthe most. Evidence of this relish might be that while Lovelace's account of the imaginedrape takes up little more than a page, his account of his trial goes on for three timesthat length. It is as if this novel were a kind of machine in which fantasies ofpunishment were enacted and where those punishments were, in turn, punished58themselves. The novel becomes the space in which such fantasies are both encouragedand then controlled, a kind of sado-masochistic dream machine.This is the way that Lovelace imagines it:I will suppose . . . that all five [of us] are actually brought to trial on thisoccasion: how bravely shall we enter a court, I at the head of you, dressed outeach man, as if to his wedding-appearance! You are sure of all the women, oldand young, of your side. What brave fellows! What fine gentlemen! There goesa charming handsome man! meaning me, to be sure! Who could find in theirhearts to hang such a gentleman as that! whispers one lady . . . . All will crowdafter me: . . . I shall be found to be the greatest criminal; and my safety, forwhich the general voice will be engaged, will be yours. (11:422)Note the almost inescapable eroticism of his description. The trial is likened to awedding. Lovelace is thrilled by the idea of thrilling the female spectators, hisexcitement spurred on by imagining theirs. This is one instance in which Lovelace hasno trouble identifying with the female. He identifies with her if she is admiring anddesiring him. The erotic charge that he gets here seems, furthermore, to be linked tohis status as prisoner and thus glamorous victim. Being a victim of this sort appeals toLovelace because of the attention that it brings. 25As in other places in the book, Lovelace's voice is parodic, echoing andgrotesquely reflecting Clarissa's situation. Lovelace is making explicit what is covert(though perhaps only slightly so) in the main narrative concerning Clarissa: the ability ofanother's suffering to move spectators erotically and theatrically. By overtly and even25 Foucault writes that "executions did not in fact frighten the people" but that, on thecontrary, "the people never felt closer to those who paid the penalty than in those ritualsintended to show the horror of the crime and the invincibility of power." Quite often, "thecondemned man found himself a hero." Discipline and Punish: The Birth of The Prison (trans. Alan Sheridan, N.Y.: Vintage Books, 1979) 63, 67.Lennard Davis comments on the same popularization of the criminal in Factual Fictions: The Origins of the English Novel (N.Y.: Columbia UP, 1983): "The ritual ofexecution provides the criminal a platform from which to make his words public; the gibbetauthorizes a form of publication by which the criminal's words are amplified" (126).59grotesquely theatricalizing the courtroom spectacle, and by an equally overtglamorization of the criminal, Lovelace's speech becomes self-incriminating. Its extremetheatricality serves to distance and distinguish it from the main narrative - Clarissa's owntrial and her own beatification.The scene works as a sort of regulatory check on both text and reader. SinceLovelace is so obviously at fault in what he is doing, the text protects itself from anysimilar charge. Similarly, the reader of Clarissa will seek to distance or distinguish himor herself from the eroticized, amoral spectators at Lovelace's fantasy trial. Thesespectators serve as negative examples - models not to emulate:Then, let us look down, look up, look round, which way we will, we shall see allthe doors, the shops, the windows, the sign-irons, and balconies (garrets, gutters,and chimney-tops included) all white-capped„ black-hooded, and periwigged, orcrop-eared up by the immobile vulgus: while the floating street swarmers, whohave seen us pass by at one place, run with stretched-out necks, and strainedeyeballs, a round-about way, and elbow and shoulder themselves into places bywhich we have not passed, in order to obtain another sight of us; every streetcontinuing to pour out its swarm of late-comers, to add to the gatheringsnowball. . . . (11:423)Few readers would care to identify themselves with the "stretched-out necks and strainedeyeballs" of the "floating street swarmers." An author's note seals our disapproval:Within these few years past, a passage has been made from the prison to theSessions-house, whereby malefactors are carried into court without going throughthe street. Lovelace's triumph on their supposed march shows the wisdom of thisalteration. (11:423)Because Lovelace is revelling in display, we know not to trust him. We are, therefore,by implication, taught to value Clarissa all the more for her reluctance to display herself.In the parodic scene, elements that were less overt in the main text are brought out: theeroticized nature of criminal-worship and the connections between discipline and love,punishment and spectacle.60Another "courtroom" scene takes place in Volume III. In this case the scene isHampstead, the place to which Clarissa has fled in an attempt to escape Lovelace.Lovelace has found her and has told people that she is simply a shy bride. He has alsoemployed an acquaintance to act as a Captain Tomlinson, an apparent emissary fromher family. Three ladies of the house, Widow Bevis, Miss Rawlins, and Mrs. Moore, areeager and curious spectators. When Clarissa enters the room, her natural air of authorityand integrity cause them to rise as if she were a judge:But here she comes! cried one, hearing her chamber door open. Here she comes!another, hearing it shut after her - and down dropped the angel among us. Weall stood up, bowing and curtsying; and could not help it. For she entered withsuch an air as commanded all our reverence. (111:107)What gives Clarissa such a judicial air in this scene is her utter independence, herindifference to anyone else's adulation or approval. Such independence andindifference form the basis of her power. Clarissa demonstrates here the autonomy andself-possession which Rousseau valued and which he felt was lost when an actor soughtthe regard and applause of an audience. It is precisely because Clarissa does notattempt to elicit sympathy that she assumes such power and independence. She says toLovelace:Well, well, sir, say what you please. Make me as black as you please. Makeyourself as white as you can. I am not now in your power: that consideration willcomfort me for all. (111:109)When Captain Tomlinson asks to speak with her privately, she replies:You may say all that you please to say before these gentlewomen. Mr Lovelacemay have secrets. I have none. You seem to think me faulty: I should be gladthat all the world knew my heart. Let my enemies sit in judgment upon myactions: fairly scanned, I fear not the result. Let them even ask me my most61secret thoughts, and whether they make for or against me, I will reveal them.(III:109) 26Her independence and indifference here allow her to be uncharacteristicallyunconcerned with display. For once she is not seeking to slide through her life unnoted.Anyone might look at her through and through, she is saying; she has nothing to hide.This is a kind of artless display which seeks to avoid any hint of the theatricality which soalarmed Rousseau.'Her innocent transparency empowers her. When, at one point, she nearly catchesTomlinson out in the deception which he is enacting, Lovelace explains:He told me, that just then he thought he felt a sudden flash from her eye, aneye-beam as he called it, dart through his shivering reins; and he could not helptrembling. (111:112)She, similarly, turns on Lovelace: "High indignation filled her disdainful eye, eye-beamafter eye-beam flashing at me. Every feature of her sweet face had soul in it" (111:116).To judge is to see and to discipline. These "eye-beams" see into the heart of theirtargets. They see the truth and they punish accordingly. Their effect on Tomlinson isdramatic. Not only does he feel judged and on trial, but he also pleads to Lovelace onClarissa's behalf:26 At the risk of repeating this too often, I want to point out the Rousseau-esque natureof Clarissa's speech. She incarnates his ideal of transparency. Foucault writes, "What in factwas the Rousseauist dream that motivated many of the revolutionaries? It was the dreamof a transparent society, visible and legible in each of its parts, a dream of there no longerexisting any zones of darkness." "The Eye of Power" in Power/Knowledge, 152.27 At this point Clarissa's reluctance or even inability to construct herself for another'sview works in her favor. At other times it does not. See, for example, Lovelace's evaluationof her dislike of display: "A dear silly soul, thought I at the time, to depend upon thegoodness of her own heart, when the heart cannot be seen into but by its actions" (111:64).620 sir!, said the captain, as soon as she was gone, what an angel of awoman is this! I have been, and I am, a very wicked man. But if anythingshould happen amiss to this admirable lady, through my means, I shall havemore cause for self-reproach than for all the bad actions of my life put together.And his eyes glistened. (111:130)Tomlinson had been playing at being a judge of sorts himself, but on receiving Clarissa'sall-seeing "eye-beams," he experiences the full force of his own guilt and begs Lovelaceto stop his "trial" of Clarissa.Tomlinson's emotion at the spectacle of Clarissa's suffering is presented not onlyas evidence of Clarissa's power, but of his good character as well. Because Tomlinson ismoved, he himself becomes a good judge. Sympathy leads to good judgment in thesense that Adam Smith intended. With the ability to feel comes the ability to see and tojudge.Tomlinson's response to Clarissa is given predominance in this scene, for heserves as double for both Belford and Lovelace, all of them rakes who have to be taughtto feel. The lesson, it seems, is intended for males only. Women, judging from thereaction of the three ladies at Hampstead, feel all too easily, and are thus made fools of:"The women stared. They did nothing but stare" (111:47). And again, "The womenstared. (The devil stare ye, thought I! Can ye do nothing but stare?)" (111:48). They arelittle better than the vulgar street swarmers at Lovelace's imagined trial.The paradox of sympathy and judgment lies at the heart of this book. In the firstscene described above, Lovelace's fantasy trial, the spectators' slavish adoration of theprisoners was presented as vulgar and unconsidered. In this scene, however, the near-conversion of a wicked man by the sight of Clarissa's suffering, his being "moved,"carries a far different meaning. Being moved in this way, being capable of this sort ofsympathy, seems to be the highest form of judgment. It is this sympathy and this63judgment which change Belford forever and give him such authority in the novel. As hewrites to Lovelace:Oh, that thou hadst been there! and in my place! But by what I then felt inmyself, I am convinced that a capacity of being moved by the distress of ourfellow-creatures is far from being disgraceful to a manly heart. (11:446-7)Belford's "capacity of being moved" ensures his credibility not only as executor ofClarissa's will, but also as editor of her papers. Once again, he or she who feels themost is the best judge.This is a paradox because throughout the novel, there are many warnings aboutthe dangers of being "moved" or tricked by "art." Clarissa, after all, is quite literallymoved and tricked from her family home by Lovelace. She writes to Anna: "Let thisevermore be my caution to individuals of my sex. Guard your eye: 'twill ever be in acombination against your judgment" (11:277), and "the eye is a traitor, and ought everto be mistrusted" (11:313). If the eye can be deceived, as Clarissa's repeatedly is, onwhat should people rely? The confusing answer, according to the novel, is sympathy.The crime of Clarissa's family, for which they are so amply punished at the end ofthe book, is a failure of sympathy. Clarissa's advice to Anna to distrust the eye is advicewhich her family have followed to their peril. Their distrust is so great that they will notallow themselves to see their daughter for fear that she will move them by means of her"art." Her mother speaks of Clarissa's "power of painting her distresses so as to piercestone" (IV:51), and Mrs Norton advises Clarissa that "your talent at moving the passionsis always hinted at" (IV:49). The family's hyper-vigilance against being moved becomes,in the end, their downfall. Their own inability to recognize or to sympathize withClarissa's victimization leads, in turn, to their own victimization.64Her uncle writes of her capacity to move others: "There is no standing againstyour looks and language," and wonders, "How can you be so unmoved yourself, yet beso able to move everybody else?" (1:304) This question - how can Clarissa be sounmoved and yet so able to move others - is central. As we have seen, Clarissa nevercourts the regard of others; she wants, it is said, to slide "through life unnoted."'Inherent to her virtue is her reluctance to display herself or that virtue. To display virtuewould, as we have seen, be to risk or lose it, by making it theatrical. The question thenbecomes how can we know her virtue if it isn't displayed? How can we be sure thatClarissa is good? This is the very question that drives Lovelace to "try" Clarissa. "Whatmust that virtue be," he asks, "which will not stand a trial" (11:40), and it is the questionwhich fuels the entire narrative. If something cannot be demonstrated by the subjectitself, then the subject must be caught, "arrested," objectified and examined. Clarissa isliterally arrested in Volume III, but even before this point she is often described as"entangled" or "ensnared" by the plots of others.'Lovelace finds Clarissa to be "impenetrable" and "invincible" (11:36). It is thisvery indifference and independence which drives him to "try" her. He wants to learn ifthe unmoved mover can be moved. He is asking "Is then the divine Clarissa capable ofloving a man whom she ought not to love?" (11:38). He wants to know "Whether herfrost be frost indeed" (III:190). He is seeking, in other words, to determine if her virtue28 Clarissa does claim, however, that it was her own pride - wanting to be an exampleto others - that caused her downfall.29 ^is a running motif throughout the novel in which Lovelace sees himself as thehunter and Clarissa as the prey. There are numerous references to choose from. One,among the many, is found in Vol 11:426 in which Lovelace compares his elaborate plots tothe time and effort needed to snare "a simple linnet."65might be mere show. If this is the case, as he suspects, then he should be able tosurprise from her real sympathy, real love, and real desire.He is able to trick her into displaying real sympathy and even a sort of love forhim when he feigns illness, but the sexual desire he thought to discover he never finds."She has come out pure gold from the assay," he admits (111:398). As she herself puts it,"My will is unviolated" (IV:186). Her triumph is her refusal to be "moved" out ofherself.The question remains as her uncle asked it, "How can [she] be so unmoved[her]self, yet be so able to move everybody else?" It is this aspect of Clarissa that ledme to state in the introduction that the only way to study Clarissa - both the characterand the text - is to study the responses that she/it generates. There is no Clarissa beyondour response to her. There is only the story of how she moves others. She is amagnetic void. This emptiness that attracts is, I suggest, another re-writing of theimpossible place (in this case the absolute non-place) of female desire.Lovelace's trial of Clarissa is an attempt to find that desire. At one point CaptainTomlinson protests that Lovelace is going too far: "You was pleased to tell me, sir, thatyou only proposed to try her virtue" (III:131). But Lovelace is trying her love as well asher virtue. He always thinks that he is at the very point of finding out, or reaching hisever-receding goal of Clarissa's desire:And as to trying her, is she not now in the height of her trial? Have I not reasonto think that she is coming about? . . . Women often, for their own sakes, willkeep the last secret. (I 11:131)It is this "last secret" that Lovelace hopes to trick out of Clarissa: "I love, thou knowest,to trace human nature, and more particularly female nature, through its most secretrecesses" (III:139).66Alas, poor Lovelace. That secret which he pursues through ever deeper recessescontinues to evade him. There is nothing to see, there is nothing to grasp beyondClarissa's rejection of him. He succeeds at last in having her, but the victory is hollow.He has to drug her in order to rape her. Because of this, his accomplices, the whoresSally and Polly, taunt himfor leaving the proud lady mistress of her own will, and nothing to reproach herself with. And all agreed that the arts used against her on a certain occasionhad too high an operation for them or me to judge what her will would havebeen in the arduous trial. (111:276)In other words, Clarissa escapes from her trial with the mystery of her "will" intact. Evenafter the rape, the climax of Lovelace's trial of her, the moment which was to haveproduced the evidence or the truth of her desire, it is still impossible to judge what herwill would have been. That will has never been discovered, has never been aroused orcreated. Her desire (at least in the shape that Lovelace might recognize it) is neverrevealed, exposed, or displayed through Lovelace's trial of her.'All that can be known, all that is revealed (and this comes to take the place of thedesire that might have been), is her victimization. The place where desire should be ormight have been is taken over by pain. Because pain and victimization come to residein the place of desire, or the place near where desire might have been, they come to beseen as woman's desire itself. It is because of this substitution and displacementIt could be argued that we get a glimpse of real affection for Lovelace in the scenewhere he gives himself ipecacuanha to induce sickness (11:434-439), but the glimpse is sofleeting and so overlaid by all other incidents that it, like other of Lovelace's visions,becomes evanescent.67(victimization in the place of desire) that critics such as V.S. Pritchett and others havecome to say that Clarissa "wanted" to be raped.The feminist psychoanalytic critic, Jessica Benjamin, asks,How does it come about that femininity appears inextricably linked to passivity,even to masochism, or that women seek their desire in another, hope to have itrecognized and recognizable through the subjectivity of an other?'Could we not say that we see the beginnings of an answer in Clarissa? Where Lovelacein particular, and the novel in general, sought desire - volition, action, will, agency - wefind nothing. In its place is substituted death, pain, violation and martyrdom. Thereader is asked to accept Clarissa's martyrdom in place of her desire. The relationship ismetonymic. Pain and victimization, repeatedly linked with desire, come eventually to beseen as the heroine's desire in and of themselves.I opened this chapter by quoting Ian Watt's speculation that the reader of thenovel might have something in common with the juror in a trial. That position, whileengaging and difficult, remains safe and distinct from the position of the prisoner in thedock. It seems to me that the reader of Clarissa does not enjoy quite such a sanctuary."It is my design," Belford writes to Lovelace, "to make thee feel" (IV:367). That is alsothe design of the book. The result is a disquieting combination of power and pleasure,innocence and guilt. Clarissa's trial at the hands of Lovelace becomes his own at thehands of Belford. His punishment is to be made to feel what Clarissa might feel. This issympathy as Adam Smith portrayed it - a bridging of the distance between individuals.However, what Belford wants Lovelace to feel through the agency of Clarissa, are the31 Jessica Benjamin, "A Desire of One's Own: Psychoanalytic Feminism andIntersubjective Space" in Feminist Studies/Critical Studies ed. Teresa de Lauretis(Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1986) 85. This is also quoted in the first chapter.68effects of his own punishment and trial of her. One man seeks that another feel thepunishment that he himself inflicted. The route is circular and Clarissa remains thecuriously empty and yet compelling vessel through which men feel. She is held so thatwe can be moved. Our sense of ourselves as subjects and our ability to feel dependupon her.69CHAPTER 3The Scarlet Letter and "The Spectacle of the Scaffold"The phrase, "the spectacle of the scaffold," comes from Foucault (it is the title ofone of the chapters in Discipline and Punish), but it could serve equally well as one ofthe chapter titles for Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. The two books, while verydifferent, share a common interest or obsession. Both are interested in the connectionsbetween vision and power. Each can be seen as an investigation of the question: whatdoes looking have to do with punishment? Foucault's demonstration of the pervasiveconnection in Western culture between vision, power and punishment is considered oneof his great achievements.' Hawthorne's novel, published in 1850, engages many ofthe same issues.Re-reading Hawthorne through the lens of Foucault helps to isolate and focussome of the crucial issues in this novel about punishment and display, but The ScarletLetter brings a term to the discussion that Foucault omits - gender. I would like toinvestigate the way that this mark of difference works among the other economies ofdiscipline, punishment and visuality in the novel.In the chapter on Clarissa we saw how the figure of the heroine was in manyrespects an empty vessel, the object of which was to move others while she herself1 I am referring here to the concept of the "gaze" as a controlling and regulating force.See Discipline and Punish and The Birth of the Clinic, trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith (New York:Pantheon Books, 1973).On the intellectual context out of which Foucault was working, see Martin Jay's "Inthe Empire of the Gaze: Foucault and the Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-century FrenchThought" in Foucault: A Critical Reader, ed. David Couzens Hoy (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1986)175-204.In Chapter 2, I noted the way that thinkers such as Rousseau and Diderot worriedabout "theatricality," or what we might now call the "politics of the gaze."70remained arrested or caught. The result was that the subjectivity of Clarissa becamedefined through her victimization. Her "trial" at the hands of Lovelace revealed orcreated pain and suffering in the place that desire might have been. Her desire,therefore, could only be represented as masochistic. Hester Prynne is another heroinewho takes on the role of martyr, serving as little more than a magnet for oursympathetic attachment.Both books are concerned with the development of sympathy; both go to greatpains to construct the ties which bind us to our heroine. In Clarissa, sympathy -tempered with judgment - becomes a means of knowledge, a way to be moved withoutappearing to succumb to the political and erotic dangers of theatricality. In The ScarletLetter, sympathy is more dangerous and more painful, in part, because it is so deeplyentwined with guilt.As readers, our identification and sympathy with Hester are routed primarilythrough Reverend Dimmesdale, her partner in adultery. The novel becomes the story ofhis deep identification not so much with Hester herself as with her guilt and itsemblem, the letter A. For this is an identification not based on a desire to be Hester orto suffer as she does (indeed, the argument could be made that Dimmesdale alreadysuffers as much or more than the heroine), but a desire for the public mark of her pain.In one sense, Dimmesdale already has a mark of his own (festering on or within hischest), but it is Hester's public display of her mark which both horrifies and attracts him.Unwilling to put himself on display as Hester has been forced to do, Dimmesdaleremains repressed and guilty. The sympathy that is constructed for us in this novel is,thus, a guilty one. Hawthorne's is a world of repression and guilty secrets, secrets which71are held to the breast and only reluctantly revealed. One of those guilty secrets wouldappear to be a hidden and shameful identification with the female victim.Male identification with the female victim has two primary effects. The first is aninitial sense of freedom or release. She is held so that the hero and thus we, thereaders, can be free. Clarissa is put on trial, arrested so that we might be moved.Hester is kept silent on the scaffold so that Dimmesdale might be free to preach fromthe pulpit and win praise and fame. Ralph gets a new sense of life and health fromwatching Isabel choose her fate. Poulet, in "The Phenomenology of Reading," wrote ofbeing energized by the sight of the books on display, being roused to active heroism bythe plight of "their immobility." As readers we participate in this energizing process; wetoo get roused to full subjectivity through the male appreciation of, and connection to,the female victims. There is, however, a second effect. This is the increasing sense oflimitation felt by those characters (male and female alike), 2 a diminution of their powersupon feeling the full impact of the heroine's fate. We are chastened by her pain. TheScarlet Letter is notable for the degree to which it is centered almost entirely on thesecond effect. Freedom is imagined, conceived and constructed only to be almostimmediately bound, controlled and disciplined. Sympathy grants us very little freedomin this novel; instead, it acts as a form of discipline. It both attracts and repels, holdingus in check.If Clarissa is a study of the heroine as victim in the making, then The ScarletLetter is a study of response to the victim already made. Our gaze is directed away from2 See Chapter 1, pages 42-43 and Chapter 6, pages 195-196.72the heroine herself and onto the mark that signifies her shame and her punishment.' Itseems to me that this mark carries two messages. The first refers to the wearer; it tellsus that she is guilty of a sexual transgression. The mark constructs her as deviant/defiant and thus as a figure of interest. The second message refers not to the wearer,but to the political realm in which she lives. This message informs us that she has metand been judged by authority and power. Much like the seal on an official document orthe signature of a dignitary, it is authority's seal branded onto authority's subject. Itsmessage is "the triumph of the law." Thus the dual message of the mark on Hester'sbreast reminds us of both her deviance/defiance and of the triumph of the law. Itmarks the conjunction of two realms: the private, the sexual, and the feminine on onehand and the public, the official, and the masculine on the other. Hester is marked asfemale and as criminal. This doubled identity makes her a powerful and troublingfigure. The mark she wears on her breast proclaims not just the exposure andpunishment of her deviance and defiance, but their very possibility. Such a conjunction,or indeed collision, of meanings grants the symbol a seemingly magnetic power overthose who encounter it.To explore the operation of this power, I turn to a scene at the end of the novel,in Chapter 22, in which Hester Prynne stands amid a holiday crowd. In some respects,this scene is reminiscent of Lovelace's imagined trial scene in Clarissa. There he sawhimself, like Hester, as the center of attention at a public trial. But he imagined thatThere is a very real sense in which Hester disappears behind her mark. Pearlmockingly points this out when she shows her mother her distorted reflection in the armorat the Governor's mansion. Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, (New York: BantamBooks, 1986) 97.4 The phrase is Foucault's. Discipline and Punish, 49.73event as a thrilling spectacle, filled with movement, tension and excitement. Here, thereis a kind of stasis imposed upon the scene; spectators and spectacle alike are held frozenin their places. There is tension, but no movement. The excitement, if there is any,transfixes rather than enlivens.Although the narrator tells us that her own townspeople had become accustomedto the letter she wore upon her breast, visitors had never seen anything like it:These, after exhausting other modes of amusement, now thronged about HesterPrynne with rude and boorish intrusiveness. Unscrupulous as it was, however, itcould not bring them nearer than a circuit of several yards. At that distance theyaccordingly stood, fixed there by the centrifugal force of the repugnance whichthe mystic symbol inspired. (224)Something about the symbol exerts a powerful force. The "unscrupulous," "boorishintrusiveness" which impels the crowd to surround Hester is physically checked by acounter-motion, "repugnance," a force which keeps spectators at a prescribed distance.There are twin forces at work - that which attracts and that which repels - which seem to"fix" both spectators and spectacle. Clarissa, unable to move herself, was at least able tomove others. Here, spectator and spectacle alike are held and arrested by the symbolwhich Hester must wear.That Hester should be "fixed" by the mark on her breast is perhaps to beexpected. We saw how Clarissa was repeatedly described as ensnared, arrested andheld. What is surprising is the degree to which the "A" controls the spectators as well.The letter seems to exert a kind of magnetic repulsion, a negative sympathy whichpushes people away:As was usually the case wherever Hester stood, a small, vacant area - a sort ofmagic circle - had formed itself about her, into which though the people wereelbowing one another at a little distance, none ventured, or felt disposed tointrude. It was a forcible type of the moral solitude in which the scarlet letterenveloped its fated wearer. (213)74The A, symbol of woman's deviance and the law's triumph, encloses Hester in solitude.It arrests and immobilizes not only the wearer, but also those she encounters.Something of the same sort of dance of attraction and repulsion is enacted in"The Custom House." There, the narrator, recounting his first discovery of the scarletletter in an attic, comments on its fascination for him. He describes it as "the object thatmost drew my attention" (30), and continues:It strangely interested me. My eyes fastened themselves upon the old scarletletter and would not be turned aside. Certainly there was some deep meaning init, most worthy of interpretation, and which, as it were, streamed forth from themystic symbol, subtly commmunicating itself to my sensibilities, but evading theanalysis of my mind. (31)He dwells on the mysteriously magnetic properties of the faded piece of cloth,registered by a sense other than intellect. A meaning too subtle for the mind to grasp"stream[s] forth" and calls him.It appears, however, that to respond to this call can be dangerous. The narratorplaces the letter on his own breast, and is scorched:pit seemed to me, then, that I experienced a sensation not altogether physical,yet almost so, as of burning heat; and as if the letter were not of red cloth, butred-hot iron. I shuddered and involuntarily let it fall upon the floor. (31)Like the spectators in Chapter 22, he is drawn toward the letter only to be almostphysically pushed back. The mark of guilt and suffering has the power to reach andaffect us over centuries, beyond and through fiction.By trying to wear the scarlet letter himself, the narrator of "The Custom House"seems to be both describing and enacting the process of identification in The ScarletLetter. Both his desire to put the scarlet letter on, and the pain which it causes him,prefigure Dimmesdale's cross-gender identification. Such desire and pain also figure75centrally in the reader's response. Our identification is built from the same elements:attraction and repulsion, desire and pain.These two scenes - the one, narrated in an intimate way by the author, the storyof his own "identification," and the other, from a more distant narratorial perspectivedescribing the public's encounter with the letter - serve as two accounts of the process ofidentification in this novel, two models of the process to be undertaken by the reader.The narrator's interaction with the letter is immediate and direct. He feels irresistiblydrawn towards the faded A, picks it up, places it on his chest, gets burned, and drops it.The scene in Chapter 22, while retaining the same dynamic of attraction and repulsion,is structured differently. In the first place, that scene is public rather than private.Furthermore, in contrast to the narrator of "The Custom House" who encounters only thesymbol of the crime, the spectators are faced with a real woman.Our own identification in the novel is also built out of two conflicting forces, ourguilty identification with the spectators who surround her and our sense of our owndifference from (and superiority towards) them. They serve as foils, as models weshould not emulate. What they are doing is portrayed as both uncivilised (they aresailors with "sunburnt and desperado-looking faces"), and barbaric or even inhuman(they are Indians with "snake-like black eyes") (224). These spectators, unlike us, areencountering Hester and the letter for the first time. Their very "strangeness" isunderscored. They are unfamiliar with Hester and her mark. They appear at the end ofthe novel when the readers, like Hester's own townspeople, may have become inured tothe symbol and its punishing effects and may have developed sympathy for its wearer.The newcomers' reaction, therefore, serves all the more as a contrast to our own. Wejoin the narrator in his condemnation of their activity because we, like him, are privy to76her feelings and her thoughts. We learn, for example, that their scrutiny "tormented"Hester, "subject[ing] [her] to another trial" (224). Our own place is constructed byshowing our similarity with, and difference from the spectators. Like them, we aredrawn forward and then repelled. Unlike them, we are granted some knowledge ofwhat Hester is feeling for we have encountered her before. (This knowledge makes usjudges of her judges, critics of her critics.) We judge the spectators on the evidence weare given of Hester's emotional state (knowledge which they cannot share). Ourevidence is that "the burning letter . . . was thus made to sear her breast more painfullythan at any time since the first day she put it on" (225).These spectators, presented as persecutors and judges, re-enact the scene at thebeginning of the novel in which part of Hester's punishment is to stand on the scaffoldand face her community. Hester, facing the newcomers, must re-enact that moment ofshame and exposure. Display becomes, once again, a form of punishment. The processshows us how curiosity (in this case that of the strangers), which to a large extent mirrorsour own as readers, however innocent in intent, can be savage and can hurt. Theknowledge of Hester's pain increases our sympathy, but it is a sympathy based on guiltbecause we recognize our identification with the spectators and seek to differentiateourselves from them. It is a reaction against the spectators' overt, and our own covert,savage curiosity. It is used as a force to neutralize or override punishing judgment.Constructed in equal measure out of identification with those who stare fixedly at themystic symbol, and a sense of our own difference from them, our sympathy is guiltyfrom the start.Traditionally, sympathy has been viewed as an antidote to judgment, a means ofnullifying its cruel effects. It is represented as all that a viewer, author or reader can77offer a heroine/victim. But if sympathy can only come after judgment, if it dependsupon pain and suffering for its existence, then the relationship between punishment andsympathy is neither as simple nor as innocent as it might seem.' There is a deeperattachment to scenes of punishment, guilt, and pain than the sentimental andtraditional view of sympathy will admit. Richard Brodhead has noted that:The Scarlet Letter is known as the great novel of seventeenth-century Puritanism.But . . . the striking fact about The Scarlet Letter is that it is almost exclusively thePuritan disciplinary system - its prison house, stocks, scaffold, and penal letters,not its practice of piety or its habit of trade - that Hawthorne concerns