Constructions of power : feminist sub-texts in the novels of Charlotte Bronte and Daphne du Maurier : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in English at Massey University
This exploration of the novels of Charlotte Brontë and Daphne du Maurier reveals a number of similarities in each author's investigations of feminist concerns. Centring upon a discussion of cultural values in the texts of both authors, this thesis suggests that nineteenth and twentieth century female writers use similar literary devices to incorporate feminist sub-texts beneath the surface of outwardly conventional romantic novels. Certain significant themes and images appear in both Brontë's and du Maurier's works: the burned stately home, the Gothic atmosphere, the characterisation of an abused and abusive first-person male narrator, and marginalised female characters who are drawn towards a more empowered yet also culturally marginalised male protector/punisher- figure. In du Maurier's work in particular, these themes and images are recreated throughout successive novels in an apparently compulsive manner, suggesting a vital psychological working-through of material to which the author holds an attitude of ambivalence. My discussion gives extra weight to du Maurier, not only because the volume and time-span of her work exceeds that of Brontë (twelve of her seventeen novels are here discussed in depth and the remaining five briefly placed in context) but also because limited academic interest has hitherto been shown in du Maurier's works (with the possible exception of Rebecca), as opposed to the existing wealth of Brontë scholarship. It is my belief that du Maurier's work as a whole is of interest to academic study for its inherent psychological realism, contemporary concern with gender-related topics, and strong sense of literary inheritance; this thesis initiates an exploration of these issues.