Conflicting Interpretations of Gender

Hysteria, Masculinity, and Marriage in Florence Marryat's Nelly Brooke

in Critical Survey
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In 1868 Florence Marryat published Nelly Brooke: A Homely Tale, ostensibly a novel full of classic sensation themes: illegitimacy, love, seduction, addiction, and a murder of sorts. More interestingly, however, the novel also plays with nineteenth-century gender expectations and ideas current in medical and scientific discourse. This essay explores the representations of male hysteria and the demonised man of science which this novel depicts. These themes, contained within a hugely satisfying sensation plot, are also offset against the plight of the fortuneless woman in the nineteenth-century marriage market.