The Daughter's Desire in Dombey and Son

in Critical Survey
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  • 1 Tufts University Kristina.Aikens@tufts.edu
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While permitting other types of exploitation such as racism. With its emphasis on separate spheres, its depiction of Florence's superhuman healing powers, and its concern with redeeming the patriarch, Dombey and Son certainly seems more interested in a mildly gradual improvement of the status quo than in radical change. Yet to ignore Florence's desire, however conveniently that desire sometimes feeds into patriarchal dominance, is to overlook not only a complex portrayal of female sexuality that is neither condemned nor entirely denied, but also a depiction of the painful and difficult task of molding desire into culturally acceptable forms. Although the novel cannot imagine a full integration of women into the 'masculine' realm of politics and business, the dilemma of Florence and Edith in some ways reflects the problematic posed by conflicting concepts of twentieth and even twenty-first century feminism: does one, like Florence, focus on inclusion and acceptance in an attempt to change patriarchal structures from within, thereby abandoning truly radical change; or does one, like Edith, insist on rebellion from the margins, sacrificing community and risking the possibility that the center will conveniently ignore the margin's demands?

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