himselfwith.'Brodhead's implication is that Hawthorne's obsession with discipline and punishment hasbeen overlooked, or misread. Much has been written about Hawthorne's interest in theconcept of sympathy,' but his use of sympathy and discipline as forces which counteractand compensate for each other has not been explored.Thinking of our sympathy as a contrast to the "boorish" and "unscrupulous"curiosity of the spectators in Chapter 22 is the conventional approach.' We think of5 David Marshall suggests "that our sympathy - and the pleasure we seem to take in it -depend on the violence and suffering inflicted on those who appear as spectacles beforeus." The Surprising Effects of Sympathy (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1988) 48.6 Richard H. Brodhead, "Sparing the Rod: Discipline and Fiction in AntebellumAmerica." Representations 21 (1988): 77.' See, for example, Lester H. Hunt, "The Scarlet Letter: Hawthorne's Theory of MoralSentiments," Philosophy and Literature 8.1 (1984): 75-88; Gordon Hutner, Secrets and Sympathy: Forms of Disclosure in Hawthorne's Novels (Athens: U of Georgia P, 1988); RoyR. Male, Jr., "Hawthorne and the Concept of Sympathy," PMLA 68 (1953): 138-149; andJohn Michael, "History and Romance, Sympathy and Uncertainty: The Moral of Stones inHawthorne's Marble Faun," PMLA, 103 (1988): 150-161.8 A recent formulation of this traditional view is made by Janis B. Stout in "The FallenWoman and the Conflicted Author: Hawthorne and Hardy." She writes, "When thecharacter of the fallen woman is seriously and imaginatively treated, sympathy with her(continued...)78ourselves as superior to them, more enlightened. Often associated with this sense ofsuperiority and enlightenment is a further sense of liberation and freedom, but thesympathy we are taught in The Scarlet Letter does not so much liberate as it binds andpains. This novel, like all the others considered in this dissertation, can be viewed as a"school of sympathy." However, unlike the others, the lesson in sympathy offered inthis novel becomes a lesson in discipline, restraint and pain as well.That lesson is begun in "The Custom-House." Here, Hawthorne begins toconstruct his reader by beginning the lessons on sympathy and restraint. At first hisview seems to be expansive:When he casts his leaves forth upon the wind, the author addresses not the manywho will fling aside his volume, or never take it up, but the few who willunderstand him, better than most of his schoolmates and lifemates. (3)This, so far, is perfectly clear. We are flattered to hear that we belong to a small butselect group ("the few who will understand him"), and we are no doubt pleased todissociate ourselves from the non-discriminating multitude. That which follows,however, is less straightforward and less reassuring:Some authors, indeed, do far more than this, and indulge themselves in suchconfidential depths of revelation as could fittingly be addressed, only andexclusively, to the one heart and mind of perfect sympathy; as if the printedbook, thrown at large on the wide world, were certain to find out the dividedsegment of the writer's own nature, and complete his circle of existence bybringing him into communion with it. It is scarcely decorous, however, to speakall, even where we speak impersonally. But - as thoughts are frozen andutterance benumbed, unless the speaker stand in some true relation with hisaudience - it may be pardonable to imagine that a friend, a kind andapprehensive, though not the closest friend, is listening to our talk; and then, a8(...continued)plight becomes a means of questioning not only the correctness of society's moraljudgments of her, but the judgmental mentality itself" (234). American Transcendental Quarterly ns 1:3 (1987): 233-246. For Stout, sympathy solves the problem, undoes thedamage which society has inflicted.79native reserve being thawed by this genial consciousness, we may prate of thecircumstances that lie around us, and even of ourself, but still keep the inmost Mebehind its veil. To this extent and within these limits, an author, methinks, maybe autobiographical, without violating either the reader's rights or his own. (3-4)I have quoted this passage at length to give its dilatory and evasive flavor in full. Itswinding circumlocutions are difficult to trace because each time a position seems to betaken, it is almost as quickly reversed. Hawthorne initially sketches a portrait of afulfilling relationship between author and reader only to claim that he will not be likethose authors who say too much. That, after all, would be "scarcely decorous." While itmay be "pardonable," he claims, to view the reader as a friend, he is careful to limit therelationship by stating, "not the closest friend." Coyly, he protests that he wants to"keep the inmost Me behind its veil." Only "to this extent and within these limits," heclaims, can his enterprise be acceptable.Each time, a possibility is created, whether it be finding "the one heart and mindof perfect sympathy," completing "the circle of his existence," or addressing his "closestfriend," that possibility is as quickly discounted. Hawthorne sets a "limit" on it, ordismisses it altogether. The specter of perfect sympathy is raised and then snatchedaway. Desire is expressed and then reined in. Each time, a stern hand of control isplaced on the relationship between author and reader. Decorum and the law arepartners in the establishment of limits the transgression of which would be a violation of"the reader's rights or his own. i 99 See Edgar A. Dryden, Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Poetics of Enchantment (Ithaca:Cornell UP 1977). "Quite clearly, what [Hawthorne] seeks in the prefaces is both to attractand confuse his reader. . . . His veil at once conceals and entices the reader to imagine thefeatures behind it" (125). Hutner also notes that "the dominant strategy of the preface isobfuscation rather than confession" (22), and comments on the "studied evasiveness of hisstyle" (5-6).80The effect of such evasion and control is not entirely negative, however. Therepression or the banishment of that which is "scarcely decorous," and that which maynot "be pardonable" is incomplete. The effect, instead,is the creation of a kind ofproductive confusion. By describing what might be and then dismissing it, Hawthorneensures that the ghost of that presence is evoked, lingers, and never disappears. Anauthor is imagined who "indulges" in "confidential depths of revelation," only to bedismissed. The perfect reader is called forward and then instructed to keep at adistance. This invocation and subsequent negation, assertion followed by denial,becomes one of the distinguishing moves in The Scarlet Letter. By describing the kindof relationship that author and reader are not going to have, Hawthorne merelybanishes that relationship to a kind of spectral limbo, a sphere from which it can andwill return. This is surprising because Hawthorne, of all authors, should know thatghosts haunt, and that the repressed returns.Perhaps the reason that sympathy has to be rigidly controlled is that its veryexistence is so important to Hawthorne. This is an anxiety that he seems to have sharedwith Adam Smith. As David Marshall writes of Smith,The theater of sympathy in The Theory of Moral Sentiments is based on thesimultaneous necessity of spectators and fear of spectators; the ultimate threat inthe world that Smith represents is the prospect of spectators who would denysympathy.'"Spectators who would deny sympathy": many passages in The Scarlet Letter can beread as dramatizations of this fear. At both the beginning and the end of the novel, for10 David Marshall, The Figure of Theater: Shaftesbury, Defoe, Adam Smith, and GeorgeEliot (New York: Columbia UP, 1986) 191.81example, Hester is surrounded by unsympathetic crowds. The narrator's comment onthe crowd awaiting Hester's release outside the prison door is that, "Meagre, indeed,and cold, was the sympathy that a transgressor might look for, from such bystanders atthe scaffold" (47). The narrator in "The Custom House" who decides to keep the inmostMe behind the veil seems to be worried about a similar sort of exposure. In both cases,the fear and anxiety echo Smith's:According to Smith, the exposure we fear . . . is exposure before the eyes ofthose who can not or will not enter into our suffering, imagine our place andpoint of view - at the moment we are most in need of sympathy. (Marshall,Figure of Theater, 185)This situation, a lone figure facing a crowd, hoping for sympathy and almost certain notto find it, is that of both Hester on the scaffold and the author, Hawthorne, with hisnovel. Both are putting themselves on display; both hope for an understandingresponse.We can be fairly certain that Hawthorne both read and was influenced by Smith'sTheory of Moral Sentiments." His vision of sympathy certainly seems similar in manyrespects. Of Hester's first sojourn on the scaffold, he writes: "There can be no outrage,methinks, against our common nature . . . more flagrant than to forbid the culprit tohide his face for shame" (53). "It was," he continues, "almost intolerable to be borne"(54). He describes her walk to the scaffold in this way: "[H]aughty as her demeanorwas, she perchance underwent an agony from every footstep of those that thronged tosee her, as if her heart had been flung into the street for them all to spurn and trample" In a footnote on page 88, Hunt writes, "We know that [Hawthorne] borrowed a copyof The Theory of Moral Sentiments from the Salem Athenaeum when he was in his earlytwenties."Male makes a similar assertion in footnote #4 on page 139.82upon" (52). The fact that Hester is a woman surely intensifies our sense of agony, thatthat which is considered private and domestic, the young mother with her newborn,should be exposed to the public view.When Lovelace imagined his own walk from jail to courtroom, he saw it as a sortof triumphant procession or wedding march with himself as a hero to adoring femalefans. Hawthorne imagines it differently. He dwells on the horror of having to beexposed to the public eye. This would be a horror that Clarissa Harlowe shared. In thatnovel, Clarissa never lived long enough to have to experience what it might mean to becontinually in the public eye. The Scarlet Letter, by contrast, is an extended study of lifelived after the mark of punishment and shame has been imposed. We were told that tobe the "the subject of public talk" must "hurt" Clarissa. A defining feature of her virtuewas her desire to "slide through life unnoted." If to be the subject of public talk" must"hurt," then this novel is an examination of just how much, and in what ways, that hurthurts.While the threat of exposure in The Scarlet Letter is certainly terrifying andpervasive (signaled by its images of "intolerable" suffering and "trampled hearts"), thereremains, nonetheless, a giddy sense of thrill in exposure - even a secret longing to beseen. How else could one take the stage in Puritan New England? How else could oneget such riveted attention from the crowd? Even a preacher might not expect quite suchan attentive audience. The desire to be seen and noticed would still, in Hawthorne's83nineteenth-century Massachusetts, carry something of the same stigma it carried for thePuritans: 2It was the expression of just such a desire to be seen and admired that madeLovelace's fantasy of becoming a criminal-hero so scandalous. In Clarissa such a desirecould be openly expressed by Lovelace and censured in the text, but in The ScarletLetter the desire is never given voice directly. Instead, it is a longing that that can onlybe "heard" or "read" in the evasions, negations and denials of the text. The reader's earmust be sympathetically tuned in order to catch it. The epistolary style of Clarissa makeseavesdroppers or voyeurs of all its readers. The revelation of secrets in The ScarletLetter, on the other hand, must be more carefully and artfully arranged. To speak tooopenly would be to reveal too much. Only when our hearts are properly attuned are weallowed to look, or even able to see. It is sympathy which allows us to see and to hear.In both novels, the desire to appear as a spectacle, particularly as a spectacle ofpunishment, is a kind of cross-gender identification. By imagining himself ashero/victim, Lovelace seeks for himself a place similar to that which Clarissa enjoys in thenovel - star attraction, star victim. Dimmesdale's longing to show himself is coded alongthe same lines. He also wants to be in Hester's place. In each case, a male authorpresents a female heroine who is pushed into the limelight against her will. In eachcase, in order for male characters (Lovelace and Dimmesdale) to imagine themselves assimilarly beheld, they have to imagine themselves as female. To identify with the12 The stigma remains today. "Don't make a spectacle of yourself," we warn children,particularly little girls. On being given such a warning, Mary Russo writes, "Making aspectacle of oneself seemed a specifically feminine danger." Mary Russo, "FemaleGrotesques: Carnival and Theory," Feminist Studies/Critical Studies, ed. Teresa de Lauretis(Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1986) 219.84female is to identify with the victim. To identify with the victim is to identify with theone on display, the spectacle.' Female, victim, spectacle: the terms merge until theyare nearly indistinguishable.It is perhaps the entangled nature of these prohibitions and desires that makesthe expression of the desire to be seen so complicated, and practically unspeakable.One can only approach it, can only arrange to be displayed, cautiously and circuitously.In a letter to his wife before their marriage, Hawthorne wrote:I am glad to think that God sees through my heart . . . and so may any mortal,who is capable of full sympathy and therefore worthy to come into my depths.But he must find his own way there."Like Adam Smith, Hawthorne expresses concern about being exposed to one who mightwithhold sympathy. Only someone capable of full sympathy is worthy to come intoHawthorne's depths. That person must find his own way; the author will not help byproviding a display. This is the type of sympathy that we are to be taught in this novelso that we can become individuals "worthy" enough to find our way into the depths ofHawthorne's novel and Hawthorne's heart. Sympathy provides us with a way to see andto be seen, but in Hawthorne's world, it must be carefully regulated. Read in this way,the novel becomes little more than the construction of a safe environment for display - aplace where guilty secrets and "inmost Me's" can be revealed but not reviled. Thefemale, displayed against her will, is the vehicle through which the male may enjoy thesame fantasy." See Chapter 2, for Rousseau and Diderot's views on women as spectacle.14 This letter is quoted in Hutner, Secrets and Sympathy (7).The idea of having a heart that anyone may see through is reminiscent of Rouuseau'sdesire for transparency with concomitant echoes of Bentham and panopticism. See Chapter2, page 69.85Gordon Hutner, who provides this reference to Hawthorne's letter, sees in it a"call for a special intuition" (or sympathy) on the part of both wife and ideal reader thatis particularly Romantic. He explains: "For Hawthorne, sympathy imparts a Romanticideal of communication; it predicates an understanding that passes beyond words" (8).While the influence of Romanticism on Hawthorne is undeniable,' we have to bemore specific. With what eye, after all, are we seeing in The Scarlet Letter? Does ourown gaze not encompass both the gaze of the Puritans of Massachusetts and the gaze ofthe nineteenth-century narrator? Hawthorne certainly employs Romantic concepts ofsympathy, but he always does so in counterpoint - setting them off against earlier andsometimes contradictory notions. Why is The Scarlet Letter set two hundred years priorto its time of writing if not to exploit the double vision such retrospection provides?Hawthorne mixes seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth century uses of theterm sympathy to interesting effect. But before examining this blending in particular, itmight be beneficial to give a swift overview of Hawthorne's use of retrospection ingeneral.Clarissa is renowned for the immediacy of its epistolary style, its "writing to themoment." The Scarlet Letter by contrast always looks to the past, to what has alreadyoccurred. There are several senses in which this is true. In the first place, the "crime"committed by Hester and Dimmesdale is well over by the time the story begins.Furthermore Hester, unlike her sister heroine, Clarissa, has already been judged and herpunishment begun before the book opens. This sense of events being "over," finished,15 Leon Chai writes that "the American Renaissance is in one sense the final phase ofRomanticism." The Romantic Foundations of the American Renaissance (Ithaca: Cornell UP,1978) 6.86in the past and yet still spilling into the present, has come to be seen as something of ahallmark of Hawthorne's fiction. The past is always in Hawthorne's present, or at thevery least, is never far behind.The most obvious use of retrospection in The Scarlet Letter is its seventeenth-century setting. The span of two hundred years between the doing and the tellingallows Hawthorne to create what I call a stereo-scopic gaze, a way of looking in twodirections at once. What this means is that he can adopt either a pre-enlightenmentperspective (typical of the Puritan community he portrays) or a post-enlightenment"modern" perspective, which sees some elements of that society as barbarous orinhumane.' The narration alternates between a seventeenth-century way of seeingand a seemingly more "natural" nineteenth-century way. Each viewpoint unsettles,undercuts, and de-naturalizes the other.By maintaining both perspectives, by alternating from one to another, Hawthorneprovides himself with the means of "having it both ways." He can be condescendingand derisive about the ways of his forefathers and never lose his own obsession withthose ways. He can censure and judge the events of Puritan Massachusetts while at thesame time maintaining the ability to experience them through fiction. In Clarissa wecould play the roles of victim and executioner, could experience the life of both prisonerand judge. Hawthorne's double vision allows us the same latitude. We can join the16 For the way Hawthorne uses this double gaze to connect Hester to witchcraft, see"Seduced by Witches: Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter in the Context of NewEngland Witchcraft Fictions," by Gabriele Schwab in Seduction and Theory: Readings ofGender, Representaiton and Rhetoric, ed. Dianne Hunter (Chicago: U of Illinois P, 1989)170-191.87"rude and boorish" throng which surrounds Hester in Chapter 22, and we can judgethem from afar.This play of one time period against the other serves as another form ofdiscipline, a discipline that acts, however, as a productive force. This is the by-now-familiar strategy of invocation and denial. When, for example, a light appears in thesky, the narrator half-earnestly and half-scornfully reports that "[n]othing was morecommon in those days, than to interpret all meteoric appearances, and other naturalphenomena . . . as so many revelations from a supernatural source" (142). The earlierscience is half-mocked, but never entirely discredited. It is allowed to remain so as toadd a note of mystery and darkness to the "modern" commonsensical view of naturalphenomena. The effect of allowing both views to rest side by side, neither one whollysubmitting to the other, is that neither is obliterated and neither is triumphant. Each isdisciplined (that is, reined in and controlled) by the other. The result is the same sort ofproductive confusion that we saw in Hawthorne's construction of the reader in hisintroduction. Powerful images and powerful emotions are evoked only to be denied orrepressed. A suggestion is made only to be withdrawn. To assert and to contradict likethis is to allow oneself license to say the unsayable. 17Hawthorne uses the same ambivalence and double vision in his construction ofsympathy. By the mid-nineteenth century, when Hawthorne was writing The ScarletLetter, the term had gone through a number of varied and sometimes contradictory"This would account for the numerous snippets of "gossip" in the book. The narratorincludes voices that are not his own, and from which he appears to want to distancehimself, so as to allow the supernatural, the emotional, the sadistic to be expressed. Forexample, "It was whispered by those who peered after her that the scarlet letter threw alurid gleam along the passage-way of the interior" (65). Also see the allegations againstChillingworth, (117).88meanings. Hawthorne calls on and uses several of these, some contemporary, andothers anachronistic.'The first of these usages, the basis of alchemy, would be used to explain how twoapparently different substances seek each other out. The second concept concerned thenature of the relationship between various organs of the body and even between bodyand soul, or body and spirit. The third usage was that expounded by Adam Smith in hisTheory of Moral Sentiments (1759) in which sympathy is posited as a type of moral"glue" which can bind a society of isolated individuals together.' All of theseconcepts were employed by Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter.The nineteenth-century meaning of sympathy, while still retaining some of itsprevious connotations, took on a decidedly Romantic cast. Thus, while retaining itssocial sense as an agency which could transcend individuals' isolation and help bindthem together, sympathy began to be seen as primarily an aesthetic force.' In otherwords, poetry and art, or more precisely the vision of the poet or artist, were considered18 James Rodgers explains the uses of the term during the eighteenth century:The three main uses of sympathy . .. were as: (1) an occult force, spurned bymechanistic science; (2) a useful physiological concept, revived by the mechanistsamd taken over by their opponents; and (3) a social mechanism or sentimentimportant to moral philosophy.James Rodgers, "Sensibility, Sympathy, Benevolence: Physiology and Moral Philosophy inTristram Shandy," in Languages of Nature: Critical Essays on Science and Literature, ed. L. J.Jordanova (London: Free Asscociation Books, 1986) 134.19 Goethe's Elective Affinities is a good example of the eighteenth century's fascinationwith both the social and the chemical properties of sympathy, as expressed in marriage andsexual attraction.20 This is not to say that the aesthetic sense was alien to the eighteenth century. Indeed,as David Marshall demonstrates in his The Surprising Effects of Sympathy, the concept andproblem of sympathy was central to a number of French and English writers on art anddrama. He writes: "in the eighteenth century, the word suggests putting oneself in theplace of someone else, taking someone else's part." (3)89to be the primary means of exerting and experiencing sympathy. Sympathy came tomean a projective identification, a method of achieving imaginary or artistic union.M.H. Abrams explains that Coleridge used the eighteenth-century notion of the term "toexplain how a poet is able to annul space . . . and become. . . the personality hecontemplates."' It is this Romantic sense of the word sympathy which Hawthorneseems to be conjuring when he says that only a mortal "capable of full sympathy" is"worthy to come into my depths." The reader, it seems, must have the gifts of a greatpoet to be able to merge with the author and read correctly. The reader must become apoet, an artist, must merge with the author. 22 This Romantic concept of sympathy iscentral to an understanding of The Scarlet Letter.However, by setting his novel in the seventeenth century, Hawthorne gavehimself license to work with the earlier meanings and connotations of sympathy as well.Just as in "The Custom House" he constructed his reader by evoking and then denying apossiblity of sympathetic communion, so he similarly plays the two uses of sympathy offagainst each other in the main narrative. The result, as in the custom house passage, isa productive confusion. Through the use of what I call his "stereo-scopic" vision,allowing him to see two ways at once, Hawthorne was able to employ early and21 M.H. Abrams, The Mirror and the Lamp, (N.Y.: Oxford UP, 1953) 245.22 It may not be too far-fetched to suggest that the Romantic position of reader as poetor artist with active imaginative and sympathetic capabilities would be a male position.Paradoxically, if we are to take this image further, Hawthorne, by inviting that reader to"come into my depths" would appear to be taking a passive female position.90contemporary meanings of sympathy in such a way that the meanings intertwine, enrichand subvert each other.'It is in the portrait of Chillingworth that the seventeenth and eighteenth-centuryscientific uses of sympathy are primarily exploited. Early in the novel, Chillingworthsays that he will use the same alchemical methods which he had used in the old countryto seek Hester's adulterous partner in the new, and will employ the same principle ofsympathy: "I shall seek this man, as I have sought truth in books; as I have sought goldin alchemy. There is a sympathy that will make me conscious of him" (70). Sympathyis to be used as a tool to reveal and subject the other.Hawthorne's stereo-scopic vision allows him to discredit Chillingworth in twoways simultaneously. The first is by identifying him with the pseudo-science of alchemyand thereby implying that his science is out of date, mere black magic or hocus-pocus.' The second reference is more contemporary. These portrayals ofChillingworth expose the dangers or discomforts of what we now recognize as modern-day police or psychiatric surveillance. What is chilling about Chillingworth is his diabolicthoroughness and efficiency, his ability to see right to the center of his prey. InChillingworth are united the "black arts" of pre-enlightenment magic and the supervisoryand disciplining gaze of Jeremy Bentham's panopticon. What is so effective and sofrightening about the panopticon and the disciplinary society which it embodies,23 Roy R. Male refers to Hawthorne's merging of the two centuries' understanding ofsympathy. (139)24 The sense that this "science" is not just old-fashioned but evil is underscored by thespeculation about Chillingworth's involvement with one Doctor Forman, alchemist andastrologer, in the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury. (117)91according to Foucault, is the way that while remaining invisible itself, "it imposes onthose whom it subjects a principle of compulsory visibility" (Discipline and Punish, 187).This is the way that Chillingworth's deployment of sympathy is described:Few secrets can escape an investigator, who has opportunity and license toundertake such a quest, and skill to follow it up. A man burdened with a secretshould especially avoid the intimacy of his physician. If the latter possess nativesagacity, and . . . intuition; if he show no intrusive egotism. . . if he have the power. . . to bring his mind into such affinity with hispatient's, . . . - then, at some inevitable moment, will the soul of the sufferer bedissolved . . . bringing all its mysteries into the daylight. (114)There is no chance of keeping the "inmost Me behind a veil" from a man, from a gaze,like this one. What is especially pernicious is the physician's "native sagacity," his"intuition," and his ability "to bring his mind into . . . affinity with his patient's."The ability to think and feel like his patient, to (in Henry James's phrase) "getinto the skin of" the other,' is perhaps what Stephen Greenblatt had in mind when heclaimed that empathy could be used as a tool for exploitation or colonization. Empathy,he writes, implies "the ruthless displacement and absorption of the other."' This iswhat scares Dimmesdale so about his "friend." It is Chillingworth's capacity forsympathy that makes him so dangerous. His is a sympathy that is used like a spotlightor a police searchlight to reveal and to destroy.' It has been noted that Chillingworthserves here as a prototype of the modern psychiatrist.' He is also, I would suggest, a25 (see Chapter 4, page 118)26 (See Chapter 1, pages 39-40)27 Although Dimmesdale may feel as if Chillingworth is exposing him to the light,Hawthorne describes Chillingworth as working in the dark, as a miner or a gravedigger(118) or a thief: "He groped along as stealthily, with as cautious a tread, and as wary anoutlook, as a thief" (119).28 Male writes that Chillingworth "anticipates the technique of modern psychiatry." 147.92prototype of the modern police detective. It is the dark, intrusive, and sadistic undersideof sympathy which is being explored here.Such intrusive burrowings prompt Dimmesdale, when he learns of Chillingworth'strue identity, to exclaim:0 Hester Prynne, thou little, little knowest all the horror of this thing! And theshame! - the indelicacy! - the horrible ugliness of this exposure of a sick andguilty heart to the very eye that would gloat over it! (178)Such an exclamation rings with the familiar tones of Adam Smith who saw in sympathy atype of shield against just such exposure.' Hester tries to assure Dimmesdale that hecan escape Chillingworth's punishing gaze: "Is there not shade enough in all thisboundless forest to hide thy heart from the gaze of Roger Chillingworth?" she asks(181). Foucault would answer Hester's question in the negative. "[D]isciplinary power,"he writes, "is everywhere and always alert, since by its very principle it leaves no zone ofshade" (Discipline and Punish,  177, emphasis my own). The text would seem to agree;there is no escape. The characters must continue to exist, at the very least, in the glareand the gaze of the reader.The sympathy deployed by Chillingworth is represented for us the readers so thatwe might both use it and abhor it. We use it because we need it in order to see withChillingworth into the guilty heart of Dimmesdale. We use it, but are also instructed tohate and reject it. As in several other cases noted above, readers are presented with29 Clarissa'a innocent transparency empowered her. Anyone, she said, was free to lookinto her heart. (See Chapter 2, page 69.) Dimmesdale and Hawthorne are less at ease.They seek to arrange their revelations carefully.93characters whose responses we are to emulate as well as characters whose responses weare meant to reject."What is particularly significant about the Chillingworth-Dimmesdale relationship isits centrality in the novel. I mentioned in the introduction that in all four of the novelsdiscussed in the main body of this dissertation, the story of the bonds between the mensurrounding the heroine threatens to become the central narrative, eclipsing our view ofher. Nowhere is this more true than in The Scarlet Letter. Dimmesdale is in manyrespects more suffering heroine than Hester Prynne herself.The novel does attempt to envision or create another less sinister type ofsympathy than that practiced by Chillingworth, one which would allow knowledge ofothers without any violation of their "rights." It is questionable, however, whether thissympathy ultimately produces effects any more liberating or positive than those createdby Chillingworth, or whether it merely serves to implicate the sympathiser in the sameposition of pain as he or she who suffers.The "real" or "good" sympathy in The Scarlet Letter is almost always portrayed asa nonvisual and nonrational experience:When an uninstructed multitude attempts to see with its eyes, it is exceedinglyapt to be deceived. When, however, it forms its judgment, as it usually does, onthe intuitions of its great and warm heart, the conclusions thus attained are oftenso unerring, as to possess the character of truths supernaturally revealed. (116-117)Chillingworth is the only active looker in this novel and his cold scientific gaze isrepeatedly censured by the text. There seems to be something about visual observation" In Clarissa such characters included the staring women who observe Clarissa's judicialappearance at Hampstead, and the "vulgar street swarmers" at Lovelace's imagined trial.(See Chapter 2, pages 67-68 and 71.) In The Scarlet Letter, it is the strangers who crowdaround Hester in Chapter 22 that we seek to differentiate ourselves from.94that, for Hawthorne, disrupts or makes impossible the occurrence of real sympathy.Instead he accords primacy to the aural. That which enters the ear seems to besomehow purer, to have a better chance of bypassing the eyes and mind and reachingthe heart directly.Part of the reason the aural seems to succeed is that it transcends both theintellect and, ironically, language itself.' This is particularly evident in the effect ofDimmesdale's sermons:The young pastor's voice was tremulously sweet, rich, deep, and broken. Thefeeling that it so evidently manifested, rather than the direct purport of thewords, caused it to vibrate within all hearts, and brought the listeners into oneaccord of sympathy. (63)It is the feeling, not the meaning of the words, which brings the listeners into sympathy.Their response is below or beyond reason. "The people knew not the power that movedthem thus" (131).In his last sermon, only Hester can detect the actual reason for, or source of, theminister's passion. (Here sympathy is being routed through the female for the male -yet another role reversal in a novel which is full of them.) Once again, the meaning isbeyond anything that language can express: "Hester Prynne listened with suchintentness, and sympathized so intimately, that the sermon had throughout a meaningfor her, entirely apart from its indistinguishable words" (221). Hester, standing outsidethe church, does not know what the minister is saying inside, but it does not matter.Because she has sympathetic knowledge of his guilt, she is able to hear what it is that he"In this respect, Hawthorne reveals once more his Romantic heritage. Abrams remindsus that for the Romantics, music replaced painting as the art with which literature was mostoften compared. Music was valued for its seemingly non-mimetic qualities (The Mirror and the Lamp, 91-94).95is saying without distinguishing a single word. The passion of his suffering is so greatthat others, even if they do not know the explicit source of his anguish, can also beginto detect it: "still, if the auditor listened intently, and for the purpose, he could detectthe same cry of pain" (222). That cry is described as "A loud or low expression ofanguish, - the whisper, or the shriek . . . of suffering humanity, that touched a sensibilityin every bosom" (222). 32 True or "full" sympathy, it appears, must not or cannot berepresented either visually or through language. Sympathy, in these passages, operatesas if by magic. In this sense, it retains some of its pre-nineteenth century associationswith alchemy and with a mystery at once scientific and nonrational. 