Presenter Information

Department of English

Abstract

The sensation novel in the Victorian period often portrayed female victims as “fallen women.” These women encompassed those who suffered from addiction, engaged in prostitution, changed their identities, or were otherwise homeless. However, “fallen women” were generally misrepresented in both novel and reality. Anne Catherick, the female victim in The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, and the victims of Jack the Ripper are all represented as ending up in precarious situations resulting in their deaths by their own accord. However, these sets of victims traversed a multitude of missteps and unavoidable tragedy before their untimely deaths. The women who fell victim to Jack the Ripper as well as “the woman in white” have more similarities than previously understood. I will be arguing that in both The Woman in White as well as through the lives of Jack the Ripper’s victims, you will be able to see that Victorian women are misrepresented as just the victim and that their demise was not purely a result of poor individual choices. These fictional and historical victims are similar in several ways and have suffered the same fate in the remembrance of their stories in the last several decades. These women could have changed their fates, if they had only been given the opportunity and the tools to do so.

School

McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Advisor

Dr. Laura Engel

Submission Type

Paper

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Misrepresentation of Victimhood During the Victorian Period

The sensation novel in the Victorian period often portrayed female victims as “fallen women.” These women encompassed those who suffered from addiction, engaged in prostitution, changed their identities, or were otherwise homeless. However, “fallen women” were generally misrepresented in both novel and reality. Anne Catherick, the female victim in The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, and the victims of Jack the Ripper are all represented as ending up in precarious situations resulting in their deaths by their own accord. However, these sets of victims traversed a multitude of missteps and unavoidable tragedy before their untimely deaths. The women who fell victim to Jack the Ripper as well as “the woman in white” have more similarities than previously understood. I will be arguing that in both The Woman in White as well as through the lives of Jack the Ripper’s victims, you will be able to see that Victorian women are misrepresented as just the victim and that their demise was not purely a result of poor individual choices. These fictional and historical victims are similar in several ways and have suffered the same fate in the remembrance of their stories in the last several decades. These women could have changed their fates, if they had only been given the opportunity and the tools to do so.