Bachelor of Arts
Emma Woodhouse, Dorothea Brooke, Jane Austen, Emma, Middlemarch, Parent, Child, George Eliot, Heroine
In order to examine the significance of "parent-child" relationships vis á vis the growing autonomy of Emma Woodhouse and Dorothea Brooke, we must first look at them as daughters in relation to parents, real or surrogate, ineffectual or influential. Next, to what extent do these two women act as counsellors and parents for siblings and friends, and how does their attitude to that role change? Last, both these novels feature heroines whose husbands or future husbands are much older than they are, and who assume parental roles with them. How does each heroine relate to this father/lover figure? Is he the cause or the catalyst of her maturation?
As I hope to show, the obstacles created by these various relationships ultimately enable our heroines to examine and accept their values and themselves. Each author explores the issue differently, however. Though Austen does not use the language and imagery of parenting, birth, and growth that Eliot does, she communicates her notion of parenting by concentrating on issues such as good judgment and compassion. In the end, they show that each heroine self-sufficiently creates and nurtures a self which is at least a partial realization of her great potential. In effect, she becomes maturely suited to parent as a consequence of becoming her own surrogate parent.
Lehman, Andrea E., "The Child is Mother of the Woman: Parenting and Self-Parenting in Emma and Middlemarch" (1983). Honors Papers. 642.