33 It operates as anunseen force that can be best apprehended through the suspension of vision and oflanguage. Furthermore, it can only be caught or "heard" by someone able tosympathize with guilt.The sympathy which the minister's speech asks for is readily accorded because itrequires no effort. It is a kind of spontaneous "elective affinity." Granted automatically,with no effort or will on the part of the sympathizer, it responds to guilt. Only theguilty, like Hester, can properly hear the underlying message of Dimmesdale's sermon,the "cry of pain" which lurks beneath his prophecy of a great future for the republic.32 The Blithedale Romance the snooping narrator, Coverdale, overhears Zenobia:"And then I heard her utter a helpless sort of moan; a sound which, struggling out of theheart of a person of her pride and strength, affected me more than if she had made thewood dolorously vocal with a thousand shrieks and wails." The Blithedale Romance 1852(New York: Penguin, 1983, 104). As in The Scarlet Letter, the medium by which emotionis communicated and recognized is sound not sight." Male reminds us that "The significance which sympathy took on during this periodseems to have stemmed from two important and interdependent developments; the strikingdiscoveries in electricity and magnetism." (139)96We can get an idea of how such a transaction of guilty sympathy or sympatheticguilt might work by what we learn of Hester's situation. Her sense of her own guiltheightens her awareness of the guilt of others:[l]t now and then appeared to Hester . . . that the scarlet letter had endowed herwith a new sense. She shuddered to believe, yet could not help believing that itgave her sympathetic knowledge of the hidden sin in other hearts. (80)Once guilty, like young Goodman Brown, one sees guilt everywhere. There is anothersense in which guilt and sympathy work together: "Man had marked this woman's sinby a scarlet letter, which had such potent and disastrous efficacy that no humansympathy could reach her, save it were sinful like herself" (82).Thus, the reader is involved in a kind of moral catch-22: "No human sympathycould reach her save it were sinful like herself." Any reader who wants to move into acloser relationship with Hester is, as it were, stopped at the gate. This is a club forsinners only. To sympathize with Hester is to acknowledge one's guilt. Only byacknowledging our guilt can we sympathize.Pearl, like her mother, is often presented as being in a sphere by herself, as beingisolated from the rest of society. The sympathy which the text, the reader and theauthor are expected to extend to Hester, Pearl is expected to produce for herself: "She[Pearl] wanted - what some people want through life - a grief that should deeply touchher, and thus humanize and make her capable of sympathy" (169). This statementwould seem to imply that grief is what "humanizes" us, is the catalyst that allows us tofeel the proper kind of sympathy. This sympathy, unlike the utilitarian sympathypractised by Chillingworth which objectifies and separates, actually draws peopletogether, and unites them through their pain.97In Clarissa only Lovelace ever dared to make a similar wish. He occasionallyexpressed the hope that Clarissa would feel pain, hurt and confusion so that she mightcome down from her lofty sphere and exist on his plane. In that novel his assertion thatClarissa might "need" or "want" a little pain was presented as a cruel and sadistic wish.(His rape can be read as the manifestation of this wish.) Here, the wish is overt: "Shewanted . . . a grief," and it is granted: "Pearl kissed his lips. A spell was broken. Thegreat scene of grief, in which the wild infant bore a part, had developed all hersympathies" (233). Pearl is amply rewarded for her induction into the world of griefand pain. She inherits a fortune, moves to Europe, and marries royalty.Just as Pearl has to feel pain before she can experience sympathy and be human,so we, the readers, have to feel pain and acknowledge our own guilt in order to knowand apprehend the characters' suffering. When Hester first appears, in Chapter 2, thenarrator comments that "there was something exquisitely painful in it" (81). Theproximity of the words "exquisite" and "painful" produces a disquieting effect, as if bylearning to appreciate the aesthetics of suffering, one could become a connoisseur ofpain. Sympathy may only be gained through guilt, but there appear to be someaesthetic rewards.The character of Hester has puzzled generations of readers. She seems in manyways to be the embodiment of bold and passionate womanhood. What, then, are we tomake of the ending of the novel in which Hester voluntarily returns to the colony inorder to resume her life of submission and penance: "She had returned, therefore, andresumed, - of her own free will, for not the sternest magistrate of that iron periodwould have imposed it" (238)? She takes up the letter again, this time, for good. Once,98earlier on in the forest, she had flung her letter and her cap aside in the name offreedom, only to be forced, reluctantly, to put them back on. There, she had done itwith "a sense of inevitable doom upon her" (193), and we were told that,Hester next gathered up the heavy tresses of her hair, and confined them beneathher cap. As if there were a withering spell in the sad letter, her beauty, thewarmth and richness of her womanhood, departed, like fading sunshine; and agray shadow seemed to fall across her. (193)Why would an act that spelled "doom" and the sacrifice of warmth and beauty inthe middle of the novel become, by the end, an act of heroism? Sacvan Bercovitch seesThe Scarlet Letter as itself performing the same function as the letter and the cap in theforest scene. All work to "rein in," to control and to discipline. He writes that, like theletter and the cap, "Hawthorne's novel functions precisely to rein in what 'becomespossible'. "34Bercovitch continues by musing on the statement in the middle of the novel that"the scarlet letter had not done its office," that Hester was not yet sufficiently inwardlychastened:"The scarlet letter had not done its office": the entire novel asks us to interpretthis in the affirmative, and by the end compels us to, as a grim necessity. It is asthough Hawthorne had to overcompensate for the enormous radical potentialinherent in his characters and symbols; had to find some moral absolute .. .powerful enough to recall all those unleashed energies of will, eros, and languageback into the culture from which they arose and, in his view, to which theybelonged. ("A-Morality", 21)A "grim necessity" forces Hester to put her cap and letter back on in the forest, andlater, to return to Massachusetts and resume the letter and her life of isolation. Whoinsists on this penance that "Not the sternest magistrate of that iron period would have34 Sacvan Bercovitch. "Hawthorne's A-Morality of Compromise." Representations 24(1988): 19.99imposed"? The narrator tells us that she did it "of her own free will." But in a novelwhere freedom is ever and always reined in and put under a strict hand of control, wemust ask what kind of free will this could be. It is a self-imposed, internalised disciplineand punishment, a punishment and a discipline which the whole novel has taught ushow to bear." Bercovitch sees the novelas a story of socialization, where the point of socialization is not to conform, butto consent. Anyone can submit; the socialized believe. It is not enough to havethe letter imposed; you have to do it yourself.'The novel, then, would teach us not just sympathy but discipline, control, anddenial as well. I have tried to show how these two seemingly contrasting impulses areintertwined in The Scarlet Letter. The novel, Bercovitch argues, teaches us how to seekand want this discipline for ourselves. In that sense it teaches us a form of masochism,teaches us to desire pain. It effects this, at least in part, through the construction ofDimmesdale's own desires.What does a woman want, asked Freud. The answer in Clarissa - at leastaccording to Lovelace - was that she wants to be raped. In this novel the moreappropriate question might be, "What does Dimmesdale want?," and at least oneanswer would be that he wants what Hester has. He wants what she is wearing, and willgo through extraordinary pain to get it. The whole story can be read as an account of' "Everyone must see punishment not only as natural, but in his own interest."(Discipline and Punish, 109).36 Sacvan Bercovitch. "The A-Politics of Ambiguity in The Scarlet Letter." New LiteraryHistory 19.3 (1988): 630.100Dimmesdale's struggle to get on the scaffold with Hester, to take her place.' What Iwould suggest is that this great desire expressed (and repressed) by Dimmesdale to takeHester's place serves ultimately and paradoxically to keep her in her place. The positionof shame, penance and humiliation is glorified through man's desire for it. Because aman desires it, because it brings attention, the display of pain, if not the actual painitself, becomes desirable. The desire of another, the recognition of another, teaches usthat pain brings attention and even a kind of love. The position of pain and display isonce again marked as feminine.Dimmesdale wants to be in two places at once. He wants to, or feels that heshould, show God and society that his place is with Hester on the scaffold, but his statusand career keep him from it. His awareness of his own hypocrisy ironically makes him abetter speaker and a better minister. Just as the letter A gives Hester sympatheticknowldege of the guilty secrets of others, so Dimmesdale's sympathy for Hester and hisunconfessed sin grant him almost hypnotic powers of persuasion and eloquence:But this very burden it was that gave him sympathies so intimate with the sinfulbrotherhood of mankind, so that his heart vibrated in unison with theirs, andreceived their pain into itself, and sent its own throb of pain through a thousandother hearts, in gushes of sad, persuasive eloquence. Oftenest persuasive, butsometimes terrible! The people knew not the power that moved them thus. (131)Suffering and guilt make good art. This much is standard Romantic doctrine. What Iwould like to suggest is that good art might also depend upon, in this case, a secretattachment to the victimization of woman, a longing to see her punished and to feelthat punishment oneself.' David Marshall's definition of sympathy, we might remember, was "putting oneselfin the place of someone else, taking someone else's part." The Surprising Effects ofSympathy (3), See Chapter 2, 61, note,number 22.101Some recent Hawthorne criticism has focused on Hawthorne's gender-relatedanxiety of authorship. It has been suggested that Hawthorne, whom many of his friendsclaimed had "womanly" attributes," worried that his chosen profession of writer wasunmanly. This might help to explain his famous diatribe against female writers: "What astrange propensity it is in these scribbling women to make a show of their hearts, as wellas their heads, upon your counter, for anybody to pry into that chooses."'Hawthorne's disgust and outrage stem from two sources. The first is the indecentexposure demonstrated in these writings. He dislikes their cheap, even promiscuous,availability, "for anybody to pry into that chooses."" The second is connected to thefirst. The desire to show oneself is considered a feminine trait (one that has to becontinually opposed by the equally "feminine" trait of modesty). To keep thingsstoically "close to the chest" is the masculine way of doing things. Seen in this light,Dimmesdale's doomed attempt to hide his identification with Hester becomes a(doomed) attempt at masculinity.38 See Evan Carton, "'A Daughter of the Puritans' and Her Old Master: Hawthorne, Una,and the Sexuality of Romance," Daughters and Fathers, eds., Lynda E. Boose and Betty S.Flowers, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1989) 208-232;T. Walter Herbert, Jr., "Nathaniel Hawthorne, Una Hawthorne, and The Scarlet Letter:Interactive Selfhoods and the Cultural Construction of Gender, PMLA 103 (1988): 285-297;and David Leverenz, "Mrs. Hawthorne's Headache: Reading The Scarlet Letter," Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 37.4 (1983): 552-575.' Quoted in Carton, 210.' Hawthorne may not have been unique in his reaction. See, for example, CatherineGallagher who argues against accounts such as Gilbert and Gubar's which see authorship asan exclusively male-defined activity. She argues that, on the contrary, writing wasconsidered "degradingly female" and that since the Greek classical period there has beenan "association of writing with femaleness in general and prostitution in particular."Catherine Gallagher, "George Eliot and Daniel Deronda: the Prostitute and the JewishQuestion," Sex, Politics and Science in the Nineteenth-Century Novel, ed. Ruth BernardYeazell, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1986).102Not only is the female considered to be the more expressive of the sexes; she isalso the more decorated. It is the female who sports the finery and ribbons; the maleadopts plainer dress. In this sense, Hester's embroidery of the letter is a feminization ofit, made all the more striking in that it exists in the dull plain world of (masculine)Puritan dress. "It was so artistically done, and with so much fertility amd gorgeousluxuriance of fancy" (50). The mark that Hester wears, therefore, comes to symbolizenot only her own deviance/defiance versus the triumph of the law, but her sex as well.She is the sex which displays, the sex which shows. Dimmesdale in wanting the mark ofpunishment on his breast wants the mark of femininity as much as of guilt.Hester's position can then be described as no more "full," no more "important"than Clarissa's. Each functions as a vessel through which identifications can be routed.The route of identification for the female reader of The Scarlet Letter is as circuitous asever. We feel through a male who wants to feel for, or "feel as" the heroine. Ourattachment to Hester is built from a complex knot of sympathy, fear and guilt, itsthreads so intertwined as to be nearly indistinguishable.103CHAPTER 4Changing Places: Gender and Identity in The Portrait of a LadyThe Portrait of a Lady, like Clarissa and The Scarlet Letter, presents us with thespectacle of a heroine, strong, energetic, and virtuous, who is ultimately caught andimprisoned. Like Clarissa and Hester, Isabel Archer seems by the end of her novelunable to move or rescue herself though others are profoundly moved by her story. Theemotional effect she has on others, the feat of moving others, is the work of the novel.It moves us through the creation and exploitation of twin desires: the first, a desire tolove and to pity, the second, an avid desire to possess.Clarissa we read as a school of sympathy and The Scarlet Letter as a school ofsympathy and guilt. The Portrait of a Lady becomes a school of value. But whether ourlesson is in the value of love and art, or in the love and art of value is not entirely clear.In this novel, issues of value and commerce become confusingly entangled with issues ofsympathy and love.In his preface to The American, Henry James writes of the importance ofanchoring the central consciousness of the novel in his hero, of getting, as it were,"inside his head":For the interest of everything is all that it is his vision, his conception, hisinterpretation: at the window of his wide, quite sufficiently wide, consciousnesswe are seated, from that admirable position we "assist." He therefore supremelymatters; all the rest matters only as he feels it, treats it, meets it.'1 Henry James, The Art of the Novel: Critical Prefaces ed. Richard P. Blackmur (London:Scribner's, 1934) 37.104James insists (the emphases in the passage are all his) on both Newman's absolute andunquestioned possession of hi5 vision, his conception, etc., and on our own attendance(assistance) within his consciousness. Why should James feel the need to stress thecharacter's full proprietorship if, at the same time, he is to invite us to stay? Could it bethat the place which is so much "his" is exactly ours to possess? Could it be thatNewman has been created, has been made to "supremely matter," so that we mighthave an "admirable position" from which to "assist," that he is nothing more than a siteconstructed for us - not merely to feel and to see from - but also to occupy? Thetraditional analysis of James's celebrated use of point of view stresses the anchoring orcentering of such a site as a structural solution to a structural problem. 2 But what isinvolved goes far beyond issues of form and structure to engage issues of subjectivity,gender, power and control.'James continues his analysis of our relationship to the hero of The American inthis way:A beautiful infatuation this, always, I think, the intensity of the creative effort toget into the skin of the creature; the act of personal possession of one being byanother at its completest. (37)2 Leo Bersani calls the prefaces "a model of structuralist criticism." "The Jamesian Lie,"Partisan Review 36 (1969): 53.Also see Percy Lubbock, The Craft of Fiction (New York: Viking Press, 1957).For a useful account of this tradition, and a deconstructive approach to it, see DavidCarroll, The Subject in Question: The Languages of Theory and the Strategies of Fiction (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1982).3 For a study of power in James, see Mark Seltzer, Henry lames and the Art of Power(Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1984).105Dorrit Cohn claims that this passage is "probably the most direct allusion to the sexualact in his entire oeuvre."' It is certainly no structuralist description and is somethingmore than a formal solution to a formal problem. Indeed, it seems to be a descriptionof some kind of love affair. This "effort to get into the skin of another, this "act ofpersonal possession of one being by another," is heralded as being "creative" and"complete." The phrases, however, are ripe with implications of sexuality and violencethough all such implications remain unacknowledged, or even ignored, by the text.They are masked by other phrases such as "the creative effort" and "a beautifulinfatuation." By describing the act of coming to possess another as "creative" and"beautiful," the act becomes aestheticized and nearly tame. Such a description does not,however, entirely solve James's problem.Naming this act of imagined possession an infatuation complicates rather thansolves the issue. The OED tells us that an infatuation is that which renders one fatuousor silly. It is "an extravagantly foolish or unreasoning passion." In other words, thesame aestheticization which was to have ennobled or sanctified a suspiciously violent andsexual act now threatens to trivialize the entire project.This beautiful infatuation, this love affair, appears to be precariously balancedbetween two poles. On the one hand, there are clear indications of physicality, sexualityand violence in the concepts of "getting into the skin of the creature" and "the act ofpersonal possession of one being by another." On the other is the troubling implication(signaled by the word "infatuation") that the whole enterprise may be foolish anddegrading. These are the polarities which James seeks to bridge through aesthetics, by4 Dorrit Cohn, Transparent Minds: Narrative Modes for Presenting Consciousness in Fiction (Princeton N.J.: Princeton UP, 1978) 115.106insisting that the entire project is "creative," and "beautiful." But the balance seemsprecarious, the foundation of his project insecure. The troublesome implications -sexuality, control and violence, on the one hand, and triviality, foolishness and weaknesson the other - remain in place. They remain and they disturb. Such is the anxiety ofHenry James's art, an anxiety which is evident in The Portrait of a Lady. The Portraitworks in, around, and through these tensions. It is a novel obsessed with the pleasuresand trials of getting into the skin of another, and with the problems and necessity ofidentification and possession.In his preface written some twenty-seven years after the novel was first published,James appears to have recognized these problems. There he frets a great deal about"the possible limitations of my subject" (xxxvi), worrying that it is too "slight," "slim" or"thin" (xxxii), too "inadequate," "frail" (xxxvii) or "weak" (xxxv). 5 This inadequatesubject is, of course, Isabel Archer. And what, we may ask, is it that marks her so clearlyas insufficient? Her frailty, it would appear, is her sex. The "wonder" as James puts it,is that "the Isabel Archers, [of this world] and even much smaller, female fry, insist onmattering" (xxxiii).James's charge as an artist in general, and in this novel in particular, is to showthat such small fry can and do matter. He worries, however, that in paying attention to"this slight 'personality,' the mere slim shade of an intelligent but presumptuous girl"(xxxii), he might appear to be acting foolishly and with "extravagance" (xxxiii), makingan "ado" about nothing:5 All references are to the World's Classics paperback version, The Portrait of a Lady(Oxford: Oxford UP, 1981). This is based on the revised or "New York" edition of thenovel, originally published in 1907.107The novel is of its very nature an 'ado,' an ado about something, and the largerthe form it takes the greater of course the ado. Therefore, consciously, that waswhat one was in for - for positively organising an ado about Isabel Archer. ()mil-xxxi i i)James is drawing our attention to what he sees as a large and rather awesomediscrepancy, the gulf between the slimness and frailty of his subject - in this case apresumptuous girl affronting her destiny, but then, he says, "millions of presumptuousgirls . . . daily affront their destiny" (xxxii) - and the greatness of his artistic mastery.The wonder, as he sees it, is that such a "small corner-stone" should come "to be [such]a square and spacious house" (xxxii). He may, in other words, have been foolish to startwith such a frail subject, but just look at what he has been able to do with it!An infatuation, we remind ourselves, is constructed out of a similar sort ofdiscrepancy. It is "an extravagantly foolish or unreasoning passion," or, as Webster'sputs it, "a strong and unreasoning attachment esp. to something unworthy ofattachment."' What is foolish about an infatuation - what makes the lover so"fatuous" - is the lack of proportion between the strength of his or her attachment andthe weakness or insufficiency of the beloved. James, it would seem, is pointing to asimilar lack of proportion. In a move that is at once self-mocking and self-aggrandizing,he wonders at the artistry which could have produced an "ado" so grand out of asubject so "frail." That artistry is presented here as a type of infatuation, a kind of loveaffair, that both ennobles and demeans. James's task is to convince us of the value ofhis effort. If, as the dictionary suggests, an infatuation is "extravagantly" foolish, it maybe that James wants us to splurge along with him, or to reassure him at least that hisexpense, his "extravagance," is justified.6 Webster 's III New International Dictionary, 1976.108In order to read this novel correctly, the reader must be taught to "appreciate"and to value Isabel.' We are to be taught to care for her as an owner or collectormight care for a possession of great value which few save the connoisseur canappreciate. We must recognize Isabel's frailty and weakness, and then love her in spiteof them.' We must want to protect and possess her, must appreciate her both because of and in spite of her imperfections. James makes this explicit in the text of the novel.There he fondly lists her shortcomings, "her meagre knowledge, her inflated ideas," andworries that considering all these, "she would be an easy victim of scientific criticism ifshe were not intended to awaken on the reader's part an impulse more tender and morepurely expectant" (53). That tender impulse must be something akin to sympathy orlove. In the traditional way, it is called for as a bridge of understanding, an antidote tocold "scientific" judgment.'About this passage Richard Poirier has written:This exhortation is full of very strong feeling. The abrupt and overlappingchanges of tone indicate James's anxious desire to convince the reader that for allthe oddities he may see in Isabel, he is to love her the more and to engage theless in any attempt to sum her up.' °' Leo Bersani comments in "The Jamesian Lie" that "What we know [in James] we knowthrough appreciation and not perception" (63-64).8 Alfred Habegger sees The Portrait as "the product of a divided mind. James lovesIsabel, loves her when she struggles to do the right thing under oppressive circumstance,loves her all the more because she is hamstrung by that fatal female mind." Henry lamesand the "Woman Business"  (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989) 8.9 See Chapter 3, pages 88-89.10 Richard Poirier, The Comic Sense of Henry lames: A Study of the Early Novels(London: Chatto and Windus, 1960) 207.Poirier also refers to "the chivalrousness and intelligence in [James's] treatment ofIsabel." "Both James and Ralph can express an amused and mature tolerance of the(continued...)109Poirier, like many other critics, emphasizes James's fondness for Isabel. He notes his"anxious desire" that we come close and "love" her, that we not stand back andobjectify her, in an "attempt to sum her up." While he is essentially correct that wereaders build our own relationship to both heroine and text following James's lead, Ithink he has overlooked or oversimplified the text's more complicated vision of Isabel.We are taught to love her, but our love is not unproblematic. Some of those problemsare hinted at in the very fuss the author makes about her imperfections. Furthermore,our love is troubled by anxieties of possession and degradation. Much of this is evidentin the collector/dealer theme explicated in the preface.Here James seems to underscore the possessive nature and moral uncertainty ofhis aesthetic project. He calls his choice of a subject "my grasp of a single character - anacquisition. . . . I was, as seemed to me, in complete possession of it" (xxxi). Hecontinues:The figure has to that extent, as you see, been placed - placed in the imaginationthat detains it, preserves, protects, enjoys it, conscious of its presence in thedusky, crowded, heterogeneous back-shop of the mind very much as a warydealer in precious odds and ends, competent to make an 'advance' on rareobjects confided to him, is conscious of the rare little 'piece' left in deposit .. .and which is already there to disclose its merit afresh as soon as a key shall haveclicked in a cupboard door. (xxxi -xxxii)What makes this passage remarkable is the extent to which the novelist is willing todepict himself in an unfavorable light. Indeed he seems almost to relish his ownghoulish description of the relationship between author and subject. The way hedescribes it, the novelist's imagination becomes something like a china cabinet or prison.1O(.. . continued)heroine's vagaries" (195). (I might add the words "cautious" and "patronizing" to his moregenerous assessment.)110The subject, in this case "a certain young woman affronting her destiny," becomes a pet,an object, a "rare little 'piece" for the novelist to detain, preserve, protect and enjoy.Kept in a cupboard, it is taken out occasionally to be fondled, appreciated, and thenreturned.Many have noted that James's portrait of Isabel Archer was to a great extentbased on his cousin Minnie Temple, and it may be that we can trace some of the originsof James's possessive anxieties to his feelings for Minnie." Alfred Habegger hasrecently pointed out the "vampiristic . . . or is the better term necrophiliac" (143) natureof the author's relationship to the memory of Minnie. He argues that while James wasinfatuated with, and to some extent identified with his bright and unconventionalcousin, 12 he nevertheless derived a certain satisfaction from her death: "The mostchallenging person he knew had now become a manipulable object" (145). Habeggerbases his observation on James's letters to his family at the time of Minnie's death. Itseems that James was quick to grab the "idea" of his cousin, an "intelligent butpresumptuous girl," and see what he could do with her. In fact, he seems to have felt" In a letter to his friend, Grace Norton, who noticed a similarity between Isabel andMinnie, James wrote:You are both right & wrong about Minnie Temple. I had her in mind & there is inthe heroine a considerable infusion of my impression of her remarkable nature. Butthe thing is not a portrait. Poor Minnie was essentially incomplete & I haveattempted to make my young woman more rounded, more finished.Henry James, Letters Vol. II ed. Leon Edel (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard, 1974)324.Also see Leon Edel's introduction to the Riverside Edition of Portrait (Boston:Houghton Mifflin, 1963) xv, and Habegger, 126-149.12 Interestingly, Leon Edel notes that Minny Temple "died at twenty-four of tuberculosis- like Ralph Touchett. James had loved her with the kind of love Ralph displays in thenovel" ("Introduction," xv). This would seem to be evidence of a complex (and veryJamesian) type of cross-gender identification, with both Ralph and Minny.111that he could do more with her than she might have been able to do with herself. Hewrote to his brother:The more I think of her the more perfectly satisfied I am to have her translatedfrom this changing realm of fact to the steady realm of thought. There she maybloom into a beauty more radiant than our dull eyes will avail to contemplate: 3This is a blatant aestheticizing of a relationship which we have every reason to believewas difficult. James goes on:She was at any rate the helpless victim and toy of her own intelligence - so thatthere is positive relief in thinking of her being removed from her own heroictreatment and placed in kinder hands: 4With astonishing logic, James here insists that Minny was bad for herself, a"victim of her own intelligence."' Because of such self-destructive tendencies, she wasapparently not to be trusted as author of her own life. Her cousin, Henry, was bettersuited for the job. 15 Her "own heroic treatment" of herself, we are given tounderstand, was exhausting, was asking too much. She needed to be "placed in kinderhands." Those hands are, of course, the author's and ultimately ours, as well. Byremoving her from her own heroic treatment, we all become rescuers of a sort, recuing"Henry James, "Letter to William James, 29 March 1870," Letters Vol I, ed. Leon Edel,226.14 Letters, 223.15 Edel uses the very same phrase in his discussion of Isabel: "Isabel is a prisoner of herown constituted self. She has been the victim of her own intelligence" (Riverside"Introduction" xx). He also writes, "She has been betrayed by her own inner nature" (xi).16 "On the dramatic fitness - as one may call it - of her early death it seems almost idleto dwell. No one who ever knew her can have failed to look at her future as a sadlyinsoluble problem - 6- we almost all had imagination enough to say . . . that life - poornarrow life - contained no place for her" (Letters, 222).1 12her from herself. But what "heroic treatment" lies in store for her? Fictionalized, areher chances of escaping victimization any better?In his preface, James writes that "The figure has to that extent, as you see, been placed - placed in the imagination that detains it." He goes on to "recall" "my piousdesire but to place my treasure right." The repetition of the verb "placed" seems to bemore than mere coincidence. In the letter to his brother, we read that Minny needed todie in order to be placed in kinder hands, and in the preface, that the author found hissubject already placed in his detaining imagination. Is it a need to reciprocate, a desireto pass on the gift, that leads James to write that he wants "but to place my treasureright?" Just as he had received the treasure, so he seems to want to pass it on, but onlyunder certain conditions. Again the image of the dealer is invoked to encompass thisprocess of acquisition and exchange:With the recall . . . of my pious desire but to place my treasure right. I quiteremind myself of the dealer resigned not to 'realise,' resigned to keeping theprecious object locked up indefinitely rather than commit it, at no matter whatprice, to vulgar hands. (xxxii)Ours, we can assume, are the non-vulgar hands into which Isabel will be placed. Non-vulgar perhaps, but not entirely non-commercial. If we are to have her/own her, wemust appreciate her, must be instructed as to her value. She becomes a possession ofgreat value which few save the connoisseur can appreciate. The connoissseur/dealer hassuch respect for the item he is handling that he feels it would be better to keep it (her?)locked up rather than to place it in the hands of those incapable of recognizing value.The irony of this explicit imagery concerning dealers, collectors, and connoisseursis, of course, that the author's attitude toward Isabel comes to differ little from Gilbert113Osmond's own relationship to his wife.' Both care for her as an object one mightwant to possess. The only difference is that we are told that Osmond "hated" his wifewhile we are taught to love her as we possess her.Ralph Touchett, who in many ways serves as a surrogate for both author andreader, is explicitly compared to Osmond, as a connoisseur. Their similarities are noted,but then rigorously denied:Ralph had something of this same quality, this appearance of thinking that lifewas a matter of connoisseurship; but in Ralph it was an anomaly, a kind ofhumorous excrescence, whereas in Mr. Osmond it was the keynote, andeverything was in harmony with it. (282)Ralph is excused on the grounds that he is a less thorough-going connoisseur thanOsmond, whereas it is precisely Osmond's overwhelming connoisseurship whichconstitutes his villainy.If James takes such pains to differentiate the two men's modes of appreciation, itmay be that, in considering the attributes of a connoisseur, he is confronting issuescrucial to the definition of his own art. The idea of a connoisseur encompasses many of17 Leon Edel comments on the similarities between James and Osmond in hisintroduction to the Riverside edition of the novel. He states: "Strange though it may seem,Gilbert Osmond expresses one side of his creator's character - the hidden side of HenryJames: that side which loved power and sought to win it by his pen" (xii).'The theme of connoisseurship and dealership permeates the novel and is not entirelycontained in the figures of Osmond and Ralph. Pansy's suitor, Rosier, is a collector, who,in an attempt to acquire her, sells almost all of his other valuables. Other critics have notedthis theme in the novel, but, like Annette Niemtzow, in "Marriage and the New Woman inThe Portrait of a Lady," American Literature 47 (1975): 377-395, they tend to see it assomething which James was portraying only in order to condemn.An interesting article which has only just come to my attention is Michael Gilmore's"The Commodity World of The Portrait of a Lady," New England Quarterly 59.1 (1986):51-74. Gilmore explores James's preparation of a "big" book which would bring himprofits and prestige, and the way that that book itself deals with the commodification ofindividuals.1 14the tensions and polarities out of which that art developed. These are the same tensionswhich we identified earlier: a possessiveness or proprietorship so fierce as to be nearlyviolent and sexual, versus a fear of triviality, of foolishness and degradation. Many ofthese tensions can be approached and understood through the term "value."In the most general sense, a connoisseur is one who knows. In James, however,where the term is almost always connected to other terms such as "dealer," "collector,"or "proprietor," a connoisseur is one with a special type of knowledge. He is one whoknows value. If we think for a moment about the work of a collector or dealer of rareobjects, we can see that success depends upon a lag between the dealer's recognition ofvalue and the public's. The successful dealer sees value in something that has beenoverlooked by others. Sometimes it is the dealer or connoisseur's superior knowledgeand taste that provides this advantage, but sometimes it is just a matter of fashion, luckand timing. If the dealer holds onto the piece, the price may increase. In his desire to"detai[n] it, preserv[e], protec[t], [and] enjoy it" (xxxi), James reports that "I quite remindmyself of the dealer resigned not to 'realise" (xxxii). The dealer's profit is based on theprecise manipulation and exploitation of the "gap" or "lag" between his knowledge andtaste and the public's. The superiority and prescience of his knowledge bring him profit.Confident that others will eventually come to see the object as he does, he holds onto it.But what if the object is never perceived as valuable? If the dealer can never "realise"his profit? This seems to be a real worry for James (hence the frettings in the prefaceover his "slim," his "inadequate," his "weak" subject). If others fail to see the worth ofthe object, not only does the dealer never realise his profit, but he runs the further andmore personal risk of appearing foolish, infatuated, and ridiculous. Only if others come115to see as he does, will he be able to realise his investment. Hence we have the author'sanxious need to educate us as to Isabel's value, to teach us to appreciate her.'James feels he has to teach us to value Isabel before he can "place [his] treasureright" both because of his love for the object and his need to "realise" his investment.There is, however, another sense in which James sees his role as one involving value.Captivating as the image of dealer/connoisseur may be, it does not tell the entire story.For James claims to have done more than just detain, preserve and protect his rare littlepiece; he wants us to see that he has made something out of her too. He is the onewho has constructed the "square and spacious house" on the "small cornerstone" (xxxii).It is he who has "positively organiz[ed] an ado about Isabel Archer," he who hastranslated Minny/Isabel "from this changing realm of fact to the steady realm ofthought." This shift of emphasis from the collector-connoisseur to the creator implies ashift for the reader as well, leading us to ask: which are we to admire most, the girl orthe master, the "slight personality" or the masterful "portrait" that has been made ofi t?2019 A number of studies have recently been done on James's mercenary interests. Thesestudies seek to redress the view which presented James as a martyr to art, as having a mindtoo lofty for petty interests such as money. These studies attempt to show that James was,on the contrary, very interested in both the financial and the social rewards of his position.Portrait was to be his first big book, his first chance to make his mark and make somemoney. We can see James, looking back in his preface, assessing and weighing theelements of that success.On James's relationship to the profession of authorship see Michael Anesko's  "Friction with the Market": Henry lames and the Profession of Authorship  (New York: Oxford UP,1986), Michael Gilmore's "The Commodity World of The Portrait of a Lady" New England Quarterly 59.1 (1986): 51-74, and John Vernon's Money and Fiction: Literary Realism in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries  (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1984).20 It seems to me that an analogy could be developed here between James's aestheticproject and that of many modernists (visual and literary). Much of what we are instructed(continued...)116Value is, by its very nature, contractual. As long as it depends upon market andexchange, value can never be determined by any single individual. The readers of ThePortrait of a Lady are called upon to establish and work within just such a contract. This"contract" makes our work as active as it is passive. We are asked not only to sit backand appreciate Isabel like spectators at a drama, but also, in the very process, todetermine the value of both Isabel Archer, and the book that Henry James has writtenabout her. This enterprise is all the more difficult in that we are being asked to applyvalue to love and art, provinces traditionally resistant to such categorizations.It is through the figure of Ralph that we first learn to appreciate Isabel, andrecognize her worth. In his experience, we can trace both the problems and pleasures ofidentification in this novel. His "beautiful infatuation" with his spirited cousin leads himto attempt to live his life through hers. What this vicarious experience becomes,dangerously, is "the act of personal possession of one being by another at itscompletest," a possession at once sexual and artistic, bringing along with it thetroublesome implications discussed earlier - sexuality, control and violence, on the onehand, and triviality, foolishness and weakness on the other. These are Ralph's problems,but they become ours as well. Since Ralph serves as our eyes and our consciousness, hecomes to stand in for both reader and author, and thus to personify and exemplify the'(...continued)to value in modernism (I am thinking here particularly of photography and some poetry)is the caught moment, the poetry in the mundane, the significance in the insignificant.Such work presents this "problem" as part of its very mastery. If we think of W.C. Williams'"This is just to say I have eaten the plums" or Picasso's bull's head made out of a bicycleseat and handlebars, we have examples of art which relish the disjunction in status betweenthe ordinary object and the work of art. Even as they try to shock, works of art such asthese seem to be also pointing in two other directions: to the "eye" of the artist who cansee the beauty that others miss, and to the beauty and power inherent in the everydayobjects themselves.117thrills and the dangers of reading, of writing, of living in novels. His relationship toIsabel represents in microcosm both the author's and the reader's troubled relationshipto the heroine. There are many characters who seek to watch, know, and love Isabel,but among these, Ralph is preeminent. The entire novel is almost exactly framed by hissight of her. It opens on the day he meets her at Gardencourt and ends a few days afterhis death. His is the central consciousness, the main pair of eyes, to regard andappreciate Isabel. Others, such as Lord Warburton, Caspar Goodwood, HenriettaStackpole, and Mr. and Mrs. Touchett, serve as something like his alter-egos, providingshadings and variations on his concentrated and unifying focus.One reason that the figure of Ralph is so important is that in this - as in all theother novels considered in this dissertation - we cannot study the heroine withoutstudying our response to her. Ralph focusses that response; we feel and respondthrough him. The story in The Portrait gets displaced just as it did in Clarissa and TheScarlet Letter from a focus on the heroine herself onto the circle of spectators (Ralph andothers) who surround her. This creates a kind of double gaze. We join those charactersin the novel who watch and we watch them in turn as we read about them. Theresponse to the heroine is thus both created and displayed.These positions of watching and being watched are not, however, power-neutral.Each brings with it a different amount of freedom or containment. As the heroine/victimcomes to move less and less, those who watch are "moved" more and more. As theconstraints on her freedom are increased, so is our emotional response. In this way,Isabel Archer's role is strikingly similar to that of Clarissa Harlowe and Hester Prynne. Asthe heroines' own sphere of influence and freedom shrinks, ours - at least initially -expands, and our emotional range and response feel like a kind of freedom. The118question we must ask is to what extent this sense of freedom depends upon therepresentation of the imprisonment of others. David Marshall, in The Surprising Effectsof Sympathy, writes that "Our sympathy and our pleasure depend on the violence andsuffering inflicted on those who appear as spectacles before us."' As Ralph himselfputs it to Isabel as he lies on his death bed, "There's nothing makes us feel so muchalive as to see others die" (627).When Ralph is first introduced, he is described as having a mind "which, naturallyinclined to adventure and irony, indulged in a boundless liberty of appreciation" (38).Later, he is referred to as "an apostle of freedom" (503). In a novel as concerned as thiswith issues of freedom and containment, we must take notice of phrases such as "aboundless liberty of appreciation." Ralph may himself be constrained by limitations inhealth and strength, but he seeks to make up for these by becoming an observer, "thesimple use of his faculties became an exquisite pleasure; it seemed to him the joys ofcontemplation had never been sounded" (41). His is a boundless liberty which we, asreaders, are invited to share. It is not, however, a liberty that either we or Ralph canenjoy for long.While we have seen how this symbiotic relationship of freedom and arrest worksin Clarissa and The Scarlet Letter, Isabel Archer's plight seems particularly poignant. Noother heroine is so pointedly and determinedly committed to freedom. Isabel is definedby her need for independence. One of her very first assertions is to declare, "I'm not acandidate for adoption. . . . I'm very fond of my liberty" (18). It is this love of freedom21 Marshall, (Surprising 48), quoted previously in Chapter 3, page 187.119that makes her eventual (spiritual) incarceration so horrifying. When she assesses hermarriage during her long night's vigil in Chapter Forty-two, she realizes that:Instead of leading to the high places of happiness, from which the world wouldseem to lie below one, so that one could look down with a sense of exaltationand advantage, and judge and choose and pity, it [her marriage] led ratherdownward and earthward into realms of restriction and depression where thesound of other lives, easier and freer, was heard as from above, and where itserved to deepen the feeling of failure. (461)She who had loved freedom to such an extent that she had turned from CasparGoodwood because "he seemed to deprive her of the sense of freedom" (122), and hadrefused Lord Warburton's offer of marriage because it didn't conform to her idea of "thefree exploration of life" (117), is eventually confined to walls which "were to surroundher for the rest of her life. It was the house of darkness, the house of dumbness, thehouse of suffocation" (466).This is the central paradox of The Portrait of a Lady - that a heroine so gifted andso free should end up so imprisoned and bound. She was, after all, as Ralph puts it,"the last person I expected to see caught . . . to be put in a cage" (369). How does thiscome to be? She herself has declared, "I shall not be an easy victim" (173). Neitherwas Clarissa or Hester, and yet each is caught. But Isabel's plight appears the mostbaffling. Unlike Clarissa, she has neither a villainous brother nor a Lovelace to trap her.Unlike Hester, she has no grim Puritanical laws to blame. Because the snare that Mme.Merle and Osmond set for her is invisible, she can only blame herself. She thinks:It was impossible to pretend that she had not acted with her eyes open; if ever agirl was a free agent she had been. A girl in love was doubtless not a free agent;but the sole source of her mistake had been within herself. There had been noplot, no snare; she had looked and considered and chosen. (440) 2222 The references to "plots" and "snares" echo the vocabulary in Clarissa.120How does it come to be that a heroine so gifted and freedom- loving should endup so imprisoned and bound, and with only herself to blame? While somecommentators have attempted to answer this question by focusing on Isabel's individualpsychological characteristics and motives, and have analyzed her as if she were a realperson, 23 it is equally important to consider what might be at stake in writing andreading a novel in which the heroine is shown to both make and return to her ownprison so willingly. This consideration leads me to look not so much to the heroineherself as to the actual process of reading and writing about such a heroine. Like Hesterin The Scarlet Letter, Isabel returns "of her own free will" to the site of her oppression,and seeks her own confinement. In both cases we have to wonder why this should be,and what lesson we are meant to learn from it.'Others have wondered at Isabel's seemingly voluntary curtailment of her ownliberty in which she refuses all offers of help and release, returning, apparently, to Italyand her marriage. Richard Poirier, one of James's best critics, tries to understand theending by claiming:[T]here can be no such thing as the "freedom" which Isabel wants and whichRalph and James want for her, simply for the reason that regardless of23 See, for example Juliet McMaster, who writes that "suffering is fatally desirable toIsabel for several reasons" and seeks these reasons "in the psychological, moral andaesthetic strands of Isabel's character." "The Portrait of Isabel Archer," American Literature45 (1973): 50-51.24 As I pointed out in my last chapter on The Scarlet Letter, some recent critics such asSacvan Bercovitch and Richard H. Brodhead do claim to have discovered that lesson. Theysee that novel as a lesson in discipline. Their focus, especially Bercovitch's, is on theparticular political climate of Hawthorne's America. While in no way seeking to argue withthose insights, I nevertheless want to broaden their focus to include the discipline of gender.121opportunity in the world outside, there are in everyone the flaws, the fears, theneuroses that fix and confine and stifle.'Although he is entirely correct to say that Isabel is "fix[ed], confine[d] andstifle[d]," Poirier locates these forces inside each and every one of us. By contrast hesees the "world outside," as holding "opportunity" and hence, freedom. But what if it isthat very world - society and its novels - that creates those confining and stifling fears,creates them so that they reside - or appear to reside - "inside" us? Poirier, likeMcMaster, seeks a reason for Isabel Archer ending up as she does, and seeks it in the"inside" of the character. This self-destructive interior confounds every desire on thepart of character, author and, we may presume, reader, for escape, freedom, andhappiness. I want to shift our gaze away from the heroine's interiority which criticsseem to forget is "only fiction," and look instead at the process of reading and writingitself. I see this as a process which teaches us (and perhaps particularly teaches thefemales among us) "the fears, . . . that fix and confine and stifle."We have already discussed ways in which our relatively free position as readersseems to depend upon the "arrest" of the heroine, but there is a sense in which writingitself seems to depend upon a similar "fixing." James seems to be aware of thisconnection when he writes in the preface about his construction ofthe large building of 'The Portrait of a Lady.' It came to be a square andspacious house . . . but, such as it is, it had to be put up round my young womanwhile she stood there in perfect isolation. (mil)James's house comes to differ little from Gilbert Osmond's house of dumbness andsuffocation. The construction of his large and spacious house appears to rely on a25 Poirier, Comic Sense, 207.122heroine who must be isolated, held still. That this is an irony that the author seemsaware of, and ready to play on throughout the novel, makes it no less horrifying.Ironically, it is Isabel's great love of freedom, along with her indomitable will andself-sufficiency, which make her so desirable to others. These are the qualities thatattract lovers and friends and that make her so valuable, make her such a prize specimenfor a collection. Throughout this novel there is a recurring gesture to appropriate, takecare of, or "adopt" Isabel, accompanied by her equally frequent gesture of refusal.Indeed, her character comes to be defined by her rejection of others' embraces (Mrs.Touchett's, Lord Warburton's, Caspar Goodwood's and even Henrietta's). It is herapparent self-sufficiency which attracts Ralph, who seeks "the thrill of seeing what ayoung lady does who won't marry Lord Warburton" (159). Like Lovelace, he wants todiscover the nature of the heroine's desire, to discover for himself what it is that shereally wants.In Clarissa, Lovelace's desire to discover the secret of female desire was conductedin the form of a trial. In The Scarlet Letter, the focus was less on the mystery of femaledesire than on Dimmesdale's desire to identify with female shame and display. In ThePortrait, Ralph's experiment seems, by contrast, more benign, even magnanimous. Hewants to set Isabel free, to leave her entirely in command of herself so as to see whatshe will do, whom or what she will choose if she is completely unfettered.' He thinksIsabel is a good candidate for such an experiment because she already appears to beremarkably self-sufficient:26 "She wishes to be free and [the inheritance] will make her free," he says to hisfather. (196)123[B]ut what was she going to do with herself? This question was irregular, for withmost women one had no occasion to ask it. Most women did with themselvesnothing at all; they waited in attitudes more or less gracefully passive, for a manto come that way and furnish them with a destiny. Isabel's originality was thatshe gave one an impression of having intentions of her own. 'Whenever sheexecutes them,' said Ralph, 'may I be there to see!' (66)"The impossible place of female desire," is Teresa de Lauretis's phrase.' Theorists likede Lauretis, Irigaray, and Felman have written about the eclipse or denial of woman'sdesire in our culture, the impossibility of claiming a "desire of one's own." In this novel,Henry James seems to be trying to call that desire into existence, attempting torepresent what it might look like.' Should we be surprised to learn that, once again,the heroine chooses confinement and pain "of her own free will"?Ralph wants to set Isabel free for two connected, although contradictory, reasons.The first is love, his "beautiful infatuation," with Isabel. The second, inspired to a largedegree by that love, is Ralph's desire to live through Isabel. He can both create her bygiving her a lot of money (and in that sense becoming her author), and then livethrough his creation (and in that sense exist as a reader). Just as James spoke in hispreface to The American of providing us with a consciousness (Newman's) which wemight possess: "at the window of his wide, quite sufficiently wide, consciousness we areseated." Isabel provides Ralph with a life he can live, a consciousness (if not a body)that he can possess.27 De Lauretis, Alice Doesn't, 69.28 I remind the reader of Shoshana Felman's essay "Re-reading Femininity" cited in theintroduction in which she states that Freud's famous question "what does woman want"should actually read "'what does woman want' mean for men?" See Chapter 1, pages 31-32.124The relationship sketched between reader and character is, I would argue, thesame as that between Ralph and Isabel. He creates her so that he might live throughher, so that he might have something to "read." She has almost everything a youngwoman could want. She is pretty, lively, clever and good. Ralph wants to finish her bymaking her rich.' In this sense, by freeing and "finishing" (i.e. creating) Isabel muchas James did with his cousin, he is more author than reader.' But it may be that hebecomes an author only to have something interesting to read. As he explains to hisfather: "I take a great interest in my cousin . . . but not the sort of interest you desire. Ishall not live many years; but I hope I shall live long enough to see what she does withherself" (195). His father wonders at this:'You speak as if it were for your mere amusement.''So it is, a good deal.''Well, I don't think I understand,' said Mr. Touchett with a sigh.'(197)Later, his father adds, "Well I don't know . . . . I don't think I enter into your spirit. Itseems to me immoral" (198).If Isabel is a kind of aesthetic project for Ralph, the father warns that such aproject might, at the very best, be trivial - "mere amusement" - and, at the very worst,be immoral. These warnings echo James's own doubts about his artistic project, voicedin the preface to The American. There we saw that he was haunted by the twin doubtsthat the project of aesthetic identification might involve feelings of violent and/or sexualpossession, or, even worse, prove to be nothing more than a foolish triviality. These29 See James's comment about his cousin: "Poor Minnie was essentially incomplete &I have attempted to make my young woman more rounded, more finished." (Letter toGrace Norton, Habegger, 160.)30 Isabel refers to her benefactor as "the beneficent author of infinite woe." (464)125twin doubts continue to haunt Ralph and The Portrait. He seems to deal with hisanxiety by alternating between first idealizing and aggrandizing, and then objectifyingand belittling his project. When he thinks of Isabel, he seems ambivalent as to hervalue:He wondered whether he was harbouring 'love' for this spontaneous youngwoman from Albany; but he judged that on the whole he was not. . . . LordWarburton was right about her; she was a really interesting little figure. (65)It is in language reminiscent of a dealer or collector that Ralph describes hisfeelings for Isabel. She is a figure, little but interesting. The double insistence on bothher insubstantiality and on her "interest" or "value" to those in the know runsthroughout the book. When Ralph experiences doubts about his project, he evaluatesher in the same terms: "If his cousin was to be nothing more than an entertainment tohim, Ralph was conscious she was an entertainment of a high order" (65). The gestureshould by now seem familiar. We have a double bind in which the object of attentionor desire is simultaneously valued and devalued, is called "an interesting little figure,""a rare little piece," (first valued, then de-valued) or, as in this example, "anentertainment of a high order," in which something that is usually of little value isexalted.Other characters wonder about the purpose of Ralph's undertaking. Henrietta,like Mr. Touchett, has her suspicions about the nature of Ralph's attachment to Isabel.When she speaks to Ralph of her fears for Isabel, she says,"What I'm afraid of is that she'll injure herself.''I think that's very possible,' said Ralph.'. . . That too would amuse you, I suppose." (126-7)126Even Isabel uses the word "amuse" as accusation: "Is that why your father did it - foryour amusement?" (239). Later, when Ralph learns of her impending marriage, hereplies to her in this fashion:'I had treated myself to a charming vision of your future,' Ralph observed . . .; 'Ihad amused myself with planning out a high destiny for you. There was to benothing of this sort in it. You were not to come down so easily or so soon'. . . .'It hurts me,' said Ralph audaciously, 'hurts me as if I had fallen myself!' Thelook of pain and bewilderment deepened in his companion's face. 'I don'tunderstand you in the least,' she repeated. 'You say you amused yourself with aproject for my career - I don't understand that. Don't amuse yourself too much,or I shall think you're doing it at my expense.' (373)From this passage it is apparent that there are two dangers in the kind ofaesthetic projection or identification that Ralph has undertaken. The first is that he layshimself open to the charge that it is trivial, foolish, a mere amusement or entertainment.The second is that this mere amusement, something which seemed to offer "aboundless liberty of appreciation," can lead to pain. "It hurts me," he claims, "hurts meas if I had fallen myself." Part of the nature of this pain stems from the sense that hisliberty and his amusement were at another's expense.' Ralph offers his hurt asevidence of his own innocence. The pain, he feels, should prove him innocent ofexploitation. The pain should absolve him of the charge that he has been using Isabelfor his own enjoyment.Like Caspar Goodwood, Ralph has "invested his all in [Isabel's] happiness" (530)and future. The investment of oneself in another, this type of "beautiful infatuation," isembarked upon by not only Ralph, but by almost every other character in The Portrait.31 James's The Sacred Fount explicitly develops the theme of vampirism (whereby oneperson gains at another's expense) which Edel and others have identified as one of James'scentral themes. Vampirism seems particularly resonant in light of his own treatment anduse of Minny Temple's life for his own art.127It is also the kind of investment required of a reader. Ralph is the central instance ofthis type of identification or living through another, but there are many more.At the beginning of the novel old Mr. Touchett complains to his son of a lack offeeling in his legs. "Perhaps some one might feel for you,' said the younger man,laughing." To which his father replies, "Oh I hope some one will always feel for me!"(5). Just as this play on words indicates, "to feel for some one" has two meanings.While its usual sense is to experience love or sympathy, it can also mean to do thefeeling for, to feel in the place of. Both senses are played out in The Portrait.The novel is characterized by an astounding number of characters who, in oneway or another, want to feel for or change places with one another. From our firstglimpse of Lord Warburton, who "had a certain fortunate brilliant exceptional look .. .which would have made almost any observer envy him . . . [and] have provoked you towish yourself almost blindly in his place," (4) to the machinations of Madame Merle,who wishes to install Isabel in her place as the wife of Osmond and mother of Pansy,characters are involved in complex and sometimes contradictory transactions ofsubstitution and displacement. They attempt in various ways to live in and through oneanother. Ralph is thus not the only character to attempt to live through another, to tryto feel for and through another. Ralph may use Isabel to feel for him, to love for him,to marry for him', but almost all the characters in this novel use each other in similar ways.32 Those who are interested in "fixing" James's sexuality as homosexual might arguehere that James, via Ralph, via Isabel, was seeking an intimacy with male partners. SeeLeland S. Person's "Henry James, George Sand, and the Suspense of Masculinity" in PMLA106.3 (1991): 515-528. Also Eve Sedgwick's "The Beast in the Closet," Epistemology of theCloset (Berkeley: U of California P, 1990) 182-212.An article which has just come to my attention is William Veeder's "Henry James andthe Uses of the Feminine," Out of Bounds: Male Writers and Gender(ed) Criticism eds.(continued...)128In this novel about reading and writing as forms of identification, there areseveral methods of putting oneself in the place of the other. The simplest and moststraightforward of these appears to be envy. Envy, as James puts it, provokes "you towish yourself almost blindly in [another's] place." It is an acknowledgement of theother's superior "value" or worth in relation to one's own.Pity, while seeming to be the nobler emotion, is also based on an evaluation ofthe comparative status of two individuals. To pity another is to set oneself above, tovalue one's own position over that of the other. Pity and envy, apparent opposites, arefrequently linked in this novel, pointing perhaps to the uncertain and fluid nature ofvalue relations within it. Exchange, acquisition and commerce: the economy of thisnovel - its work of substitution and dispacement - depends upon the continuousexchange of one thing for another along with the continuous assessment of each item'sworth.Pity and envy become not so much opposites as two sides of the same coin. Onecannot exist without the other. We have seen that Lord Warburton was introduced as aman "almost any observer [would] envy," or would wish to take the place of. Veryquickly, however, this characterization of the man is modified. Isabel asks the senior Mr.Touchett,'You don't pity Lord Warburton then as Ralph does?'Her uncle looked at her a while with general acuteness. 'Yes, I do, afterall!' (78)32(...continued)Laura Claridge and Elizabeth Langland (Amherst: U of Mass. P, 1990) 220-251. Veedersees the male characters in Portrait as being as passive as the female, calling them"emasculate men inhabit[ing] the condition of the 'feminine" (230).129The theme is repeated in a conversation between Isabel, Osmond and Ralph about thesame individual:'That's a man I could envy.'Isabel considered him with interest. 'You seem to me to be alwaysenvying some one. . .'My envy's not dangerous. . . . I only want to be them . . . But why' -Osmond reverted -'do you speak of your friend as poor?''Women . . . sometimes pity men after they've hurt them; that's theirgreat way of showing kindness,' said Ralph. (325)It seems that one must pity Lord Warburton just as surely as one must envy him.Although conventionally defined as opposites, each serves the same purpose - allowingone to imagine oneself, however briefly, in the place of the other.Another example is the way that Isabel "feels for" Pansy. Again those feelingsare a hybrid of the seemingly contradictory pity and envy:[Pansy's] spark of timid passion touched Isabel to the heart. At the same time awave of envy passed over her soul, as she compared the tremulous longing, thedefinite ideal of the child with her own dry despair. 'Poor little Pansy!' sheaffectionately said. (577)A final example is one of Ralph's many assessments of his relationship to Isabel. "No, Idon't think I pity her," he claims. "She doesn't strike me as inviting compassion. I thinkI envy her" (42).Whether it is pity, envy, or some other relationship, the fact remains that theinvalid Ralph wants and needs to use Isabel to feel for him. The novel explores thedangers and the thrills of such a relationship. Through the characters' attempts to livethrough one another, the reader gains access to all. Our own identification is facilitatedby the slippages between the characters. Pity and envy act as lubricants easing the wayfor us (characters within the novel and readers without) to imagine ourselves as another.The effect may be exhilarating; we are after all safely allowed to take masculine and130feminine positions, play spectator and spectacle. But the exhilaration does not last. Wethe readers are left, I would sugggest, feeling confined and helpless rather thanliberated and powerful."Richard Poirier claimed that Isabel was bound to fail because of the fears thatconfine and stifle all of us. Are those fears passed on to the reader as well? WhenRalph learns of Isabel's impending marriage to Gilbert Osmond, he says that "it hurts.""It hurts me,' said Ralph audaciously, 'hurts me as if I had fallen myself" (373). Hisassertion is "audacious" in that it claims to be able to know and experience the feelingsor pain of another.' It is the audacity of "the beautiful infatuation," in which one tries"to get into the skin of the creature." It is audacious for Ralph or anyone to claim thathe or she can feel the pain that another feels. Such is the audacity of art.The pain that Ralph claims as his own is, however, not the only emotion withwhich the reader is left. Witnessing Isabel's pain brings with it a sense of hopelessnessas well, a feeling of resignation and powerlessness that all of those surrounding Isabelfeel. When Henrietta informs Isabel that she will be leaving Italy in order to accompanythe dying Ralph back to England, she says to Isabel:' . . .1 see you want us all to go. I don't know what you want to do.''I want to be alone,' said Isabel.'You won't be that so long as you've so much company at home.''Ah, they're part of the comedy. You others are spectators.''Do you call it a comedy, Isabel Archer?' Henrietta rather grimly asked.33 For a study of the overwhelming sense of powerlessness in Portrait of a Lady seeWilliam Veeder, "The Portrait of a Lack," New Essays on "The Portrait of a Lady", ed. JoelPorte (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990) 95-121.34 Adam Smith thought that it was only through the secondary and indirect route of theimagination that we could even begin to "feel" the pains of another. See Chapter 2, pages56-58.131'The tragedy then if you like. You're all looking at me; it makes meuncomfortable.'Henrietta engaged in this act for a while. 'You're like the stricken deer,seeking the innermost shade. Oh, you do give me such a sense of helplessness!'she broke out. (545-546)To the very end Isabel seeks the shade that will shield her from the view of thespectators. Their view of her life as tragedy makes her "uncomfortable." Just as Clarissawants to slide through life unnoted and Hester seeks refuge in the forest or Europe, soIsabel must hide. All seek refuge from the glare of the attention trained upon them,from the gazes not just of the characters within the novels who, like Henrietta, staresympathetically and helplessly, but from our own gaze as well. We, the readers, starealong with the sympathizing spectators in the novel, until Isabel literally vanishes at theend of the novel. Her virtue, and her desirability depend upon her sense of modestyand independence. Our pleasure and our pain depend, helplessly, on her victimization.132CHAPTER 5A Thousand Pities: The Reader and Tess of the d'UrbervillesIn one of the best recent readings of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, ).Hillis Miller asksone question repeatedly. "Why," he wonders, "does Tess suffer so?"' His owndeconstructive answer, while insightful and meticulously drawn, remains unsatisfactory.He claims there is no "single accounting cause" (141) for her suffering, and insteadidentifies a pattern built up out of chains of signification, each referring and deferring toanother: "None of these chains has priority over the others as the true explanation of themeaning of the novel" (126). True as it may be that the novel's meaning cannot beisolated in any one strand or theme, Miller's analysis leaves a large questionunanswered. If Tess is nothing more than a pattern of repetitions, is "only an endlesssequence of them, rows and rows written down" (141), then how do we account for itsemotional power?Miller returns to this when he writes that, "No good reader of Tess of thed'Urbervilles can fail, in his or her turn, to be deeply moved by the novel. . . . I for onefind the description of Angel Clare's failure to consummate his marriage to Tess almostunbearably painful" (119). A British critic, John Goode,^has a similar reaction: "Ihave read and reread Tess of the d'Urbervilles many times during twenty years," hewrites, "and I still find the end impossible to read." 21 J. Hillis Miller, Fiction and Repetition: Seven English Novels (Cambridge: Harvard UP,1983) 140.2 John Goode, Thomas Hardy: The Offensive Truth (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988) 137.133Although each man chooses a different passage, the responses are remarkablysimilar. Both claim that a book about a woman's suffering is so painful as to be nearlyunbearable. Their statements also imply that it is this pain - so intense as to threaten todisrupt the very reading process itself - which supplies the book with its emotional andmoral greatness. Miller's question is "why does Tess suffer so." My question echoes his.Why does he suffer so? Why does the book demand such a response? What is this painthat makes the reader feel so bad and makes the book so good?In the late 1920s, I. A. Richards taught Tess of the d'Urbervilles in China. Whenhe read the tragic ending of that novel aloud to his students, the ending that Mr. Goodecannot bear to read, the Chinese students reacted in the following way:When Richards read the climactic lines, "the President of the Immortals hadended his sport with Tess," the class burst into spontaneous applause for the onlytime in the course. In a state of amazement Richards passed out protocols, andback came the universal response: Tess had shown disrespect for her father at thebeginning of the novel. The students had been waiting for the just punishmentthat a great artist like Hardy would surely mete out?This is a far different reaction from those we have just considered. The Chinesestudents appear to have felt elation and vindication, not pain, upon learning of Tess'sfate. This example demonstrates the culturally determined nature of Miller and Goode'sresponses to the novel. Miller will never find the answer to his question, "why does Tesssuffer so?" in his "chains of signification" so long as these chains are kept isolated fromissues of power, gender, and culture. Nor, I suspect, would he be particularly eager toaccept the answer provided by Richards' Chinese students that the reason Tess suffers,the reason that she needs to suffer, is that she showed disrespect for her father early in3 John Paul Russo, I. A. Richards: His Life and Work (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP,1989) 406.134the book. We cannot expect meaning to spring full-blown from some innocent orculturally-neutral meeting of reader and text. Culture, language, politics, sexualrelations: all of these at the very least inform, and at the very most determine the waythat we read. The painful response experienced by Miller, Goode, and others cannot beconsidered as some private or personal response transcending history and culture. Itmust instead be studied as a cultural response to historical and cultural pressures ofwhich this novel is just one instance.Miller is asking the right question, but looking for the answer in the wrong place.First of all, as mentioned above, his deconstructive method blinds him to pressures ofhistory, culture and gender. But further, his question obliges him to focus obsessively(as does the novel) on the heroine herself, thereby isolating her as an icon of virtue andpain. My own interest, as should be clear by now, is to ask the same question as Miller- why does Tess suffer so? - but to adjust the focus so that our gaze rests not just on theheroine herself, or even on the representation of that heroine, but on the readingprocess involving both reader and heroine. In that way, we may discover a connectionbetween the representation of the heroine's pain and our resulting empathetic pain andaesthetic pleasure.Although J. Hillis Miller's deconstructive analysis of Tess cannot (and, to be fair,does not seek to) account for the difference between the reaction of the Chinese studentsto Tess's fate and that of most readers in English departments in the West, he doesacknowledge the existence of a "good" reader. This, we may presume is someone whohas been taught - through culture, through history, as well as through reading novels -how to respond, how to read, correctly:135It is because all good readers of Tess would agree that Tess suffers and even tendto agree that she does not wholly deserve her suffering, and it is because allgood readers of Tess share in the narrator's sympathy and pity for that suffering,that we care about the question of why Tess suffers so. 4The good reader cares about Tess because he or she has been taught to care.Why we should have been taught this lesson is less important than the structure of thelesson itself. How does a novel like Tess of the d'Urbervilles go about teaching us to"share in the narrator's sympathy and pity for [Tess's] suffering?" These lessons insympathy interest me, not as much for the charity that they purport to teach, as for thepower relations of domination and submission which they conceal.From its very beginning, this novel was structured around the response of itsreaders. Because of the controversies and difficulties which Hardy faced in his attemptsto publish Tess at first serially, and later as a novel, he was forced to make severalrevisions. Mary Jacobus has shown how, during the process, he attempted to makeTess's character less sensual and more innocent in order to ward off accusations that as afallen woman and murderess, she was not fit to be a heroine.' In these revisions, thenovel seeks to rescue Tess from our bad opinion.Hardy's anxious and almost defiant attempt to secure the reader's good opinionof Tess led him to add the subtitle "A Pure Woman Faithfully Represented," a move helater regretted since it only added fuel to the fire, infuriating more readers than it won(Jacobus, 319). The subtitle is polemical, its intent didactic. Given the controversies anddifficulties which Hardy faced in his attempts to publish Tess, we may also assume that it4 Miller, 119-120.5 Mary Jacobus, "Tess's Purity," Essays in Criticism 26 (1976): 318-338.136is deliberately confrontational. It tells us that the novel will teach us how to recognizeand to distinguish a truly pure woman. The novel's own representation, it claims, isfaithful; it expects our investment to be just as true. We are to be taught what truepurity looks like and are expected to respond "faithfully" and sincerely in turn. In thisway, Hardy guides and constructs readers' response. We are to assist him in recognizingpurity where other people miss it. The project undertaken by author and reader issimilar in this respect to that undertaken in The Portrait, in which we were instructed torecognize quality. Here we are to be taught how to see and how to distinguish a typeof woman who is at best usually ignored, and at worst, shunned and despised.'Tess is in large part defined by her own unimportance. The narrator says of Tess:"She was not an existence, an experience, a passion, a structure of sensations, toanybody but herself. To all humankind besides Tess was only a passing thought."'While, on the face of it, this is simple common sense - she is, after all, the only onecapable of feeling her own subjectivity; to anyone else she can only be an object - thereis an element of pathos built into the narrator's statement. The passage, in fact, is moreplea than statement. We are not simply being told that no one cares for Tess, but arebeing solicited to give Tess more than "only a passing thought" because no one elsewill. We are being asked to recognize her as "an existence, a passion, a structure of' This is a lesson in sympathy and spectatorship that is very different from that providedin The Scarlet Letter. There sympathy was organised away from sight, through hearing orfeeling. In this novel, the narrator seems to be telling us that looking, or at least being ableto distinguish, is an essential first step toward understanding and sympathy.' Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles (New York: Bantam Classics, 1981) 89. Allsubsequent references in the text will refer to this edition.1 37sensations," to feel with her, to feel as her. What does this recognition entail? On theone hand it would seem to entail a putting of ourselves into her place, an attempt atidentification, since we have to learn from the "inside" what it means to be her, to seeas she sees, to think as she thinks. In this sense, we are encouraged to merge our ownidentities with her fictional one. On the other hand, the pleading note, the strain ofpathos, in the narrator's statement about Tess's lonely position creates and maintainsdistance. By being asked to pity Tess, we are kept on the outside. We are continuallyreminded that to most of the world she is a non-entity. In other words, the novel isasking us to take up two positions at once. We are not only asked to imagine what Tessmust feel and thus merge with her subjectivity, but also expected to maintain our owndistinct identity so that we might regard her as an object deserving pity. The novel isbuilt around this dialectic of subject and object. It is organized around twocompositional poles, the subjectivity constructed for the reader (self- sufficient,empathetic, and, as we shall see, to a large degree masculine), and thesubjectivity/objectivity that is constructed for Tess. It is out of the vacillation betweenthese two poles that the texture of the novel is woven.There are many similarities between this structure and those employed in Clarissa,The Scarlet Letter, and The Portrait of a Lady. In Clarissa, the epistolary style allows usto move in and out of characters' consciousness in ways sometimes quite abrupt, to seethem, as it were, from the inside and out. Hawthorne, in The Scarlet Letter, insists on adistance between spectator and heroine. The Portrait constructs for us a kind of loving"appreciation" for Isabel that is based on seeing her as simultaneously "interesting" and"little." All of these depend upon a dialectic of - in J. Hillis Miller's terms - distance and138desire. 8 In none of the texts, however, is this dialectic presented in terms as explicitlyerotic as in Tess.All of the other texts played with, and to some extent subverted, their ownfascination with the eroticism of their subject matter, but in Tess that eroticism is frontand center. In Clarissa the primary image is of a trial of female desire. In The ScarletLetter the image is of the circle, spectators drawn towards, and repulsed by, the mark ofthe woman's sin and her punishment. In The Portrait the imagery is organized aroundissues of acquisition, collection, and value. In Tess, it is the radical vacillation betweensubjectification and objectification that heightens and foregrounds the eroticism. Theheightening is effected from our knowing and seeing two ways at once, knowing Tess,as it were, both inside and out.The novel, as I have said, can be read as an attempt to subjectify what appears tobe an object, to remedy the fact that "she was not an existence, an experience, apassion, a structure of sensations, to anybody but herself."' The idea that she mightlack a subjectivity of her own is presented as a horror that the novel can do nothingabout. Instead, it can only use this horror to create a sense of pathos and thus heightenits own effects. Its attempted subjectification creates a new eroticized (and pathetic)8 This is the title of his book on Hardy. J. Hillis Miller, Thomas Hardy: Distance andDesire (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 1970) 51."About a similar attempt at subjectification (Freud's account of a girl's coming of age),Teresa de Lauretis has written: "The myth of which she is presumed to be the subject. . .in fact works to construct her as a 'personified obstacle'; . . . And so her story, like anyother story, is a question of his desire" (Alice Doesn't, 133).139object.' After all, the narratorial voice is clearly male while the object of its attentionis female. Penny Boumelha notes that there is atension inherent in this androgynous mode of narration, which has as its projectto present woman, 'pure woman', as known from within and without, explicatedand rendered transparent. In short, she is not merely spoken by the narrator, butalso spoken for."It may be that any attempt to subjectify the object - any such move between the firstand the third persons - becomes eroticized, but it must become especially so in a novelas sexually charged as this one.Much of this process of alternating subjectification and objectification is organizedthrough scenes of visualization. 12 The subjectification of Tess is a visualization of Tess.The links in this novel between vision and emotion are stronger than in perhaps any ofthe other novels considered in this dissertation." The focus is on Tess as a figure ofoverlooked and undervalued purity and suffering. Her unimportance in the eyes of theworld is stressed in order to heighten this focus. This emphasis on her insignificance is1° John Goode writes, "Tess is the subject of the novel: that makes her inevitably anobject of the reader's consumption (no novel has ever produced so much of what Sontagrequired in place of hermeneutics, namely, an erotics of art)." "Sue Bridehead and the NewWoman," Women Writing and Writing about Women, ed. Mary Jacobus (London: CroomHelm, 1979) 102." Penny Boumelha, Thomas Hardy and Women: Sexual Ideology and Narrative Form(Sussex: The Harvester Press, 1982) 120.12 See Kaja Silverman's "History, Figuration and Female Subjectivity in Tess of thed'Urbervilles," Novel 18.1 (1984): 1-24.13 In James vision is more persistently connected to knowledge and power (see Bersani's"The Jamesian Lie" and "The Subject of Power" and Seltzer's Henry James and the Art ofPower). In The Scarlet Letter, vision is linked to one emotion: shame.140linked to the same modesty, the same disinclination to court the regard of others, thatwe saw in Clarissa Harlowe, Hester Prynne, and Isabel Archer. This modesty, however,has the curious effect of calling attention to her. As the narrator puts it, "the eye returnsinvoluntarily to [Tess]. . . . Pehaps one reason why she seduces casual attention is thatshe never courts it, though other women often gaze around them" (86). This is one ofthe paradoxes of Tess, that a heroine who does not want to be seen, should "seduce"attention precisely by seeking to avoid it.' This disinclination to be looked at is asignal that readers should see her as the "pure woman" the text would have us read heras.In a novel claiming to want to subjectify its main character, there are a surprisingnumber of scenes organized around the visualization of Tess as an object. One of themost famous of these occurs when Tess first walks to Talbothay's dairy. It is in this scenethat she is described as being "of no more consequence to the surroundings than [a] fly"(104). What makes this particular scene so shocking is that its harsh objectification ofTess comes so abruptly. Up to this point, the reader's point of view had been structuredthrough Tess's. We had been looking through her eyes and had been experiencing hersense of release and jubilation as she leaves a painful part of her life behind and headsfor her new one. She feels drawn by "[t]he irresistible, universal, automatic tendency tofind sweet pleasure somewhere" (102). Following are some examples of the point ofview constructed for us as Tess walks:14 There is of course nothing new in this type of seduction. The paintings that Diderotmost admired, by Greuze for example, portrayed young women, none of whom activelyseduced the gaze, but who appear, to the twentieth-century eye at least, very coy andsentimental. See Fried, Absorption and Theatricality.141She found herself on a summit commanding the long- sought-for vale, the Valleyof the Great Dairies. (101)The bird's-eye perspective before her was not so luxuriantly beautiful, perhaps, asthat other one which she knew so well; yet it was more cheering. (101-102)Our gaze, our point of view, is at one with Tess's, seeing through her eyes, feeling whatshe feels. That gaze, a "bird's- eye perspective," is panoramic and its view"commanding." All of this brings with it a concomitant lifting of the emotions, astrengthening and a "cheering":Either the change in the quality of the air from heavy to light, or the sense ofbeing amid new scenes where there were no invidious eyes upon her, set up herspirits wonderfully. Her hopes mingled with the sunshine in an ideal photospherewhich surrounded her as she bounded along against the soft south wind. Sheheard a pleasant voice in every breeze, and in every bird's note seemed to lurk ajoy.(102)Part of her sense of liberation is surely based on her sense of independence and her"command" of her own perspective. She can see far and wide and yet remain unseenherself. There are "no invidious eyes upon her" here. Unseen, she can "mingle" andmerge with the sights and sounds which surround her. The sensuality of this passage isregistered through Tess's senses. We merge with her. We hear the birds and appreciatethe lightness of the air through her.The narrative voice then shifts very slightly; the tone becomes more objective.No longer are we placed quite so centrally in the heroine's consciousness, but begin tomove away from and outside of her. "Tess Durbeyfield," the passage continues, "then,in good heart, and full of zest for life, descended the Egdon slopes lower and lowertowards the dairy of her pilgrimage" (103). While we continue - as in the first half ofthis sentence - to maintain our privileged knowledge of Tess's inner thoughts, we arealso - as demonstrated in the second half of the sentence - allowed to move outside of142Tess to see her actions. This slight externalization of the point of view is standardtechnique in omniscient narration. In no way, however, does it prepare us for the scenewhich follows:Not quite sure of her direction Tess stood still upon the hemmed expanse ofverdant flatness, like a fly on a billiard-table of indefinite length, and of no moreconsequence to the surroundings than that fly. (104)The effect of such a description is cinematic.' It is as if the camera, which hadbeen positioned very close to Tess so as to describe things that she saw and felt from anintimate angle, had suddenly pulled back to a much wider angle, revealing her as amere speck on the landscape. Coming down from the summit, she loses her perspective,her sense of direction and with it, apparently, all sense of power, independence andimportance. The readers, however, have continued to maintain the privileged and"commanding" view which we had earlier shared with Tess. Her move away from whathad been our shared perspective opens up a gap, a gap which the text seems to findboth lamentable and exciting. In Thomas Hardy: Distance and Desire, J. Hillis Millerremarks that:Hardy is adept at making sudden relatively small shifts in perspective which puthis reader virtually, though not actually, at an indefinite distance from events - asif they were suddenly seen through the wrong end of a telescope. (51)This shifting back and forth produces a kind of vertiginous horror. That which we hadbeen close to, had felt intimacy with, has been abruptly pulled away and been rudelyobjectified, defamiliarized to an insect. The reaction created is shock, certainly, but it isalso pathos. The purpose of such a sudden reversal would seem to be to awaken in us a15 See David Lodge, "Thomas Hardy and Cinematographic Form," Novel 7.3 (1974):246-254.143horror of the distance and objectification of Tess, to renew in us a desire to bridge thatdistance through sympathy and love.'These sudden reversals occur in the other direction as well. In the followingpassage, also remarkably cinematic, the narrator directs our gaze toward a Tess soobjectified as to be nearly indistinguishable, and then has us look beyond or inside thatobject-ness to find the life or subjectivity within. In contrast to the previous scene inwhich the "camera" of the narratorial gaze had pulled back, this time the effect is like a"zoom in" for a close-up:Thus Tess walks on; a figure which is part of the landscape; a fieldwoman pureand simple, in winter guise; a gray serge cape, a red woollen cravat, a stuff skirtcovered by a whitey-brown rough wrapper, and buff-leather gloves. Every threadof that old attire has become faded and thin under the stroke of raindops, theburn of sunbeams, and the stress of winds. There is no sign of young passion inher now. . . . Inside this exterior, over which the eye might have roved as over athing scarcely percipient, almost inorganic, there was the record of a pulsing life.. . .(275)What is remarkable about this passage is that although the text tells us that her exteriorblurs her into the landscape, making her "a thing scarcely percipient, almost inorganic,"it is the compulsive detailing of its description which serves to particularize her and bringher into focus. The text dwells lovingly on the details of her dress and on the particulareffects of the weather which it tells us threaten to obscure her. If the text seems tolinger over these things which almost de- humanize its heroine, it is because theyheighten the pathos. The more Tess suffers, the more she comes into focus and the16 ..j Hillis Miller writes in Distance and Desire: "At a distance in time and yet presentas the events occur, a cold observer, spatially detached, seeing without being seen, and yetat the same time able to share the feelings of the characters, see with their eyes, and hearwith their ears - a paradoxical combination of proximity and distance, presence andabsence, sympathy and coldness, characterizes the narrator whose role Hardy plays." (55)144more we can feel. Our feelings of love or identification are constructed by seeing herthus objectified and dehumanized.In all of these scenes, our lessons in caring are organized around lessons inseeing. In order to know how to feel for Tess, we first must learn to see her, todistinguish her from all the rest. Hardy indicates that not everyone has the ability to dothis. It is only the select few who are are capable of appreciating Tess's beauty:A small minority, mainly strangers, would look at her in casually passing by, andgrow momentarily fascinated by her freshness, and wonder if they would ever seeher again; but to almost everybody she was a fine and picturesque country girland no more. (9-10)The reader is thus invoked as one of "a small minority, mainly strangers." Such flatteryserves as a kind of positive reinforcement for us to continue being able to see anddistinguish Tess." Kaja Silverman notes that, in Chapter Two, there is an "insistentanchoring" of vision "to a viewer, who assumes in turn the guise of a tourist, alandscape painter, and a random passer-by."' It is out of such descriptions that we, asreaders, construct our own subject-positions in the novel. It should also be noted, ofcourse, that these labels (tourist and random passer-by) aptly describe the character ofAngel Clare. It is, in fact, as if he enters the book to fill the position which has beenopened up for him by the text. This is just the first of many instances in which thereader's identity is constructed along the same pattern as Angel's." This coaching of the reader to see and distinguish Tess, is, as I remarked earlier,similar to the encouragement we receive in James's Portrait to love and appreciate theheroine in spite of her "smallness" and seeming insignificance. In Clarissa, by contrast, theheroine is always already marked and distinguished by her virtue and her beauty. Similarly,Hester has been marked before the novel even opens.18 Silverman, "History," 1.145The scene in which Tess and Angel meet - or rather, more symbolically, do notmeet - contains in microcosm elements which are to recur later on in this tragedy. Thescene also establishes our own and Angel's position toward Tess and thus links thereader's gaze to Angel's, much as it was linked to Ralph's in The Portrait and Belford's inClarissa.When Angel first approaches the field where Tess and the other village womenare dancing, he is accompanied by his two brothers. He is attracted by "the spectacle ofa bevy of girls dancing without male partners" and, like Ralph Touchett, is "amused."But his brothers object: "Dancing in public with a troop of country hoydens - supposewe should be seen!" (10 -11). The brothers are unable to distinguish any individualsamong the troop.Later the narrator will comment on just such an inability to see well or todistinguish. Of Angel he says: "he was ever in the habit of neglecting the particulars ofan outward scene for the general impression" (118). This is the habit which the novelseeks to break in trying to teach us to recognize "a pure woman" against stereotype, andit is the breakdown of just this sort of "habit" which occurs at the dairy, allowing Angelto see and love Tess:Without any objective change whatever, variety had taken the place ofmonotonousness. His host and his host's household, his men and his maids, asthey became intimately known to Clare, began to differentiate themselves as in achemical process. The thought of Pascal's was brought home to him: "A mesurequ'on a plus d'esprit, on trouve qu'il y a plus d'hommes originaux. Les gens ducommun ne trouvent pas de difference entre les hommes." The typical andunvarying Hodge ceased to exist. He had been disintegrated into a number ofvaried fellow creatures. (116)This is just the sort of knowledge, insight and ability to distinguish which the brotherslack and which it takes Angel some time to learn. They need to learn to particularize;146their "sin" is overgeneralization or stereotyping. This, it would seem, is also the lessonHardy wanted to teach his Victorian readers. His novel can be read as an attempt toportray Tess in a manner that would challenge the stereotype of the fallen woman.On another occasion, when Angel and all of the farm workers set out in the fieldsin an organized phalanx to seek and destroy garlic, these "differentiated" and "varied"individuals seem to re-group themselves into that undifferentiated mass known as"Hodge":Differing one from another in nature and moods so greatly as they did, they yetformed, bending, a curiously uniform row - automatic, noiseless; and an alienobserver passing down the neighbouring lane might well have been excused formassing them as "Hodge." (137)In an earlier passage, we saw how the reader was constructed as one of "a smallminority, mainly strangers." In this passage, the narrator evokes "an alien observer"who would "excusably" and, we can surmise, unavoidably fail to distinguish thefarmworkers as individuals. The reader is that "alien observer," who is to be taught, likeAngel, how to see and how to love.Angel's task, in his first scene with Tess and then in the novel as a whole, is tosingle out, to notice, and to love Tess. It is his failure to accomplish this task that setsthe tragedy in motion. It is of this that Tess accuses him when, during theirengagement, she says, "Why didn't you stay and love me when I - was sixteen; livingwith my little sisters and brothers, and you danced on the green?" (193).That scene, the dance on the green, prefigures his situation at Talbothays. Therealso, Angel is for a while the only eligible male in a bevy of young women. At first thetext tells us that it was "amusement" that drew him toward the girls on the green, butlater it is termed "pity": "This is a thousand pities,' he said gallantly, to two or three of147the girls nearest him, as soon as there was a pause in the dance. 'Where are yourpartners, my dears?" (11) His gallantry recognized, a girl asks him to choose a partnerhimself:The young man, thus invited, glanced them over, and attempted somediscrimination; but as the group were all so new to him, he could not very wellexercise it. He took almost the first that came to hand, which was not thespeaker, as she had expected; nor did it happen to be Tess Durbeyfield. (11)Because they are all "so new to him," he is unable to discriminate as he later learns todo with the country folk at Talbothays. As on so many other occasions in this novel,when Angel is finally able to distinguish Tess from the rest of the crowd, he is "toolate": 19As he fell out of the dance his eyes lighted on Tess Durbeyfield, whose own largeorbs wore, to tell the truth, the faintest aspect of reproach that he had not chosenher. He, too, was sorry then that, owing to her backwardness, he had notobserved her; and with that in his mind he left the pasture. (12)Tess's faint "reproach," along with Angel's own sense of being "sorry," sets thetone for the rest of the novel. (We might also note that the text blames Tess; "herbackwardness" appears to be as much at fault as Angel's lack of discrimination.) Nearthe end of the novel, he comes to the realization that that which has "value in life wasless its beauty than its pathos" (334).The poignancy of the whole novel, that which makes it both beautiful and"unbearable," is its pathos, its sense of missed opportunities, of everything in its world'This, of course, is Tess's accusation and lament when Angel arrives to find her at theboardinghouse with Alec (371), and it was also the original title of the novel, Too Late, Beloved (see Jacobus, "Tess's Purity," 321).148being slightly out of joint.' The cart goes off its track and Prince is speared by anoncoming mailcart. Tess's letter of explanation to Angel never reaches him, but goesunder the carpet. She walks all the way to see Angel's parents and then loses her nerve,her boots discovered by Mercy Chant. Angel finally returns to rescue her only to findthat he is a few days "too late." Things go wrong by being ever so slightly "off." Asmall misstep has enormous repercussions, and at each turn Tess or Angel feels "sorry."This is a novel full of regret, reproach and self-blame. When Prince dies, Tessexclaims, "'Tis all my doing - all mine!' . . . 'No excuse for me - none" (27). Of old Mr.Clare, Angel's father, the narrator tells us that, "His silent self-generated regrets were farbitterer than the reproaches which his wife rendered audible" (333). Angel, in Brazil,feels "a regret for his hasty judgment" (334), and when he receives Tess's letter accusinghim of cruelty and injustice, he agrees: "It is quite true!" (362).The tone of pathos, nostalgia and regret, permeating the end of the novel, is firstsounded at the end of the second chapter. There, Angel rushes off to rejoin hisbrothers. When he has run some distance and gained elevation and perspective, helooks back. Most of the girls "seemed to have forgotten him already" (12). Having lostall consciousness of him, they also lose any traces of individuality or subjectivity whichthey once might have had. To Angel now they are merely "white figures":All of them, except, perhaps, one. This white shape stood apart from the hedgealone. From her position he knew it to be the pretty maiden with whom he hadnot danced. Trifling as the matter was, he yet felt instinctively that she was hurtby his oversight. . . . he felt that he had acted stupidly. (12)20 J. H. Miller, in Fiction and Repetition, writes that "Time in this novel is this failure offit" (137).149Finally Tess has been distinguished. There are at least three things to note here. Thefirst, as already mentioned, is that such distinction comes "too late." The second is thatit is her "hurt" as much as anything else that distinguishes her. What hurts her isAngel's lapse in attention. Throughout the novel, Tess draws attention because of herlooks - her eyes and mouth are obsessively dwelt upon - but she is primarily marked byher suffering. It is her pain, our "instinctive" sense of her inward suffering, as much asher beauty, which sets her apart and distinguishes her.The third point to be noted about this passage is that Angel registers Tess's hurtand feels regret from a distance. He looks down at her, "this white shape" and theother "white figures of the girls" from a rise. His insight into her feelings seems todepend on distance and elevation. At the end of the novel he has to go all the way toBrazil to come to appreciate her. Angel is a man who needs perspective to be able tosee. The reader's position is built on a similar base. Our love, sympathy and pitydepend upon our sense of distance.'At this point in the novel, Angel fails his first task. He sees Tess, registers herhurt, feels that he has acted stupidly, but then reflects that "it could not be helped, andturning, and bending himself to a rapid walk, he dismissed the subject from his mind"(12). The novel may be read as an admonition to its readers not to make Angel'smistake. We are never to dismiss Tess from our minds. To him, "she was but a21 There is a similar emphasis on the effects of distance and elevation of perspective inThe Portrait. Isabel, in Chapter 42, thinks, "Osmond's beautiful mind indeed seemed topeep down from a small high window and mock at her" (466). In The Scarlet Letter thenarrator notes, "While Hester stood in that magic circle of ignominy . . . , the admirablepreacher was looking down from the sacred pulpit" (225). In these two cases as in Tess thereader is encouraged to feel sympathy, concern and even mild outrage at the heroines'lower positions.150transient impression, half forgotten" (37). Hardy makes it his project that she be moreto us. She is to become "an existence, an experience, a passion, a structure ofsensations."Upon reaching Talbothays, Tess meets Angel once again. Although at first hedoes not remember ever having seen her before, she remembers him. "Angel Clare risesout of the past not altogether as a distinct figure, but as an appreciative voice, [and] along regard of fixed, abstracted eyes" (112). His is the regard which is to construct her,the gaze that comes the closest to being able to rescue her.What, literally, does he see in Tess? Several times Tess appears as a spectaclepresenting itself to the male gaze. The narrator, himself, seems to take delight in Tess'sobjectification, as in this scene in which she is caught in the glare of a train's headlight:The light of the engine flashed for a second upon Tess Durbeyfield's figure,motionless under the great holly tree. No object could have looked more foreignto the gleaming cranks and wheels than this unsophisticated girl, with the roundbare arms, the rainy face and hair, the suspended attitude of a friendly leopard atpause, the print gown of no date or fashion, and the cotton bonnet drooping onher brow. (183-4)The sensual pleasure of this passage is derived from knowing Tess inside and out. Justas in the scene in which she was objectified as a fly, we have, until now, been verymuch inside Tess's consciousness, living with her at the dairy. We have experienced herdoubts about her past and her present feelings for Angel. Now, for a flash, we are ableto catch a glimpse of her as a train or a person from the city might catch her, frozen foran instant in our view, and then gone. The text relishes this disjuncture between theconstituted objectivity and subjectivity of its heroine. Her "foreignness" and strangenessare emphasized in the bizarre comparison with a "friendly leopard." That151defamiliarization, coupled with the familiar, even intimate, details of "round bare arms"and "rainy face and hair," give this scene its strangely powerful erotic air.Angel's more personal views of Tess are no less eroticized or objectified. Hewatches her milking and observes that she makes a "picture," her profile against the cowas "keen as a cameo":The stillness of her head and features was remarkable: she might have been in atrance, her eyes open, yet unseeing. Nothing in the picture moved but OldPretty's tail and Tess's pink hands, the latter so gently as to be a rhythmicpulsation only, as if they were obeying a reflex stimulus, like a beating heart.(147)This scene, as in the scene in which Tess is caught in the train's headlights, relies for itspower on Tess being motionlesss and unseeing. She is caught, like an animal paralyzedby headlights, rendered completely visible, almost immobile, and blinded. She herselfcannot see back."In this, as in so many other scenes, Angel's gaze focuses on her mouth:To a young man with the least fire in him that little upward lift in the middle ofher red top lip was distracting, infatuating, maddening. He had never beforeseen a woman's lips and teeth which forced upon his mind with such persistentiteration the old Elizabethan simile of roses filled with snow. (147-8)In all of these passages, the viewer is constructed as male, and even more particularly asa lusty male. The phrase, "to a young man with the least fire in him" serves aschallenge and incitement. As Boumelha notes, "The narrator's erotic fantasies of22 this sense, whether caught in the headlights of the train or in Angel's gaze, Tesscomes to resemble the prisoner of Jeremy Bentham's panopticon who, as Foucault puts itin Discipline and Punish, "is seen, but . . . does not see" (200). "Disciplinary power," hewrites, "is exercised through its [own] invisibility [but] . . . it imposes on those whom itsubjects a principle of compulsory visibility" (187). See Chapter 3, pages 105-106.152penetration and engulfment evoke an unusually overt maleness in the narrative voice"(120), thereby complicating the female reader's relationship to character and text.A second passage replicates and develops many of the issues presented here.Angel returns from a trip to find Tess in the dairy just waking up. Once again, thepower of this passage, the impact of its spectacle (focused on Tess's mouth), depends forits effect on her own semi-conscious state, on her being unaware that she is watched:She had not heard him enter, and hardly realized his presence there. She wasyawning, and he saw the red interior of her mouth as if it had been a snake's.She had stretched one arm so high above her coiled-up cable of hair that hecould see its satin delicacy above the sunburn; her face was flushed with sleep,and her eyelids hung heavy over their pupils. The brim-fulness of her naturebreathed from her. It was a moment when a woman's soul is more incarnatethan at any other time; when the most spiritual beauty bespeaks itself flesh; andsex takes the outside place in the presentation. (166)The passage is remarkable for its sensual and particularized detail. Now Angel and,through him, the reader can see right into Tess. She is utterly particularized (fetishized)and distinguishable. Our privileged gaze reaches places usually left hidden, "the redinterior of her mouth," "the satin delicacy" of her inner arm. The "brim-fulness of hernature," her "soul," her "sex" are all on display here for Angel's and the reader'sdelectation. We all become voyeurs; unseen ourselves, we are granted almost limitlesspowers of visual penetration.Just as in the other moments of visualization, moments when Tess was "lit up" byAngel's or the narrator's gaze, she herself is sightless. The attempt to distinguish andsubjectify Tess, to rescue her from the oblivion of not being "an existence, anexperience, a passion, a structure of sensations to anybody but herself," depends uponour being able to see and distinguish her. Based on the evidence of this scene, thatattempt would - as far as it goes - appear to have succeeded. Tess is known and seen153inside and out, but in the process has become fetishized, turned into an erotic object ofdesire. Without a gaze of her own, her subjectivity remains inert.The problem with such an objectification or fetishization is that it requires ananaesthitized heroine. As Penny Boumelha notes of the scene in which Angel finds Tessyawning:Here, as elsewhere, and particularly at moments of such erotic response,consciousness is all but edited out. Tess is asleep, or in reverie, at almost everycrucial turn of the plot. (121)We saw how Lovelace wanted to "try" or discover the nature of Clarissa's desire. Histrial failed, however, because in drugging and raping her, he obliterated the very willand desire he sought. This is the danger in Tess as well. The life and eroticism of thisnovel depend upon our sense that Tess is both object and subject. The novel swingsfrom one side of the dialectic to another. It claims to want to rescue Tess fromobjectivity and anonymity and attempts to do this through the obsession of its gaze.But if she is often "asleep or in reverie" when seen, her consciousness, as Boumelha putsit, is "edited out."Tess's subjectivity appears, thus, to be little more than a chimera. Thenarrator implies that he wants the reader to feel her as "an existence, an experience, apassion, [and] a structure of sensations," but to do so would be to forfeit the eroticluxury of continually seeing her from the outside and then moving to her (imagined)interior.Ellen Rooney has written that although "Hardy's novel is about the production offemale subjectivity," it is a subjectivity that "exists here only in sexual difference." 2323 Ellen Rooney, "'A Little More than Persuading': Tess and the Subject of SexualViolence," Rape and Representation, eds. Lynn A. Higgins & Brenda R. Silver (New York:Columbia UP, 1991) 96.154She claims that if "[t]he masculine subject is the only subject of sexuality" (94), then "[a]feminine subject [such as Tess] who can act only to consent or refuse to consent is in factdenied subjectivity" (92). Tess's only role can be as the passive object of rape orseduction.' This then would be yet another novel in which female subjectivity isproduced only for the possession or enjoyment of the (male) readerly gaze.There is, however, some attempt to imagine female desire, some attempt to "feelas a woman" in Hardy's representation of Izzy, Marian and Retty, the three milkmaids atTalbothay's dairy. Desire, as they experience it, seems to be a part of the overallsucculent fertility of the valley in summer:Amid the oozing fatness and warm ferments of the Var Vale, at a season whenthe rush of juices could almost be heard below the hiss of fertilization, it wasimpossible that the most fanciful love should not grow passionate. The readybosoms existing there were impregnated by their surroundings. (146)Tess and Angel are not the only ones touched by the "hiss of fertilization." "The oozingfatness and warm ferments" form the element in which all of them live, breathe andwork. All are equally "impregnated by their surroundings." Female desire asrepresented in this novel spills over like milk. Once created (and this text is, I think,nearly unique in mainstream English fiction for attempting to represent female sexualdesire), there seems to be a surplus. Feelings, once aroused, are difficult to suppress,are "catching." We are warned, "there is a contagion in this sentiment, especiallyamong women" (143). The women lie in their hot attic room during the long summernights, burning with love for Angel: "The air of the sleeping-chamber seemed to24 See also Ellen Rooney's "Criticism and the Subject of Sexual Violence," for afascinating discussion of the way that various critics have attempted to deal with the subjectof Tess and Clarissa's rape/seductions. MLN 98 (1983): 1269-1278.155palpitate with the hopeless passion of the girls. They writhed feverishly under theoppressiveness of an emotion thrust on them by cruel Nature's law" (144). Desire, as itis experienced by women, does not appear to impel them forward, or stimulate them tobold and heroic action as it does men. Instead, it leaves them lying panting, tossingand turning beneath the eaves. Held in "cruel Nature's" grip, they become once againobjects of pity.When Angel Clare saw the girls on the green dancing without partners, he wasimpelled to help them out: "This is a thousand pities,' he said gallantly. . . . 'Where areyour partners, my dears?" (11). In this text female desire seems to have been created togive the hero a place and a rationale. They waited on the green and they wait to behelped across the stream. They all wait to love him. They are helpless awaiting hisrescue. They have been overwhelmed, felled, by a force larger than themselves. Theforce of this overwhelming passion threatens once again to obliterate Tess's identity:"The differences which distinguished them as individuals were abstracted by this passionand each was but portion of one organism called sex" (144). In a similar fashion, whenthe four girls had waited for Angel to carry them across the stream, their "four heartsgave a big throb simultaneously" (140). However hard text and reader work todistinguish Tess, and bring her up out of the background, she appears doomed torecede once again. It is ironic that the very construction of her desire which might havedifferentiated, individualized or subjectified her, serves merely to inscribe her once againinto sameness.When Angel finds the girls on the green without partners, he says, as notedabove, that it is "a thousand pities." While his is the first enunciation of thisexclamation, it is not the last. The statement is uttered at least two more times - by156women. As Tess sits nursing her sick and illegitimate child, Sorrow, in the field, one ofthe other fieldworkers comments on Tess's bad luck at being distinguished by fate insuch a way: ". . . 'twas a thousand pities that it should have happened to she, of allothers. But 'tis always the comeliest!" (84-85). The narrator continues:It was a thousand pities, indeed; it was impossible for even an enemy to feelotherwise on looking at Tess as she sat there, with her flower-like mouth andlarge tender eyes . . . ; an almost standard woman, but for the slightincautiousness of character inherited from her race. (89)The fieldwoman hints that more than fate was at work in marking Tess. Her"comeliness" marked her first. The narrator develops this, and takes it in a slightlydifferent direction by stressing that what distinguishes Tess, what makes her not just a"standard woman" is something other than her beauty; it is her "slight incautiousness ofcharacter." The point is that she is marked both by beauty and by her defect (thenature of which is never entirely clear). Ever so delicately, in a remark that merelyglances off the page, the narrator hints at Tess's responsibility for her fate. Because theyare so inextricably linked, it is almost impossible to sort out which comes first - Tess'sbeauty or her pain. Does her beauty cause her pain,' or does the pain make hermore attractive?25 This would seem to be Tess's own assessment. On her trip to Flintcomb Ash, shepurposefully hides her figure and face, even cutting off her eyebrows. That would alsoappear to be the case in this scene with Alec:"Don't look at me like that!" he said abruptly.Tess, who had been quite unconscious of her action and mien, instantly withdrew thelarge dark gaze of her eyes . . . . And there was revived in her the wretchedsentiment which had often come to her before, that, in inhabiting the fleshlytabernacle with which nature had endowed her she was somehow doing wrong.(304)157J. Hillis Miller was right in noting that no "single accounting cause" can be foundfor Tess's suffering (141). While there may not be a readily apparent cause, there seemsto be at the very least a metonymic relation between Tess's sexuality and her pain. Oneis insistently linked to the other. Just as Angel is attracted by and finally able todistinguish Tess on the green by his sense that she has been hurt by him, so we readersare similarly implicated into feelings of guilt and sympathy. Angel feels he has hurt Tessby not noticing her; others (like Alec) hurt her by noticing her. In either case, she is hurtand all that we can offer is our pity.Men and women alike are drawn to pity Tess. "A thousand pities," the phrase isoffered up for the third time when the milkmaid Izzy sees Tess alone and abandoned byher husband."'Tis a thousand pities your husband can't see 'ee now - you do look a realbeauty!" said Izz Huett. . . . Izz spoke with a magnanimous abandonment ofherself to the situation; she could not be - no woman with a heart bigger than ahazel-nut could be - antagonistic to Tess in her presence, the influence which sheexercised over those of her own sex being of a warmth and strength quiteunusual . . . . (291)Any "woman with a heart bigger than a hazel-nut" is going to feel for Tess. But the pityrepresented here felt by one woman for another is impotent, can only wish that Tessmight be seen - seen compassionately, seen for her beauty and seen as Izz sees her - bya man. Izzy's wish for Tess is the classic female wish for a male rescuer. She herself cando nothing, can imagine no other way to help. This is Tess's tragedy. "The eye returnsinvoluntarily to [her]." She cannot escape our gaze, and our gaze, helplessly, connectsus to her in an unending and vicious cycle of pity and lust. The ending is unbearablebecause we are all caught in a relationship which we cannot escape.158CHAPTER 6Testing the Waters and Trying out the Air: Surfacing and Flying -The Women Talk Back"For one moment, just one moment, Fevvers suffered the worst crisis of her life:'Am I fact? Or am I fiction?"'It's all very well to say I refuse to be a victim, but then you have to look at thecontext in which one is or isn't a victim. You can't simply refuse. You can refuseto define yourself that way, but it's not quite so simple as that.'I - IntroductionReading Like a Man, Feeling Like a Woman "Am I fact or am I fiction?" wonders Fevvers, the heroine of Angela Carter'sNights at the Circus. "Am I what I think I am? she continues. "Or am I what he thinks Iam?" (290). Such questions, causing Fevvers to suffer "the worst crisis of her life," arecentral to the theme of this chapter. Here I turn to the work of two highly consciousand articulate female writers of the twentieth century in order to interrogate with themthe literary heritage from and against which they write. Through fiction they seek to re-discover and re-define female identity, which has itself in large part been constructedthrough fiction.'Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus (1984; London: Picador, Pan Books, 1985) 290.2 Jan Garden Castro, "An Interview with Margaret Atwood," Margaret Atwood: Visionand Form, eds. Kathrynn VanSpanckeren and Jan Garden Castro (Carbondale: SouthernIllinois UP, 1988) 219. Atwood is referring here to the sentence in Surfacing: "This aboveall, to refuse to be a victim."159There is a sense in which the work of both Margaret Atwood and Angela Carter"talks back" to the literary tradition from which it springs, a sense in which their workprobes and questions the status of the heroine in the novel and in society.' Theirs arehighly conscious and sophisticated viewpoints, alert to the dangers and powers offictional representation. One of the problems involved in talking back to such atradition is the extent to which that very tradition itself has defined woman as "other,"as the object of speech and of desire, and as the passive heroine needing rescue. I seethe work of Atwood and Carter as representative of the attempt by women to claimsubjectivity for themselves, to represent women as subjects of speech and of desire, asrescuers rather than victims. These are not easy tasks.The difficulty becomes apparent as soon as we speak of talking back, for howdoes one talk back to a tradition which has defined one as other, which has raiseddoubts about the nature of one's own identity and one's own ability to speak? Is it anywonder, then, that some of the first assertions from these writers should be questionsand expressions of puzzlement about their status and their identity? "Am I fact or am Ifiction," they ask. Do I trust what I think I know, or believe what he thinks he knowsabout me? The questions are valid, for how can women know what they are "really"like when it is fiction that has defined that reality?' The phrase, "talking back," comes from bell hooks' book of the same name. Shewrites:In the world of the southern black community I grew up in, "back talk" and "talkingback" meant speaking as an equal to an authority figure. It meant daring todisagree and sometimes it just meant having an opinion. . . . [It] was a courageousact - an act of risk and daring. (5)It is this sense of risk, courage and rebellion that I want to preserve. bell hooks, TalkingBack: Thinking Femininst, Thinking Black  (Toronto: Between the Lines, 1988).160A logical first step might seem to be to deny the representations and roles of thepast, to look at them and say, "this is not me, this is not mine," but Margaret Atwoodand Angela Carter are writers in a postmodern era in which one has learned to take thereality of fiction seriously. As they are aware, fiction has shaped our reality to such alarge extent that it has become hard to locate any reality that might exist entirelyoutside of fiction. The two seem virtually inseparable. The real questions these authorsface are: what kind of fiction will they themselves write? How will their own personalrealities shape that fiction? And finally, what kind of reality will their fiction in turnproduce?The logical first step may be to try to deny the representations and roles of thepast, but after denial, what? It may be all very well, Margaret Atwood reminds us inthe epigraph above, "to say [like the narrator of Surfacing] I refuse to be a victim, but . .. you can't simply refuse. You can refuse to define yourself that way, but it's not quiteso simple as that." Her words are, at one and the same time, adamant and tentative,defiant and uncertain. One can refuse (surely one must refuse) to be defined as a victimand yet the weight of at least two hundred and fifty years of tradition (Clarissa waspublished in 1747) is such that it is hard to try now to begin to imagine radically newroles and new ways of being. After two or three centuries how does one see oneself ifnot as a victim? And even if, individually, we are able to shrug off this role, are we notbound to recognize its social reality, the reality of women who are forced to live now asvictims in our society? It is with questions and dilemmas such as these that Atwood andCarter grapple in their fiction.In earlier chapters I considered Clarissa, Scarlet Letter, Portrait, and Tess each as atype of school of sympathy and identification, as a place where one might learn both to161feel for and to feel as a woman. In each novel the heroine's suffering serves as acatalyst for the reader's emotional involvement and aesthetic pleasure. Out of her paincomes our pity. Reading these novels teaches us to feel for her and moves us toattempt to feel as she feels. But ours is an identification and emotional response that ispredicated on distance, division and difference.Foremost among these differences is sexual difference. Those in the novel whowatch the heroine and feel most strongly for her are primarily (though not exclusively)male (Belford, Morden and Lovelace in Clarissa, Chillingworth and Dimmesdale in TheScarlet Letter, Ralph Touchett, Caspar Goodwood and Lord Warburton in The Portrait ofa Lady, Alec d'Urberville and Angel Clare in Tess of the d'Urbervilles). In each novel,the reader's identification with the heroine is thus routed through male characters. Itseems likely that identification depends upon difference, giving male characters, becauseof their distance and difference from the heroine, the advantage of being able to formsympathetic attachments to her. This would mean that the production of identificationand sympathy depend upon the reader's distance from, and difference from, theposition of the heroine. It is, perhaps, to guarantee this distance and this difference thatwomen need to read as men. They can only feel for the heroine, that is feel for her asthe text would have it, to the extent that they are distanced from her. This means thatthe female reader needs to read as a man in order to feel "as a woman." Heridentification is built out of a type of sympathy which, in turn, depends upon distance.Woman reading as man in order to feel as woman becomes a complex ritual of cross-dressing wherein gender roles are strictly defined only to be transgressed and bordersare set only to be crossed. What we need to find out is whether there can be anyidentification without difference.162In the introduction to this dissertation Shoshana Felman's model of reading wasdiscussed. In her essay, "Rereading Femininity" she claims that Freud's famous question,"What is femininity?" actually asks, "what is femininity - for men?" She thereforesuggests a "slightly different question: what does the question - 'what is femininity formen?' mean for women?" This model, of circle within circle, of men looking at women,and women looking at men looking at women, is close to what I see happening in thereading of novels. In the process of identification we all - male and female - try ondifferent sets of emotions, different positions of power. Male positions are establishedwithin the novels from which readers gaze at the spectacle of a suffering woman and"feel."To say that we read as men in order to feel as women leaves a central questionunanswered. We still do not know what (aside from victimization) women feel. If wereturn to Freud's central question in Felman's analysis - "What is femininity?" - andconsider it alongside his other famous question, "What do women want?" two pointsbecome apparent. The first is that we still do not know the answer to these questions,and the second is that they still seem to matter. We still want to know the nature offemale desire. We still want to know what it is that women feel. What this desire mightbe has remained a mystery which writers continue to seek to solve.The search for the mystery of female desire is closely linked to questions offemale voice and female action or heroism. The heroine's voice and her actions arecontingent upon her desire. I will be reading Atwood's Surfacing and The Handmaid'sTale, and Carter's The Bloody Chamber and Nights at the Circus as works which begin,not to answer these questions, but only to consider them. I approach these works byway of three interrelated topoi: Desire, Voice, and Action/Rescue/Heroism.163DesireThe early novels, Clarissa, The Scarlet Letter, Portrait of a Lady, and Tess of thed'Urbervilles, have been discussed as attempts to feel as a woman, to try to imaginewhat a woman might feel. Such attempts, predicated on distance and indirection,meant that the reader's experience of the heroine's desire is never direct, neverunmediated. It is always experienced from at least one remove. It can be argued that itis just this shade of difference that creates our experience of desire in novels. For itseems that desire is constructed out of the split in each novel between the adoring andsympathizing male narrator/hero/reader and the suffering innocent heroine. Does alldesire depend upon the desire of another? Luce Irigaray wrote of woman participatingin "a desire that is not her own," and was interested in discovering a female desire thatmight exist outside of, or separate from, male desire, but we have to wonder whetherany desire, male or female, can exist so autonomously.This, in part, was Rene Girard's argument in Deceit, Desire and the Novel, inwhich he proposed a triangular model of desire.' In this model, the male desires thatwhich another male desires. The desire of the first is awakened not by the woman inand of herself, but by another man's desire for her. (Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick usesGirard's insight as a springboard for her own analysis of homo-social relations inBetween Men.) 5 Girard's analysis was ground-breaking in the extent to which he"Rene Girard, Deceit, Desire and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure, trans.,Yvonne Freccero, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1961).5 Sedgwick writes: "Girard traced a calculus of power that was structured by the relationof rivalry between the two active members of an erotic triangle. What is most interesting(continued...)164demonstrated that desire was neither simple nor single, that it was an affair involvingmore than two. This is important because we still tend to think of desire as whollynatural or spontaneous. Girard suggests another model, much more useful for thisstudy, in which desire is produced from the spectacle of (what we take to be) another'sdesire.The desire that is constructed for the reader in the four early novels for the readerto feel - for Clarissa, for Hester, for Isabel and for Tess - is not so much for the heroineherself, as it is for the mystery of her own desire (which in these novels is a desire fordeath and punishment). Our own (masculine) desire to have, to possess, or to collect theheroine becomes intertwined with and eventually virtually indistinguishable from herown desire for self-destruction.'If desire is itself, in its essence, built out of a split, structured around the desire ofthe other, then any attempt by a twentieth-century post-modern feminist writer to re-create, re-appropriate or re-discover some unsullied female desire will be impossible. Itmay be that we all, all the time, participate in a desire that is not our own. It may bethat there is no other kind of desire, that "not our own" is its fundamental constituent.'5 (...continued)for our purposes in his study is his insistence that, in any erotic rivalry, the bond that linksthe two rivals is as intense and potent as the the bond that links either of the rivals to thebeloved." Between Men 21.According to Rachel Brownstein, the heroine's desire is for action, and it is from thisprimary desire that female readers construct their own: "[Novel heroines, like novel readers,are often women who want to become heroines." Becoming a Heroine: Reading AboutWomen in Novels, (New York: Viking, 1982) xv. But my question is: what if men also wantto become heroines?The idea of the novel as the vehicle of desire is as old as the novel itself. Don Quixoteand Madame Bovary are two of the most famous examples.165VoiceOtherness is as important in the construction of voice as it is in the construction ofdesire. Each is similarly organized around division or difference. Just as one relies onanother's desire to create a desire of one's own (we are moved by the desire of a manfor a woman, the desire of a woman for pain), so one cannot speak without using thelanguage and the voice of the other. Woman has traditionally served as the "other"around which these were constructed, the difference from which desire and sometimesvoice could spring. If she is to be subject, what will change?I argued earlier that the form of the novel seemed inextricably bound up with therepresentation and construction of desire, and that that desire was always built from orbuilt around the desire of another. It seems just as true to say that the novel isconstructed around and through the voice of another. This, of course, is the argumentof Mikhail Bakhtin who argues that the novel is, in its very essence, dialogic, dependingfor its existence upon the inclusion of the other, the voice from outside which mocks andcontradicts. "The image of another's language and outlook on the world,simultaneously represented and representing is," he writes, "extremely typical of thenovel. i 8In Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, Bakhtin discusses Dostoevsky's "polyphonic"novel, made up of voices which not only talk to each other, but are themselves doubledand dialogic: "In every voice [Dostoevsky] could hear two contending voices, in every8 Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist,ed. Michael Holquist (Austen: U of Texas P, 1981) 45.166expression a crack."' Bakhtin's insistence on dialogism is an insistence on somethingmore than mere dialogue. It involves not just a question of two monadic and indivisibleentities in conversation, but a sense that every voice or word is itself already divided,already permeated with the language of the other:When a member of a speaking collective comes upon a word, it is not as aneutral word of language, not as a word free from the aspirations and evaluationsof others, uninhabited by others' voices. No, he receives the word from another'svoice and filled with that other voice. The word enters his context from anothercontext, permeated with the interpretations of others. His own thought finds theword already inhabited.'Women have learned this lesson well; they already know that their language is filledwith the tracks and the traces of the other." To some extent these novels reverse thatsituation; it is the specter of the woman's voice and presence which lingers in the maleauthor's words.Of all the novels studied so far in this dissertation, in only Clarissa does theheroine appear to speak "directly." The epistolary style of that novel allows usprivileged and intimate access to Clarissa's thoughts and voice. The other novels,narrated by what we assume is a male narrator, approach their heroines less directly andoffer us less privileged access to her. But all four novels are characterized by avacillation between intimacy and closeness, moments in which we know the heroine,think her thoughts, see what she sees, and feel what she feels, followed by moments ofg Mikhail Bakhtin, Problem of Dostoevsky's Poetics, ed. and trans. Caryl Emerson,Theory and History of Literature, Vol 8 (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1984) 30.10 Dostoevsky's Poetics, 202." I am thinking here of such obvious examples as the verb "to master" meaning tolearn, or "seminal" as creative and productive.167distance in which the heroine is objectified, seen from afar, and made distant andstrange. Even in Clarissa, where we do hear some of the story in her own words, hertale is repeatedly contradicted, overridden, and swallowed up by the accounts of others.As she fades and dies, her story comes to be narrated almost entirely by her executor,Belford, who presents her papers (and thus frames her voice). He speaks, but his voiceis filled with the voice of Clarissa. His voice contains hers. ("His own thought finds theword already inhabited.") Her voice, then, like her desire, is productive, but usedalways at a remove, from a distance.Neither desire nor voice appears to be the pure monadic entity we once took itfor. Instead each seems to be built upon and generated out of gaps and splits, divisionand difference.Action/Rescue/Heroism The third of the points under consideration is the possibility of female heroicaction. If a woman is to assume full subjectivity, she must know what it is that shewants, and know how to speak that desire. Only then might she be able to act on it.Each of the heroines of the earlier novels is characterized by her inability to act, or tofree herself from the circumstances which entangle and engulf her. Helpless andimprisoned, she is unable to act for herself, but she gets better and better at movingothers. Her helplessness and lack of power in one area grant her a new power, thepower of seduction. Readers are seduced. We are moved by her plight and stirred tosympathy and identification. This response of ours is generated by what I call the rescuenarrative, a narrative type almost archetypal in our culture.168The rescue narrative has many versions, the simplest of which can be signalled bythe words "damsel in distress" or "knight in shining armor." The woman (SleepingBeauty, Snow White) lies helpless and motionless. She waits for the prince, the knight,to rescue and to free her. This is a potent myth in our culture and one with clear andrigid gender stereotypes. It forms the basis of countless fairy tales and is the mythwhich Georges Poulet invokes when he describes the effect of seeing books lying"helpless" in a bookshop:They wait for someone to come and deliver them from their materiality, fromtheir immobilty. . . . Are they aware that an act of man might suddenlytransform their existence? . . . I find it hard to resist their appeal.'This myth offers only two roles or subject positions; one can be active male or passivefemale, hero or victim. Although these roles are utterly distinct, Poulet's account wouldseem to indicate that they are, nevertheless, interdependent. In his account, hissubjectivity (here, virtually indistinguishable from his masculinity), is roused, stirred,even brought into being by the books' abject object-ness ("they wait for someone tocome and deliver them from their materiality, from their immobility"). It is his sense oftheir arrested or frozen plenitude that stirs him to action. His heroic posture, hismasculine response, is roused by the spectacle of books which (while never explicitlystated as such) are patently feminized in their passivity and seductiveness.The hero position, Teresa de Lauretis tells us, is masculine: "[M]an is by definitionthe subject of culture and of any social act.' She argues persuasively that the actantrole in narrative is masculine, that even when a woman assumes this role, she does so12 Poulet, "Phenomenology of Reading," 53.13 De Lauretis, "The Violence of Rhetoric," 250.1 69not as a woman, but as a man. Such is the regulatory force of narrative. My first claim,therefore, is that the spectacle of suffering woman rouses the hero-subject (by definitionmale) into being. To the extent that we are outraged by the unfairness of thetreatment which these heroines receive, to the extent that we feel roused to righteousanger and want to rescue her, we are all, male and female alike, "masculinized," that is,subjectified and empowered. This would seem to be borne out by responses to theheroine within the novel, responses by other characters. As mentioned above, most ofthose who love and appreciate the heroines are male. Many of them seek to rescue herand/or seek revenge on her behalf. Cousin Morden, Belford, Ralph, Casper Goodwood,Alec and Angel: all seek in various ways to rescue the heroine.Female characters are also moved to action. Annna Howe and HenriettaStackpole are both roused by outrage and pity for their friends. Both of these womenare, however, portrayed as mannish. Each is defined by her seemingly uniqueindependence, and for each, marriage is viewed as something of a wonder andsomething of a joke, because each, being so very independent, will be hard tosubdue.' Another exception proving the rule is Hester Prynne. In the forest scene inThe Scarlet Letter, it is she who acts as potential rescuer. She takes on the masculinerole and urges Dimmesdale (who has become passive to the point of becomingmasochistic and thus feminized) to rouse himself and to escape with her. These14 Henrietta has her Mr. Bantling, Anna Howe her Mr. Hickman. The joke in theirportrayal is that each will so undoubtedly lead her husband by the nose.170exceptions demonstrate that although gender roles can never be entirely abandoned,they can be transgressed. 15The rescue fantasy that these novels present is, however, compounded by asimultaneous narrative, a narrative that weakens, complicates, and in many casessubverts the first, operating as a kind of thanatos to its eros. This is the death wishwithin the rush toward life, love and safety, a wish manifested in the sense ofhelplessness which these novels create: 6 If, on the one hand, we are empowered andmasculinized by the spectacle of female victimization (roused to righteous indignationand heroic action), on the other hand we are also infected with a lassitude, a sense ofhelplessness almost feminine in its powerlessness. The would-be rescuers in the novels -Belford and Morden, Ralph, Caspar Goodwood and Lord Warburton, and Angel Clare -in spite of their sympathy and good intentions, are all, without exception, ineffectual.Their heroic efforts are, in Tess's words, "too late." The reader is first roused by thespectacle of female victimization to a state of full and heroic subjectivity only to be"infected" by the hopelessness, the passivity and the decline of the heroine." This15 On gender roles in The Scarlet Letter see T. Walter Herbert who calls Dimmesdale a"a womanly man" and Hester "a manly woman." "Nathaniel Hawthorne, Una Hawthorne,and The Scarlet Letter: Interactive Selfhoods and the Cultural Construction of Gender," PMLA103.3 (1988): 285.David Leverenz writes that Hester "realizes that her winning advice to Dimmesdale -'Preach! Write! Act! Do anything, save to lie down and die' can apply only to men, notto herself." "Mrs. Hawthorne's Headache: Reading The Scarlet Letter," Nineteenth-CenturyFiction 37.4 (1983): 560.16 See Henrietta Stackpole's exclamation to Isabel in The Portrait, "Oh, you do give mesuch a sense of helplessness!" (546)." If we think of these novels as social agents doing social work, then the work of thesecond narrative thread is to disempower subjects, allowing them to feel "full" of emotion,but void of ambition or the will to change.171narrative thread disempowers as the first empowers. The drive to rescue and the urge togive up are, I believe, equally strong and equally present in all of the novels consideredhere.There are countless examples of characters within these novels who take on theroles of hero and victim at various times and in varying ways. Hester Prynne, the victimof puritanical repression, seeks heroically to rescue herself and Dimmesdale; Lovelace,the rapist, imagines himself a victim on trial. This shifting of roles allows for some cross-dressing, some trying on of the others' clothes and the others' mode of behavior. Cross-gender identification offers that opportunity.Another example illustrating the way the twin threads within the rescuenarrative - the drive to rescue (be a hero) and the drive toward self-destruction (be avictim) - work is found in Portrait of a Lady. The plight of Isabel's step-daughter, Pansy,is, as many have noted, a mirror of her own. Pansy serves as a more subservient versionof herself. Pansy is literally locked up, put into the convent which Isabel recognizes as"a well-appointed prison" (599), a "great penal establishment" (604). But, unlike Isabel,Pansy offers no resistance and refuses to fight back. She "bowed her pretty head toauthority and only asked of authority to be merciful" (607). Isabel is moved by Pansy'splight and, while realizing that there is little she can do for her, does promise that shewill not desert her (608). Ever so tentatively, Isabel is putting herself into the position ofhero/rescuer. The irony of course is that by assuming such a role, she assures her ownvictimization and closes off all avenues for her own escape.To feel oneself as a rescuer is to feel empowered, energetic, full of power andpotency, but it is not at all clear that this is the feeling we are left with in The Portrait orany of the other three novels. In another very real sense what we actually seem to172experience is a diminution of our own range, a weakening of our powers. WhenRichard Poirier writes of The Portrait of a Lady that "there can be no such thing as the"freedom" which Isabel wants . . . simply for the reason that . . . there are in everyonethe flaws, the fears, the neuroses that fix and confine and stifle,' his point is thatJames is simply identifying and describing pre-existent fears and neuroses that fix,confine and stifle all of us. My point is that novels such as The Portrait may havesomething to do with transmitting and creating those fears. These novels teach us thereaders - through the pleasure of identification with the female victim - to accommodateourselves to discipline, denial and repression. As Foucault puts it in Discipline and Punish, "everyone must see punishment not only as natural, but in his own interest"(109). Discipline becomes a form of masochism which we all must learn.Novels like this teach us several lessons. First of all they teach that there is powerto be gained from passivity. This is feminine power (as it has been defined in ourculture, the only power readily accorded to women), the power to lure or seduce thegaze and the attention of the other. This lesson infects or undercuts the other message,which is that - having been moved by the plight of these victims - we could do anythingabout it. The two narrative patterns operate by granting two types of power, the powerof the rescuer and the power of the victim. There is pleasure to be had and power to begained from both positions, beautiful helpless maiden and brave and fearless rescuer. Iam arguing that the reader is invited to participate in or to "try out" both roles. It is notat all clear that as readers of these novels we simply gain voyeuristic/sadistic pleasure out18 Poirier, The Comic Sense of Henry lames 207.173of watching another suffer while we ourselves remain free." Some of the pleasure wetake is from imagining ourselves victims, imagining ourselves being watched andpitied. 2°It may be almost impossible to narrate a story of rescue without, at the veryleast, invoking the rigidly gendered stereotypes on which it seems to depend. As wewill see, particularly in Carter's work, these stereotypes can be invoked only to beoverturned. To the extent that we feel helpless and await rescue, we feel female. Tothe extent that we are "pricked up," feel outrage, and are moved to act, we feel male.We experience the power inherent in each of these positions through gender. But Iargue that the novels allow all of us, male and female, to experience both. As we shallsee, these are narrative patterns and stereotypes which Carter and Atwood explore andtest.The four earlier novels depended on a type of dialogism, an imaginedrepresentation of what the feminine might be, what she might see, what she mightthink, want, and feel. Out of and from this othernesss was spun desire, voice, and thenarrative of heroic action. In these works the gap was explicitly gendered; theydepended upon woman assuming the place of other. Male authors, narrators, and19 What I am arguing against here is the tendency in feminist film scholarship to thinkof voyeurism as male and as sadistic. See, for example, Laura Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure andNarrative Cinema," Visual and Other Pleasures (Bloomington, Indiana UP, 1989) 14-26.This view, so pervasive for a while, is being challenged more frequently lately. See, forexample, Regina Schwartz, "Rethinking Voyeurism and Patriarchy: The Case of ParadiseLost," Representations 34 (1991): 85-103.20 There is both pleasure and power in being the object of another's gaze. As MichaelAnn Holly puts it, "The person who does the looking is the person with the power. Nodoubt about it; looking is power, but so too, is the ability to make someone look." MichaelAnn Holly, "Past Looking," Critical Inquiry, 16 (1990): 395.174characters attempted to feel through their female heroines. In turning to twentieth-century works by female authors I am trying to discover whether the constitutive gapsthat we saw in the earlier novels are erased, or whether they remain and, if so, in whatways. In the earlier novels there was always a sense of distance, a gap to be bridgedbetween narrator and heroine and between reader and heroine. This was the gap out ofwhich sympathy and identification were forged. In all of these twentieth-centuryfictions, narrated often in the first person by female narrators, the gap remains. Feelingas a subject, feeling as a woman is no less problematic; the situation is no less alienated.The split, the gap, the distance, remains.I turn now to to Margaret Atwood and Angela Carter as two authors who dealwith the history of female representation and who self-consciously try to assess what thattradition means for them as women and as novelists. Their fiction works to re-thinkwoman as heroine and subject, and to consider what a new possession of subjectivitymight mean for woman's voice and desire. The two authors approach the problemdifferently, but neither represents woman as effortlessly assuming full voice, full desireor full heroism. As Atwood says in her interview, "It's not so simple as that."BordersIt seems fitting that this work on identification and difference should concludewith a study of two female novelists obsessed with the idea of borders. The concept ofborder or boundary - important in all four of the works considered in this chapter - ismost central in Margaret Atw000d's Surfacing.Borders are the lines by which we mark identity and difference. Everything onthis side of the line, we say, is one, a coherent and indivisible whole. Everything on the1 75other side is alien and strange, is, in short, other. Gradations and ruptures, differenceswithin or similarities between: these ideas complicate and confuse the clear precisionand logic of our borderlines. We use borders and boundaries to help keep thingsstraight, to name and identify, to mark differences.Just as female is defined in opposition to male, we set off other terms, oneagainst the other, in order to understand them: past vs. present, present vs. future,human vs. animal, culture vs. nature, primitive vs. civilized. My list is taken from justsome of the binarisms explored and challenged in the fiction of Atwood and Carter.Theirs is fiction about borders, threshholds and frontiers, about no man's lands. Nolimit is left untested; nothing is taken for granted. Even the most basic distinctions suchas that dividing human from animal or past from present are questioned. Pridefully,playfully perverse, the authors play with notions of identity and difference, and, in theprocess, re-think the heroine's ability to want, to speak and to act.Atwood and Carter realize that, while one may not be able to simply deny orrefuse the identity that a border has constructed, one can play with and question itslimits. Our difference from animals may not be of the type we had always assumed.Similarly, it may be that we are living in the future now, or that the past is not as distantas we think. Woman may have to take on the role of victim in order to break it apartand re-emerge as hero. All of these possibilities are examined in the fiction of AngelaCarter and Margaret Atwood.Their explorations in these areas are evidence of their interest in what theanthropologist, Victor Turner, has called liminality. He explains it this way:The attributes of liminality or of liminal personae ("threshhold people") arenecessarily ambiguous, since this condition and these persons elude or slip176through the network of classifications that normally locate states and positions incultural space.'The liminal is that which challenges and ruptures the borderlines of classification onwhich society depends. It is that which exists between or across borders and boundary-lines.Liminality is also part of a rite of passage, a time of change. As Turner explains,"liminality is a term borrowed from Arnold van Gennep's formulation of rites de passage, 'transition rites' - which accompany every change of state or social position, orcertain points in age." 22 The liminal, then, is of use to the feminist writer in that sheneed not adhere to traditional classifications; her ideas and characters can be"ambiguous," can "slip through" old networks by using conventional terms in anunconventional way. The liminal is also useful because, as an element in rites ofpassage, it allows the writer to imagine something new, a change in "state or socialposition."There are also similarities, it seems to me, between Turner's "liminality" andBakhtin's notion of heteroglossia. Turner writes that "What is interesting about liminalphenomena . . . is the blend they offer of lowliness and sacredness" (96). This isreminiscent of Bakhtin's insight into the way parody mocks and travesties the monologicin novels. Bakhtin would say that Turner's liminality, the inclusion of the high and thelow, the sacred and the profane, is "extremely typical" of the novel.21 Victor Turner, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (Chicago: U of ChicagoP, 1969) 95.22 Victor Turner, Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society(Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1974) 231.177If this blend, this "liminality," is "extremely typical" of the novel, then Atwoodand Carter can be viewed as both traditional and radical, for the traditional novel, atleast according to Bakhtin, has always been iconoclastic.' Iconoclasm, paradoxically,is the novel's tradition. The tradition calls for borders to be challenged and themonologic to be disrupted by the inclusion of the voice of the other. The dialogic, theinclusion of two voices, two differing points of view, is essential to the construction ofthe novel. As Bakhtin puts it, "One language can, after all, see itself only in light ofanother language" (Dialogic Imagination, 12). Otherness is, as it were, written into thescript.II - Margaret AtwoodSurfacing The unnamed narrator of Margaret Atwood's Surfacing is a heroine in search ofher place in the world. The place she hopes to find is pure and uncontaminated,untouched by the ruin and devastation she sees around her. Those who ruin, those whocontaminate and kill are defined variously as men, as Americans, and finally, ashuman.' Those who are passive, innocent, and therefore victims, the other half of thebinarisms, are women, Canadians and animals.23 " [N]ovel' is the name Bakhtin gives to whatever force is at work within a given literarysystem to reveal the limits, the artificial constraints of that system." Michael Holquist,Introduction, The Dialogic Imagination by Mikhail Bakhtin (Austen: U of Texas P, 1981)xxxi.24 "But then I realized it wasn't the men I hated, it was the Americans, the humanbeings men and women both." Margaret Atwood, Surfacing (1972; Toronto: GeneralPaperbacks, 1986) 164-165.178The place of purity that the narrator seeks is never found; mirage-like, its imagebeckons only to disappear when one approaches. As she drives north with three friends,she notices evidence of encroaching ruin. The opening words of the novel set the tone,establishing her numbed paranoid state:I can't believe I'm on this road again, twisting along past the lake where thewhite birches are dying, the disease is spreading up from the south . . . (7)In her eyes, the journey they undertake is a frantic and probably doomed rush to escapethe disease "spreading up from the south." They are heading, in her friend David'swords, to "the true north strong and free" (13). These words, it would appear, can onlybe said, now at the end of the twentieth century, with irony and some bitterness.Truth? Strength? Freedom? We doubt it. But the mirage lingers; the illusion persists.However much she doubts, the narrator is nonetheless drawn to a place which, if not thetrue north strong and free, can at least be defined by what it is not. (It is not polluted,not American.) What it is, what it might be, continues to elude her.After crossing the border, she says, "Now we're on my home ground, foreignterritory" (12). She reaches "home" only to find it "foreign" in several senses. It isforeign to herself and her friends because, we can assume, they have been immersed inAmerican culture. It is also foreign in that American culture is so powerful andsubsuming that the people who live in the region see themselves as "different," feelforeign even when they're at home. They feel that they are living in "occupiedterritory" (130). And finally, it is foreign to the narrator in that it never was hers. Sheand her family were Anglo-Protestants living in a French Catholic region. When shestops in the town to shop, her accent, her clothes, her unmarried status, mark her as an179outsider, as alien. When she thinks back to the past, she realizes that she had neverbelonged:But the truth is that I don't know what the villagers thought about, I was so shutoff from them. The older ones occasionally crossed themselves when we passed,possibly because my mother was wearing slacks, but even that was neverexplained. Although we played during visits with the solemn, slightly hostilechildren of Paul and Madame, the games were brief and wordless. (58)The only way that the village can appear familiar or look like home is when shehas gained some distance from it, and achieved some perspective. Leaving the villageto go up the lake in search of her father, she re-assesses it:I wait until we're in the middle of the lake. At the right moment I look over myshoulder as I always did and there is the village, suddenly distanced and clear,the houses receding and grouping, the white church startling against the dark ofthe trees. The feeling I expected before but failed to have comes now,homesickness, for a place where I never lived, I'm far enough away . . . (33)The homesickness for a place in which she's never felt at home comes from distance,comes when she's "far enough away."However misguided her quest, it is driven by a need that is real, a need to healthe split, feel less cut off, to find a home in which to feel whole:I'd allowed myself to be cut in two. . . . there had been an accident and I cameapart. The other half, the one locked away, was the only one that could live; Iwas the wrong half, detached, terminal. I was nothing but a head, or no,something minor like a severed thumb; numb. (117)She attempts to find that home, the place where she can feel whole again, in nature orin the past, somewhere away from human beings and the "disease" around her. Hersearch for the "other side," away from what she sees as the devastation and ruinwrought by Americans, men and humans leads her further and further away fromAmerica, from civilization, and eventually, away from language and logic itself. Thenovel is the story of how and why such a search is both necessary and doomed.180This move towards purity and integrity necessitates strict borders, high fences andstrong gates. The narrator is not quite sure what it is that she is looking for, but she issure of what she wants to avoid. Her friend David puts it this way: "It wouldn't be abad country if only we could kick out the fucking pig Americans, eh? Then we couldhave some peace" (96). These thoughts echo the narrator's own, but, as she slowlycomes to realize, this view is not only naive but self-destructive because while filling herwith rage and bitterness, it does nothing to empower her. On the contrary, it leaves herweak, a victim. The problem with an attitude like the narrator's or David's is that itrelies so exclusively on limits and borders. The narrator's strong sense of "us versusthem" means that she accords to "them" all power and thus all subjectivity, seeingherself as only an object. She abdicates her own responsibilities and powers as asubject.Without a will and a gaze of her own, she becomes, in her own mind at least,little more than a target for the aggression and the gaze of others. "Binoculars trainedon me, I could feel the eye rays, cross of the rifle sight on my forehead, in case I madea false move" (127). Thoroughly victimized, she has come to the point at which fear isher predominant emotion, her only sensation:I rehearsed emotions, naming them: joy, peace, guilt, release, love and hate,react, relate; what to feel was like what to wear, you watched the others andmemorized it. But the only thing there was the fear that I wasn't alive (120).What she can feel are the imagined "eye rays" of the enemy, trained on her forehead,ready to shoot. It is in response to this fear, this overwhelming sense of total181victimization, that the narrator seeks to escape.' She seeks a place without bordersand enemies, a place where the battles of man versus woman, American versusCanadian, culture versus nature, are not waged, a place from which she can learn tofeel, to speak and to act. In other words, she seeks a place from which she can reclaimher subjectivity.She is not only cut off from her own emotions: "I realized I didn't feel much ofanything, I hadn't for a long time" (114), but also feels alienated and distanced fromboth her language and her voice:It was the language again. I couldn't use it because it wasn't mine. . . . I huntedthrough my brain for any emotion that would coincide with what I'd said . . . ."I'm trying to tell the truth," I said. The voice wasn't mine, it came fromsomeone dressed as me, imitating me. (115)Perhaps such distance and alienation from emotion and voice are the price a woman hasto pay for having been defined as other. Because she does not know what she feels,because she cannot trust her language or her voice to speak for her, she cannot yetbecome either subject or heroine. She feels that in order to find her own feelings andvoice she has to retreat before she can advance, that she needs to retreat behind strictborders and needs to erect strong gates around herself. And indeed she does turn awayfrom established culture, logic and language in order to find herself. "First I had toimmerse myself in the other language" (170).25 Frank Davey notes the centrality of the Gothic in Atwood's work. The Gothic, afterall, is the literature of fear, is about the erotics of fear and helplessness. He writes: "Thereis so much Gothic imagery - of dismemberment, trick mirrors, dungeons, mazes,disembowellings - in [Atwood's work]." Margaret Atwood: A Feminist Poetics (Vancouver:Talonbooks, 1984) 65.182This quest for wholeness and identity leads her to descend into a realm whereborderlines - distinctions between past and present, animal amd human, primitive andcivilized - are blurred or even erased. She chooses to retreat from all of those she hasidentified as the enemy: "But then I realized it wasn't the men I hated, it was theAmericans, the human beings, men and women both. They'd had their chance but theyhad turned against the gods, and it was time for me to choose sides" (164-165). Shehas chosen sides, moved to one side of the borderline, and closed the door. WhenAnna exclaims, "God, she really is inhuman" (165), she fails to realize the true insightand prophecy of her own remark.At the beginning of the novel, the narrator enters "border country" (28), but bythe end she finds herself in the place of the gods or spirits in which there is "an absenceof defining borders" (89). The spirits, she finds, do not like fences, are "againstborders":Now I understand the rule. They can't be anywhere that's marked out, enclosed:even if I opened the doors and fences they could not pass in, to houses andcages, they can move only in the spaces between them, they are against borders.(194)Her descent into the underworld, although driven by the passive fear of thevictim, turns paradoxically into a very tentative type of heroism. Her descent into the place without borders allows her at least toconsider a return to the realm of borders. When she returns from her sojourn in thespirit world, she begins to make herself ready to enter the world of houses, enclosuresand borders. For the narrator, coming back to language and culture involves anadmission of guilt and relinquishment of the position of innocent victim:This above all, to refuse to be a victim. Unless I can do that I can do nothing. Ihave to recant, give up the old belief that I am powerless and because of it183nothing I can do will ever hurt anyone. . . . withdrawing is no longer possibleand the alternative is death. (206)The transition from victim to heroine is not, however, as simple as a critic such asAnnis Pratt would have it:She thus transforms herself from victim to hero, turning patriarchal space insideout so that it can no longer limit her being. Although the reader does notexperience the hero's return to society, her impression is that she can never bereturned to a peripheral or secondary status. 26Sherrill Grace's account would seem to be more accurate. While Pratt sees thenarrator's transformation as a simple one, which, once completed can never be re-done,Grace sees a complex pattern of recurring descent and ascent. Grace, by pointing toAtwood's employment of the Persephone myth, allows another, more complex, reading:[T]he descent-ascent pattern follows the paradigm of the Persephone myth, amyth Atwood has found attractive from her earliest poetry on. The narrator, aPersephone figure, must not only experience the underworld before returning toher Mother, but her descent also leads to the knowledge that she must henceforthembody both worlds; never again can she inhabit one or the other.'The title of Atwood's novel is Surfacing, but it is as much about diving, as much aboutgoing down as it is about coming back up.' Following the Persephone myth, wecannot expect the narrator's transformation to be complete and unchangeable. Wintermust follow summer so that summer can come again. Borders exist between life anddeath, between madness and sanity, and between culture and nature, but perhaps theycan be crossed and recrossed.26 Annis Pratt, "Surfacing and the Rebirth Journey," The Art of Margaret Atwood: Essaysin Criticism, eds. Arnold E. Davidson and Cathy N. Davidson (Toronto: Anansi, 1981) 156.27 Sherrill E. Grace, Violent Duality: A Study of Margaret Atwood  (Montreal: VehiculePress, 1980) 105.28 Grace writes of "her need to keep diving in order to surface" (106).184The novel ends with the narrator not crossing anything, "yet." She stands poised,although whether to dive or to surface, is not quite clear. Undecided, she teetersbetween two worlds: "I tense forward, towards the demands and questions, though myfeet do not move yet" (207). 29 Part One ended with a similar balancing act. There shestood half in and half out of the lake "till finally being in the air is more painful thanbeing in the water and I bend and push myself reluctantly into the lake" (80).Although the novel offers us no simple answers and gives us no clear direction, itdoes portray a heroine fighting to regain power, wanting to learn to live with and usepower as wisely and as reasonably as possible without being crushed by it. She is aheroine exploring the borderline between victimization and heroism.' She gropestoward a sense of her own desire and voice, still untested and unknown. The novel,thus, offers a hopeful, though far from simplistic, outlook on the possibility of femaleheroism and subjectivity, a hope which seems to fade in Atwood's later work.The Handmaid's Tale The Handmaid's Tale, like Atwood's earlier Surfacing, is driven by paranoia,fueled by the victim's edgy unease. But if Surfacing was an exploration of a possibleway out of victimization, The Handmaid's Tale is the story of what victimization feels likefrom the inside. This time there would appear to be no exit. In Surfacing the narrator29 In this scene Joe is portrayed as being in a similarly liminal state. He waits,"balancing on the dock which is neither land nor water" (192).The amphibious state would appear to be important to Atwood's vision of liminality.Frogs appear countless times, as laboratory specimens in jars, as bait on fishing hooks, ascreatures of the place she learns to feel at home in.She acts as a rescuer when she empties all of the men's film into the lake, film thatincluded degrading shots of Anna (178).185had to descend into a kind of primitive essentialism in her quest for power, integrity,and feminine subjectivity. Offred, in The Handmaid's Tale, while more totallyimprisoned than that narrator, has the fully-developed desire and voice she neverachieved. What Offred lacks, however, is the ability to act, to rescue herself or her lovedones. Without that power, her voice and desire remain irrelevant.In Surfacing, the heroine's lack of confidence, her sense of herself as less thanwhole, was linked to her powerlessness, her sense of herself as victim. Offred, incontrast, is very much a fully-formed subject with a strong sense of voice and desire,who remains nonetheless fully victimized by events beyond her control. This, it seems tome, is a spectacle much more frightening. The narrator of Surfacing learned, orappeared to learn, that to relinquish power (language, voice and desire) is to accept therole of passive victim. In The Handmaid's Tale Offred lives the role of victim with voiceand desire intact and fully formed. They provide her, however, with no more access topower than that experienced by the woman in Surfacing. Offred, then, comes to differvery little from her predecessors, Isabel, Hester, Clarissa and Tess. All are strong womenheld in ways beyond their control whose only power is the power to move others.However, in Handmaid's Tale, unlike the earlier novels, the emotion constructed for usto feel is not so much love or sympathy as pain and outrage, a dull despair.If in Surfacing there was a sense, however tentative, that the narrator might havelearned to appropriate power and use it for herself, in The Handmaid's Tale we find thatOffred's use of power is no further developed, and is actually even more restricted.Again, I will be looking at this novel in terms of the three categories: desire, voice, andfemale rescue/heroism.186Linda Kauffman writes that "Offred narrates from exile, a ceaseless reiteration ofher desire and her despair.' I would like to examine the connection between thosetwo terms. Desire in The Handmaid's Tale appears to be a quantifiable substance. Itsorigin is mysterious, but little attention is paid to its creation. Instead, it seems to bejust there. Desire exists before despair and despair, if anything, only augments it.The book opens in what had once been a high-school gym, and what Offrednotes, "faintly like an afterimage," is the "yearning" that took place there:There was old sex in the room and loneliness, and expectation, ofsomething without a shape or name. I remember that yearning, for somethingthat was always about to happen . . . .We yearned for the future. How did we learn it, that talent for insatiability. Itwas in the air; and it was still in the air.'The yearning of adolescents years ago is unsettling. Desire is what propels us forward,makes us want to know what comes next, to do what comes next. But Offred and theother women in the gym have no futures. They are what came next, and realistically,can look forward to nothing better. The future for which they had all yearned hasturned into a nightmare with no sign of an ending. It is this sense of doom that thedystopia brings, the sense of the future as the end, that makes the novel so bleak. Thedesire of the adolescents "was in the air; and it was still in the air." The occupants stillwant, still maintain their "talent for insatiability," but in Gilead such emotion is out-dated, vestigial.31 Linda Kauffman, "Special Delivery: Twenty-first Century Epistolarity in The Handmaid's Tale," Writing the Female Voice: Essays in Epistolary Literature, ed. ElizabethC. Goldsmith (Boston: Notheastern UP, 1989) 222.32 Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale (1985; Seal, McClelland and Stewart, 1986)3.187For Offred, such desire is unsettling. If she could let it go, or even suppress andre-route it, she might be able to survive the society of Gilead, learn to live within itsstrictures. "Waste not want not. I am not being wasted. Why do I want?" she asks (7).She lives in a society where desire, because it expresses the will of the individual andbecause it is so unpredictable, can get a person into trouble. It gets her commanderinto trouble. Offred recognizes this potential almost as soon as she is called into hisstudy after hours,But there must be something he wants, from me. To want is to have aweakness. It's this weakness, whatever it is, that entices me. It's like a smallcrack in a wall, before now impenetrable. If I press my eye to it, this weakness ofhis, I may be able to see my way clear.I want to know what he wants. (128)"I want . . . " he says.I try not to lean forward. Yes? Yes yes? What, then? What does hewant? But I won't give it away, this eagerness of mine. It's a bargaining session,things are about to be exchanged. (130)Offred continues "to want" even when there seems no hope of any gain, even thoughshe can see no reason for it. Instead, she leans toward the commander hoping to findin his desire a clue or a way out. She wants to know what he wants."Unproductive, potentially dangerous, where does this desire come from? Thedesire represented in The Handmaid's Tale seems to be both a natural occurrence(something teenagers used to feel in the old days, and something which people stillcannot help but feel even if they do not understand) and a direct response to the33 Offred's curiosity about male desire, as well as her sense that she might be able toturn it to her own advantage, is an example of Felman's model of female desire: womenlooking at men looking at women. It is also an inversion of Freud's famous question.Offred wants to know: "what does a man want?" and "how can I use his desire to furthermy own?"188prohibitions and restrictions of her situation. Offred returns from a "salvaging," a groupkilling and extermination of one scape-goated figure, and reports:But also I'm hungry. This is monstrous, but nevertheless it's true. Deathmakes me hungry. Maybe it's because I've been emptied; or maybe it's thebody's way of seeing to it that I remain alive, continue to repeat its bedrockprayer: I am, I am. I am, still.I want to go to bed, make love, right now.I think of the word relish.I could eat a horse. (264)It is this appetite for existence, this "bedrock prayer: I am. I am" which drives herto tell her story. Her voice is the manifestation of this desire. Her desire gives hervoice; she gives voice to her desire.One of the characteristics of desire is that no matter how unfocused it may be, itseeks an object. That object may be a particular lover, it may be recognition by others,or (as in the example above) it may be food. Desire needs a target or object. ForOffred that target/object becomes her imagined listener or reader. She feels thehopelessnes of such a desire acutely because there may be no one there:But if it's a story, even in my head, I must be telling it to someone. You don'ttell a story only to yourself. There's always someone else.Even when there is no one. . . .I'll pretend you can hear me.But it's no good, because I know you can't. (37-38)Desire without hope, a voice without a listener. All avenues are blocked, all exits closed.We are presented here with a representation of female desire as a force, no matter howstrong, that remains blocked and impotent.What gives Offred hope is her reception of another message, sent out almost asblindly as her own. She finds some words, "Nolite to bastardes carborundorum," (Don'tlet the bastards get you down), scratched in a corner of her closet. In order to find thatmessage she has had to examine, piece by piece, every corner of her room. The189message cheers her and gives her hope. It gives her reason to narrate her own words,for someone else to receive, someone as unknown as she was to this writer.Telling her story is not easy:Nevertheless it hurts me to tell it over, over again. Once was enough:wasn't once enough for me at the time? But I keep going on with this sad andhungry and sordid, this limping and mutilated story, because after all I want youto hear it, as I will yours too if I ever get the chance, if I meet you or if youescape, in the future or in Heaven or in prison or underground, some otherplace. . . . By telling you anything at all I'm at least believing in you, I believeyou're there, I believe you into being. Because I'm telling you this story I willyour existence. I tell, therefore you are. (251)She trusts the power of her voice to create the listener who will give her experiencemeaning. The future, if there is to be any, lies in the possibility of the listener'sexistence. Just as she fulfilled the role of unknown but not unimagined listener for thelast handmaid, the one who had scrawled the phrase in the closet, so she hopes for alistener for her own story. The listener has to be outside of Gilead, in "some otherplace." She posits a reader/listener outside of her nightmare and thereby reassuresherself that there j an outside, a place beyond her terrible now. The very act ofreading her words, therefore, becomes a kind of rescue.It is the intensity of her desire for a place and a reader beyond which makes the"Historical Notes" at the end so ironic and so grim. What is probably most chillingabout the epilogue is Professor Pieixoto's manner of taking Offred's pain so lightly. Thereader's first sense upon realizing that we are somewhere outside of and beyond Gileadis the relief of waking from a nightmare (it did all end). She/we have been rescued.The relief, however, is short-lived, turning to astonishment and dismay that so muchseems to have been forgotten. The scholars at the Twelfth Symposium on GileadeanStudies in the year 2195 feel none of Offred's pain and despair. They are not the190listeners she had imagined. By codifying and objectifying all of the information, hertale has been emptied of all human warmth, urgency and desperation.'The effect of Offred's voice being swallowed up and countered by Pieixoto'sshould by now be familiar to us from our readings of the other novels. The "bad"response of the academics of the future assures our "good" and "correct" response. Ourfeelings for the heroine are enhanced by our sense that she has not only beenmistreated; she has also been misread.It seems to me that Offred is constructed in this novel exactly as Tess, Clarissa,Isabel and Hester were in theirs. Offred's interiority is constructed through the text'srepresentation of her voice and her desire. Thoroughly strong and thoroughlyvictimized, she speaks and she wants, but she is unable to act. Through her account, thereader comes to see as she sees and to feel as she feels; we begin, in short, to identifywith her. That is why Professor Pieixoto's cold and detached report on her life shocksus. It is a brutal exteriorization, the effect of which is to heighten our pity for the' In Surfacing, the narrator muses: "I thought of how it would appear in the historybooks when it was over: a paragraph with dates and a short summary of what happened"(105).Arnold Davidson writes, "As Atwood has noted to Cathy N. Davidson in an interview,this is 'what happens to history - something that's a very intense experience for the peoplewho are living it becomes a subject of speculation, often of witticism, and rather detachedanalysis two hundred years later.""A Feminist 1984," Ms. February 17, 1986 24-26. Quoted in "Future Tense: Making Historyin The Handmaid's Tale," Margaret Atwood: Vision and Forms,  eds. Kathryn VanSpanckerenand Jan Garden Castro (Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1988) 113-121.Another point to note is the similarity between the fate of Offred's tapes andClarissa's papers. Clarissa's papers are edited by Belford, an assignment he takes on asalmost a sacred trust in reverence for her memory. There is no such reverence apparent inProfessor Pieixoto's attitude. The two situations are, nevertheless, more similar than theymight first appear. In each case, we read the woman's words after she has died, and ineach case the effect is a heightening of pathos. We feel for her because of what she hasundergone and because she never got to tell her story directly. The difficulty in its tellingis as much a part of the story as the events themselves.191heroine and our outrage on her behalf. This method of a constructed closeness andfamiliarity with our heroine, followed by a radical distancing and defamiliarization, isused in all the novels considered so far.'In this Atwood novel, unlike the earlier Surfacing, the fact of victimization doesnot block the heroine from locating her desire. In fact, it seems to help her: "Death,"she says, "makes me hungry." (Ralph had said to Isabel, "There's nothing makes usfeel so much alive as to see others die.") In full possession of her voice, she feelscompelled to tell her story again and again: "wasn't once enough for me at the time?But I keep on going with this sad and hungry and sordid, this limping and mutilatedstory" (251). The effort seems exhausting and pointless. The effect is something like aBeckett play in which voice and desire drone on and on, long after there is anythingworth saying, anything worth getting, long after all hope is gone. Unable to act,whether to save herself or her daughter, she remains locked into her victimization. WithNick's help she escapes to Canada. But the effect of the epilogue is to annul any reliefwe might have gained at the thought of her escape.In what way, we may ask, is the sense of hopelessness imbued by Handmaid'sTale any different from the sense created by The Portrait of a Lady? One difference isthat we have no sense in this twentieth century text that the heroine has "asked for" orsought out her punishment (except to the extent that she was politically uninvolvedbefore - had felt alienated from her mother's feminist politics). But ultimately do we notstill feel, as we did in Portrait, confined, fixed and stifled? We are outraged certainly,In Tess the narrator used a similar technique which I called cinematic. The narratorialpoint of view was first established as Tess's own and then radically altered to construct herat a distance as, for example, a fly on the landscape. (See Chapter 5, 161-164.) Atwood,I am arguing, is using the method to heighten reader response.192but are we empowered? I am not so sure. It seems more likely that this book hasmerely reinscribed and in some ways strengthened, the emotions and the responsesgenerated through the earlier novels, helpless outrage at the treatment of an innocentfemale.One possible clue to the arrested potential in Atwood's work might be in herrepresentation of the alienated relationship between mothers and daughters. At aclimactic moment in Surfacing the narrator is granted a glimpse of the mother who haddied several years earlier:Then I see her. She is standing in front of the cabin . . . . she is turned half awayfrom me, I can see only the side of her face. . . . She turns her head quietly andlooks at me, past me, as though she knows something is there, but she can'tquite see it. (196)Face half turned away, looking past her daughter without seeing her: I see this scene asemblematic of all the missed connections and awkward distance between mother anddaughter in this novel. The mother who scared away a bear, who rescued a drowningbrother, and who disappears for hours in the bush, is always remote. When the narratorsees her mother's diary on a hospital bedside table, she thinks: "All she put in it was arecord of the weather and the work done on that day; no reflections, no emotions" (24),and filches it from her death bed: "I thought there might be something about me, butexcept for the dates the pages were blank" (24). This is a mother whose feelings for herdaughter, whose feelings about anything, are mysterious. What did her mother want?the narrator, echoing Freud, might ask. That question is unanswerable - the mother isgone - but it is possible that the distance and coolness of the mother offers us a clue tothe numbness of the daughter. Without access to her mother's desire, the daughtercannot reach or use her own.193The narrator in Surfacing cannot reach her mother. The narrator of TheHandmaid's Tale can reach neither mother nor daughter. When Offred exclaims, "Iwant her back. I want everything back, the way it was. But there is no point to it, thiswanting" (116), she is referring, first of all to her mother, to wanting to try again toreach her. In that sense, Offred has no trouble knowing what she wants (she wants hermother and "everything back"), and has no trouble expressing that desire, but withoutthe ability to act, desire and voice are impotent and pointless. She can get no one back.The central horror in this book of horrors is the loss of Offred's daughter. In anearlier chapter I referred to two critics, J. Hillis Miller and John Goode, both of whomconfessed that parts of Tess were so unbearably painful as to be impossible to read. Thesection in which Offred's daughter is taken from her causes me the same readerly pain."Of all the dreams," Offred says, "this is the worst" (71). I would agree and wouldsuggest that it is around this central loss that the entire novel is organized. Her longingfor the child that is gone, her feelings of hopelessness at ever seeing her again, evergetting her back, are part of the overall misery of Gilead where many women long forchildren to love and for the children who will give them a future. But there is, at leastfor Offred, a longing for the mother as well: "I want her back. I want everything back,the way it was. But there is no point to it, this wanting" (132). Her desire is palpableand painful, but so, alas, is her sense of futility.Offred wants to reclaim the past, "everything back the way it was," but since thisis a dystopia, a novel set in a hypothetical and bleak future, her desire for the past isactually a desire for our present. We are the time before; we have now that which shecan never have again. What we have is a possibility for connection, freedom andsecurity that is both within our grasp and (at least according to the vision of this novel)194already lost to us.' Through our identification with the heroine we are inducted intoher desire and into her pain, her sense of futility that "there's no point to it, thiswanting."The recurring images of mothers and daughters and their inability to connectwith, or help, each other, may produce a clue to the locked and frozen stasis ofAtwood's nightmarish fictional realm. Unable to reach or to know their mothers' desire,Atwood's heroines' own desire remains impotent and pointless. They are trapped in aworld of paranoia and helplessness.' Mothers and daughters figure also in AngelaCarter's work, work which seeks a way out of this deadlock.III - Angela CarterThe Bloody ChamberI will focus here on only one of the stories in this collection, the title piece, astunning and troubling reworking of the Bluebeard story." As Carter tells it, this isthe story of a young woman's initiation into a "desire that is not her own," herseduction into complicity with that desire, and of her eventual rescue from its cruel36 ^Davidson writes that what is portrayed is "an appalling future already implicitin the contemporary world," and "In a very real sense, the future presaged by "TheHandmaid's Tale" is already our history." "Future Tense" (113 & 116).37 It seems to me that The Handmaid's Tale owes more than its theme and setting toThe Scarlet Letter. Both share the same sense of fear and paranoia, numbness and despair.38 For more on the Bluebeard Tale, its origins and some of its contemporaryapplications, see Sherrill E. Grace, "Courting Bluebeard with Bartok, Atwood, and Fowles:Modern Treatment of the Bluebeard Theme," Journal of Modern Literature 11.2 (1984):245-262.195effects. As an extended study of the construction of female desire around the desire ofthe other (a desire here that is violent and sadistic), the story flirts dangerously with thepornographic, for by identifying with the heroine we are being asked to identify withthat desire as well.The story opens with the heroine-narrator on a train heading for the castle of hernew husband. Because it is her first night away from her mother, she feels torn betweenher quickening desire for her husband and her remembered affection for her mother: "inthe midst of my bridal triumph, I felt a pang of loss as if . . . I had, in some way, ceasedto be her child in becoming his wife"". Before turning her full attention to thehusband, the narrator dwells, for a moment, on her mother, remembering her as a hero:My eagle-featured, indomitable mother; what other student at the Conservatoirecould boast that her mother had outfaced a junkful of Chinese pirates, nursed avillage through a visitation of the plague, shot a man-eating tiger with her ownhand and all before she was as old as I? (7)The mother had sacrificed everything to marry for love, but it is not at all clear that herdaughter is following the same path. On the contrary, it seems that she may bemarrying only to secure wealth for her impoverished family, that she may even see thisas a type of heroism worthy of justifying her own sacrifice and immolation. However,even if it was wealth which had first drawn her to the marriage, it is her husband'sdesire for her which ultimately lures her. She is pulled by it, almost against her will:"And it was as though the imponderable weight of his desire was a force I might notwithstand, not by virtue of its violence but because of its very gravity" (9). No soonerdoes she recognize his desire than she experiences the birth of her own, for hers is adesire which is solely, it would appear, based on his. Once awakened, her own desire is39 Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber (1979; London: Penguin Books, 1981) 7.196formed according to the patterns his provides. His is sadistic; hers becomesmasochistic. He wishes to possess and kill her; she finds herself strangely mesmerized bythis plan.The fiancé gives her a wedding gift, "A choker of rubies, two inches wide, like anextraordinarily precious slit throat" (11). The necklace is important, not only as aprefiguration of her intended fate, but also as her initiation into his gaze and his desire:I saw him watching me in the gilded mirrors with the assessing eye of aconnoisseur inspecting horseflesh, . . . When I saw him look at me with lust, Idropped my eyes but in glancing away from him, I caught sight of myself in themirror. And I saw myself, suddenly as he saw me, . . . I saw how that cruelnecklace became me. And, for the first time in my innocent and confined life, Isensed in myself a potentiality for corruption that took my breath away. (11)To see herself "suddenly as he saw me" is to adopt the male gaze, to internalize hisvision of her until it becomes her own.The story thus becomes not simply the story of one woman's seduction, but anaccount of the creation of female masochistic desire.'No. I was not afraid of him; but of myself. I seemed reborn in his unreflectiveeyes, reborn in unfamiliar shapes . . . I blushed again, unnoticed, to think hemight have chosen me because . . . he sensed a rare talent for corruption. (20)Carter introduces an ambiguity here. Until this point, the account seemed to imply thatfemale masochism develops in response to male sadism, but here a new sense isintroduced, the idea that the narrator (and thus all women?) has a "talent" for this4o concern here appears to be an investigation of a question similar to J.Benjamin's referred to above: "How does it come about that femininity appears inextricablylinked to . . . masochism, or that women seek their desire in . . . another?" (Quoted inChapter 1, page 12.)197corruption, is somehow innately "good at it." Ideas such as these in Carter's early workhave proved contentious.'The narrator is taken with what she sees of herself in the mirror, admires herselfand sees how good she looks as a victim. The lesson in desire continues until it becomesincreasingly difficult to say whether she has any desire or volition left of her own. It isonly after their wedding night that she gets the fateful bunch of keys. The sequence ofevents is important because her curiosity is depicted as neither independent norinnocent, but as sexual, as part of her growing complicity in her husband's desire.When he leaves her alone with the keys, he (purposefully) leaves her in a state of newly-aroused sexuality. Her desire and her curiosity have only been stirred and woken up.They are not yet sated, not yet even understood:I felt a vague desolation that within me . . . there had awoken a certain queasycraving like the cravings of pregnant women for the taste of coal or chalk ortainted food, for the renewal of his caresses. Had he not hinted to me, in hisflesh as in his speech and looks, of the thousand, thousand baroque intersectionsof flesh upon flesh? I lay in our wide bed accompanied by, a sleeplesscompanion, my dark newborn curiosity. (22)Hers is a dark curiosity eager to know more about the dark side of love. She describes itas "baroque," and "queasy," a craving slightly decadent and slightly sick. It is, at leastin part, a desire to learn more about her husband that leads her down the dark corridorsin search of the forbidden room. She wants, she says, to find his "real life" (25), his"real self" (26), his "soul" (27). Female curiosity, particularly as it is enacted in thisstory, in apparent contravention of the husband's wishes, might appear heroic. After all,it signals independence, resourcefulness, even rebelliousness. But whose desire is theheroine enacting? Whose curiosity is she seeking to satisfy? By this point her own41 See, for example, her The Sadeian Woman (London: Virago, 1979).198desire has become virtually indistinguishable from that of her husband's. She hasstarted to want what he wants:I knew I had behaved exactly according to his desires . . . . I had been trickedinto my own betrayal . . . . The secret of Pandora's box; but he had given me thebox, himself, knowing I must learn the secret. I had played a game in whichevery move was governed by a destiny as oppressive and omnipotent as himself.(34)Here Carter is weighing both the guilt versus innocence of the Eve or Pandorafigure as well as the degree of her independence. Female curiosity, the desire to takeinitiative and act heroically, has rarely been validated in our culture. In this case, theheroine exerts her curiosity to seek her own doom. But in knowledge lies power.Coming face to face with the inevitable results of her flirtation with corruption issobering. She stares at the consequences of her husband's desire (a desire which hascome close to being her own). By portraying the heroine as to some degree involved inher own destruction, Carter forces us to examine the extent to which women havecomplied with the system which oppresses them. She makes it more difficult for us andthem to claim only the role of innocent, and thereby powerless, victim.There is, however, a further surprising twist, another role for us to play. Just asthe husband lifts his sword over the neck of his bride, there is an interruption:You never saw such a wild thing as my mother, her hat seized by thewinds and blown out to sea so that her hair was her white mane, her black lislelegs exposed to the thigh, her skirts tucked round her waist, one hand on thereins of the rearing horse while the other clasped my father's service revolver,and behind her, the breakers of the savage indifferent sea, like the witnesses of afurious justice. (39-40)The mother charges in heroically, and somewhat comically. She comes in like a mock-heroic deus ex machina. She, who had killed a tiger at eighteen, wastes no time inkilling her son-in-law with her husband's gun. The mother has appropriated the position199of rescuing hero as easily as she stole the horse "from a bemused farmer" (40), as easilyas she wields her dead husband's revolver.The ending, an abrupt and stunning reversal, may complicate more than it solves.The story relies on two contradictory impulses, twin desires. On the one hand, theheroine is lured to near death through her induction into a desire that is explicitly self-destructive. On the other hand, she is saved from the final effect of this desire by amother who swoops in from nowhere to pluck her from danger. Two desires, bothfemale, exist side by side and in seeming contradiction; one is the desire to be seen,possessed and destroyed, and the other is the desire to preserve, to protect and torescue. How are we to understand the relationship between these seeminglycontradictory forces? Does the mother's rescue provide us with a happy-ever-afterconclusion, or has Carter's obsession with violent sexuality left us with a vision muchdarker? Have we been granted a vision of female possibility and heroism, or is it justthe same old story, told once again?Critics have been quick to point out the contradictions inherent in this and theother stories in The Bloody Chamber. A number of them assert that the problem maylie in the form itself. In her attempt to re-write or "talk back" to the fairy tales, Cartersometimes seems merely to repeat rather than re-invent sexual stereotypes." It is as if42 critics have made virtually the same point. Among them are Robert Clark,who asks, "in what ways do the novels of Angela Carter helps [sic] us to know patriarchy?In what ways do they reinscribe it?" "Angela Carter's Desire Machine," Women's Studies14 (1987): 148.Patricia Duncker sees the problem as being one of form: "Carter is rewriting the taleswithin the strait-jacket of their original structures . . . so that shifting the perspective .. .merely explains, amplifies and re-produces rather than alters the original, deeply, rigidlysexist psychology of the erotic."(continued...)200the tales take on a life of their own and start to tell themselves with a narrative drivetoward conformity that resists any attempt of the author to take control and tell them ina new way or steer them in a different direction.There is, however, at the climactic moment in the story, a moment of liberation,a moment - however stylized and unrealistic - in which freedom is, at least, imagined.When the mother bursts onto the scene of her daughter's execution, the narratorcompares this interruption to a hypothetical interruption of an opera wherein, just at themoment of greatest tragedy and pathos, the hero bursts into a "jaunty aria" andannounces that "bygones were bygones, crying over spilt milk did nobody any goodand, as for himself, he proposed to live happily ever after" (39). We can laugh at such abizarre juxtaposition of comedy and tragedy, but I think Carter's intention is quiteserious. What if, she is saying, we could let bygones be bygones, if we could freeourselves from history?. Her critics might point out that this collection demonstrates thedifficulty or even impossibility of such an escape, that it proves how deeply we aremired in history's self-destructive fantasies and thus doomed to repeat them. ButCarter's fiction does force us to re-assess the motives and forces behind women's all too'(...continued)"Re-Imagining the Fairy Tales: Angela Carter's Bloody Chambers," Literature and History10.1 (1984): 6.Avis Lewallen cites the title story as particularly disturbing: "Of all the tales in thevolume I found "The Bloody Chamber" most troubling in terms of female sexuality, largelybecause of the very seductive quality of the writing itself." She goes on to say that she felt"unease at being manipulated by the narrative to sympathise with masochism." "WaywardGirls but Wicked Women?: Female Sexuality in Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber,"Perspectives on Pornography: Sexuality in Film and Literature, eds. Gary Day and CliveBloom (London: Macmillan, 1988) 151.One critic who sees a radical potential in Carter's re-working of the fairy tales is SylviaBryant who claims that Carter is doing what Teresa de Lauretis urges in Alice Doesn't, thatis, subverting and re-writing the Oedipal pattern of narrative. "Re-Constructing OedipusThrough 'Beauty and the Beast'," Criticism, 31.4 (1989): 441.201frequent assumption of the role of victim; it urges us to refuse that role and takeresponsibility for living differently. This collection of re-worked fairy tales may not haveentirely succeeded, but it does not stop her from trying again.Nights at the CircusWhat if, like the operatic hero described in "The Bloody Chamber," we decide tolet bygones be bygones and propose to live happily ever after? How would we imaginesuch release from the recurring narrative pattterns of female victimization in which thevery stories become eroticized or charged in such a way that they serve merely to createthe pattern anew? I see Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus (1984) as an attempt toimagine just these possibilities.Carter's writing has been called "magic realism,"' and, for want of a betterterm, it will do to describe the world of imaginative possibility, mystery and magicwhich she creates. Nights at the Circus is an attempt to imagine new possibilities, newways to tell the story. The attempt is tentative; we are offered no system of redemptionor liberation. Instead, Carter works gingerly, and with considerable humour, to teaseout radical possibilites for transformation in the here and now."43 Paulina Palmer, "From 'Coded Mannequin' to Bird Woman: Angela Carter's MagicFlight" in Women Reading Women's Writing ed. Sue Roe, (Sussex: The Harvester Press,1987) 18244 Palmer writes that the images in the novel "represent ideas of liberation and rebirth;they evoke, in Cixous' words, 'the possibility of radical transformations'." (Helene Cixous,Sorties, trans. Anne Liddle in Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivron (eds), New French Feminisms (Harvester Press, Brighton) 96) 180.See also Rory P. B. Turner, "Subjects and Symbols: Transformations of Identity inNights at the Circus" Folklore Forum 20:1/2 (1987): 39-60.202A novel of transformation differs from a utopian novel in that it describes, not theperfect state, not that which "comes after," but the liminal state, that which existsbetween one state and another. Nights at the Circus, like Surfacing, is obsessed withborders. But if the emphasis in Atwood's novel was on lines which divide and separate,here the emphasis is on moments of liminality, on places and states which have no lines,that are both , this and that, both here and there.This liminality is exemplified both in the novel's characters and in its setting. Theheroine, Fevvers, is a woman (probably), but she has wings (almost certainly). Her fostermother and companion, Lizzie, is both a Marxist revolutionary (most likely) and amagician (probably). (The uncertainties are as deliberate as they are unresolved. Carterplays throughout with the notion of secret identities and confidence tricks.) Similarly,the novel is situated, both geographically and historically, in a liminal no-man's land.Much of it takes place on the steppes of Russia (between Europe and Asia) when a circustrain heading from London to Japan, via St. Petersburg, is blown up in Siberia.But it is in its sense of time that the novel is most "liminal," that is, mostdisorienting. When Walser, the hero, first meets Fevvers, he is shaken to realize that hehears Big Ben ring midnight at least twice in succession. The reader suffers from thesame disorientation, the same sense that we are falling through cracks in time, that timemay occasionally slip or double back on itself. With a time frame which stretches fromOctober, 1899 to January 1, 1900, the novel trembles on the cusp of the century,poised like the heroine of Surfacing, half in one state and half in the other. The dramaof the moment is deliberately played up:For we are at the fag-end, the smouldering cigar-butt, of a nineteenthcentury which is just about to be ground out in the ashtray of history. It is the203final, waning, season of the year of Our Lord, eighteen hundred and ninety nine.And Fevvers has all the éclat of a new era about to take off.'Something old is just about finished, ground down, smoked up. There is a chance forsomething new and Fewers is very obviously something new.Set at one turn of the century and written at the next (the book was published in1984), Carter's novel has an apocalyptic urgency, an impatience to toss out the old andget on with the new." Everywhere the chance to start from scratch is emphasized. AsLizzie says to Fevvers,You never existed before. There's nobody to say what you should do or how todo it. You are Year One. You haven't any history and there are no expectationsof you except the ones you yourself create. (198)No history, no expectations, no rules: she, like the coming century, is a blank slate. Thenovel explores the possibilites and the terrors of blankness, of beginning again fromnothing.Like Fevvers, we are encouraged to start all over again, but are never told that itwill be easy. On the contrary, it is strongly suggested that only fools accept suchundertakings. The book is saved from utopian didacticism and simple-mindedness byits humour and sense of bitter and complex ironies, not the least of which is the fact thatthe brave new world that Fevvers is to inherit is the century of violence, destruction andhorror through which we have just passed. Hope is itself undertaken almost as achallenge (and a nearly hopeless one at that). At one point Fewers starts to wax45 Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus, (1984 London: Pan, Picador, 1985) 11.46 In its sense of time it appears to work in a fashion diametrically opposed to that ofThe Handmaid's Tale. Atwood looks forward and sees the past. Carter looks backward andsees the future.204eloquent in the style of all the orators, playwrights and politicians of the past centurywho have promised us liberation and hope:'And once the new world has turned on its axle so that the new dawn candawn, then, ah, then! all the women will have wings, the same as I. This youngwoman . . . will tear off her mind-forged manacles, will rise up and fly away.The doll's house doors will open, the brothels will spill forth their prisoners, thecages, gilded or otherwise, all over the world, in every land, will let forth theirinmates singing together the dawn chorus of the new, the transformed -' (285)Lizzie shuts her up with "It's going to be a bit more complicated that that. . . . The oldwitch sees storms ahead. . . . You improve your analysis, girl, and then we'll discuss it"(286).This is not the only time Lizzie, the pragmatist and Marxist-magician, has to pullsomeone down to earth, for the novel is cluttered with dreamers and visionaries, eachseeking transformation and liberation. There is a group of escaped female convicts whohave broken free of a panopticon in Siberia (run by a woman). There is the group ofanarchists who blow up the circus train under the mistaken impression that Fevvers isengaged to the Duke of Wales. There are the whores who burn down the whorehousewhen their beloved madam dies, and in Siberia, the characters meet "a well-educatedman - boy I should say . . . [who] never mentioned 'yesterday'. All he could talk of was'tomorrow', a shining morrow of peace and love and justice" (239). Lizzie scolds thisman/boy as she has Fevvers, gives him a lecture on political realities and says,"tomorrow never comes', . . . . we live, always, in the here and now, the present" (239).Nights at the Circus explores that present, a past in which the future is always beingborn.Making the impossible believable is the theme of the book. In this sense it ismeta-fictional, for it is about confidence tricks, and is itself an extended confidence trick.205To play a confidence trick on someone is to engage their trust. It is also to turn theminto a dupe, a clown, or a fool. Walser, the journalist, sees himself as particularlyimmune to this fate. He decides to interview Fevvers in order to add her to his "seriesof interviews tentatively entitled: "Great Humbugs of the World" (11). Confronted byher, he tries to "keep his wits about him" (9), suspects there's "something fishy aboutthe Cockney Venus" (8), but relies on both his "professional necessity to see all andbelieve nothing" (10) as well as "his habit of suspending belief" (10). But in Part Oneall of his defences are breached. He is seduced into belief, seduced by champagne, byFevvers' enormous blue eyes, Lizzie's magic with the clocks, and most of all by Fevvers'tale; her voice and story enchant him into a kind of tranced faith. Held by her spell,Walser here re-enacts the roles of Belford, Dimmesdale, Ralph and Angel, all the malecharacters who were mesmerized by the plight of their heroines. However, this heroineis different. Although she undergoes terrible sufferings, there is a kind of comic sure-footedness about her, a way of bouncing back from adversity that is more reminiscentof Moll Flanders than of Clarissa.As in the other books, our identification is routed through the central malecharacter, but here it is coded differently partly because Walser falls so hard for theheroine. He listens to Fevvers' fabulous tale and, despite himself, "falls" for it. Lookinginto her eyes "he felt himself trembling as if he, too, stood on an unknown threshhold"(30). Falling in love and falling for a trick are virtually the same thing in this novel.They are, furthermore, virtually the same thing as reading any novel. "Shall I believeit," thinks, Walser. "Shall I pretend to believe it?" (28). It doesn't matter whether hebelieves or just pretends to believe; the book is conducted on the threshold of love,seduction, and magic. We all have to fall if we want to read it.206In his pursuit of love Walser suffers indignities that Ralph Touchett or ReverandDimmesdale would never imagine. He becomes first a clown in the circus (he'll doanything to follow Fevvers) and then a fool. (Hit on the head in the train crash, hebecomes mentally deranged.) At each successive stage he is more the stooge, the dupeand the fool, until, finally, "he was a perfect blank" (222). At this point he, comically,enacts the role usually assigned to women. Found unconscious by the escaped femaleconvicts, they wonder how to wake him: "The old tales diagnose a kiss as the cure forsleeping beauties,' said Vera, with some irony" (222). Wiped clean as a slate, he is atthe end, a "new man," ready to believe in and to love the "new woman," Fevvers.The reader is invited to identify with Walser, and, like him, learn to dance withthe clowns, become a fool and get "tricked." There's a loss of dignity in such a fall, adignity which the characters in the other novels succeeded in maintaining. For, after all,in order to be seduced, to read a novel, to fall in love, or even to fly, we have tosuspend our disbelief before we can even think about restoring or inventing our belief.We have to be willing to teeter on the threshhold, and take the plunge.But Walser does not command all the agency and all the active subjectivity in thisnovel. Indeed, as we have seen, his consciousness is "wiped clean"; he becomes "aperfect blank." Maybe blank is perfect in this world, the only way to start male-femalerelations anew. His erasure allows for the expression of Fevvers' full subjectivity anddesire. Near the end of the novel, she finds him stumbling over the steppes, lost andderanged. Her excitement causes her wings to burst out in a manner that is comicallyboth masculine and feminine:I spread. In the emotion of the moment, I spread. I spread hard enough, fastenough to bust the stitching of my bearskin jacket. I spread, and out shot myyou-know-whats. (251)207Carter deliberately uses and confuses terminology for male and female sexual response.The wings are phallic, vaginal and breast-like. Because they are like all of the above andnone of the above, Fevvers' desire is represented as liminal and non-restricted. It issomething new, something other, that remains nonetheless, familiar.The novel ends with Fevvers' joyous laughter. She says to Walser, "'To think Ireally fooled you!' she marvelled. 'It just goes to show there's nothing like confidence"(295). The confidence that women seek has perhaps first to be thought of as "just atrick." Is it fact or is it fiction; the question reverberates throughout the novel. Theanswer is that through our fictions we make our facts. Imagining that we might fly maygive us all the confidence we need.208PostscriptThe connection between women and the novel is a pervasive one. As itsheroines, its authors, and its readers, we women have in many ways made the novel agenre of our own. And yet, as Nancy Miller notes at the end of her study of theheroine in the eighteenth century-novel: "despite their titles and their feminine "I," it isnot altogether clear to me that these novels are about or for women at all."' Thenovels, she suggests, are written b men for men, are "a masculine representation offemale desire produced ultimately for an audience not of women readers, but of men"(150).While Miller may be right, and I feel that in a number of ways she is, womenhave not, by and large, felt excluded from the novel. She may claim that "Thefeminocentric text made one of the great traditions of the novel possible; women are itspredominant signifiers, but they are also its pretext" (150), but whether as text orpretext, as reality or illusion, women have seen themselves in novels. They have livedthrough novels, have used novels to understand their lives.It seems to me that we can get closer to the heart of this conundrum byaddressing - once again - the relationship between identification and difference. We(both women and men) go to novels to discover ourselves, and that discovery,paradoxically, is effected largely through an experience of otherness. The novels studiedhere provide that experience; they are a place in which we see and feel for the other.Nancy K. Miller, The Heroine's Text: Readings in the French and English Novel, 1722-1782. (New York: Columbia UP, 1980) 149.209All novels are structured around some kind of difference. This was Bakhtin'spoint when he differentiated the novel from the epic. The novel, he pointed out,disrupts the monologism of the epic by including the parodic or mocking voice. Thedialogism, which is essential to the novel, is, in one sense, already written into the splitbetween the first and third persons. The novelist writes, "he did," "she felt" and weexperience his words (and we suspect in many cases that he experiences them as well) as"I did," "I felt." I mentioned in the introduction Poulet's citation of Rimbaud's "Je estun autre." 2 This statement captures the ambiguity I seek to describe, the sense that in anovel we are perched, stranded even, in a no man's land between the first and the thirdpersons. We learn through a he or she what I feels like.That sense of difference and identification is accentuated through the differenceof gender. Two of what are considered to be the first novels in English, SamuelRichardson's Clarissa and Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders were created out of such adifference and a doubleness: in each case a male author speaks in and through a femalevoice, expressing her desire, feeling her emotion. A recent book on this conjunction offemale character and male author has just reached my attention. In Narrative Transvestism: Rhetoric and Gender in the Eighteenth-Century Novel, Madeleine Kahnformulates what she sees as the central question "about a male author's use of a femalenarrative voice"2 I also pointed out the similarity between Rimbaud's statement and Flaubert's famous,"Je suis Mme. Bovary."2 1 0. . . what did he have to gain from the attempt? What is the point of creating arather elaborate narrative structure to gain access to a voice on the other side ofthe structural divide between genders?'My point is that that "structural divide" is essential for the construction not just ofgender, but of desire and, therefore, of the novel itself.Novels are places where difference is both constructed and preserved. Withoutdifference there could be neither identification nor desire. Difference fuels our desire tosee and to know, and, to the extent that it animates and empowers us, it makes men ofus (male and female readers alike).I use two metaphors to describe the process of cross-gender identification as Iunderstand it, site and role. Readers take up sites within the text,' and readers playroles within each text. These sites and roles, while explicitly gendered, are, nevertheless,temporary and interchangeable; no one has to remain in one place for very long.Through identification, we take on roles presented to us in the text.The reader's role is performative. The female reader, as we have seen, mustoften perform as male. This female identification with the male gaze has been welldocumented (Culler, Fetterley, Showalter for literature; de Lauretis, Doane, Mulvey forfilm). The novels studied here depend upon such identification, but they are also andperhaps even more firmly grounded in male identification with the female.' Madeleine Kahn, Narrative Transvestism: Rhetoric and Gender in theEighteenth-Century Novel. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1991.4 I am thinking here particularly of a site such as James describes in his preface to TheAmbassadors: "at the window of his wide, quite sufficiently wide, consciousness we areseated, from that admirable position we 'assist."211Identification with the female grants the reader access to realms of display andemotion often denied to the male. While the male site is the more openly privileged,the female site grants us a power of its own. Not only do readers gain a sense ofinteriority through experiencing the pain of the female other; we are also granted thepower of seduction. By identifying with victims, with objects of pathos, we get a senseof what it feels like to be the objects of attention as well. From this position the readeris able to experience, vicariously, the ability to seduce, to lure the gaze of the other. Inattracting sympathy and pity, we attract attention, an attention that comes to feel likelove.The novels considered here span three centuries and several modes; they areepistolary, realist, science fiction.' What they have in common is their preoccupationwith the heroine. The feminist reader, I have tried to argue, cannot read these textswithout allowing her or himself to be seduced, to take roles defined as masculine as wellas feminine. But beyond seduction, how do female readers in particular read these andother novels and maintain at once our sense of otherness along with a sense of agencyand subjectivity? We must, I would like to propose, take on the role of Bluebeard's lastwife. In Angela Carter's rendition of the tale, the wife is marked indelibly with theimprint of the bloody key:I knelt before him and he pressed the key lightly to my forehead, . . . and when Iglanced at myself in the mirror, I saw the heart-shaped stain had transferred itselfto my forehead, to the space between the eyebrows, like the caste mark of abrahmin woman. Or the mark of Cain. (36)5 In many ways the epistolary novel is the first novel. In its use of one lettercontradicting and exposing the next, we see dialogism in its simplest and perhaps evenmost effective form.212Like that wife (and like Hester Prynne), we wear the mark of our difference and ouridentification with male desire. Thus marked and thus empowered, we continue, ourcuriosity unabated.213WORKS CITEDAbrams, M.H. The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Criticial Tradition.New York: Oxford UP, 1953.Anesko, Michael. "Friction with the Market": Henry lames and the Profession ofAuthorship. 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