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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lucy's Female Attraction

In Between Women*, Sharon Marcus analyzes Lucy Snowe's relationship with other women, determining that Lucy harbors lesbian passions, based on her "passionate responses to several other female characters" (102).  Nevertheless, Lucy ultimately rejects female friendship because "their [females] presence undoes her sense of femininity" (104).  This undoing happens as a result of the beauty of the females with which Lucy surrounds herself, such as Ginevra, to whom Marcus says Lucy is attracted because "she find her pleasant to look at and enjoys her unquenchable need to solicit Lucy's attention" (103) . This constant need for Lucy's attention is motivated by Ginevra's "wish that Lucy admire, envy, and cater to her in ways that underscore Lucy's inferiority" (104).  Ginevra and Lucy ultimately separate due to Lucy lack of desire to fulfill this role.

Despite Marcus' supposition of Lucy's female attraction, I do not think Lucy has repressed lesbian desires.  When Lucy meets other female characters, she immediately comments on their beauty; this is true in the case of females she encounters on her trip to Villette, whom she describes as "handsome," "perfectly handsome," and "pretty and fair" (112-3);  Madame Beck, whom she calls "dumpy" (126); Ginevra and Paulina, both of whom she repeatedly calls beautiful.  Nevertheless, her attraction to the beauty of others is not sexual but is a result of her own desire to be beautiful.  As in the case of the Cleopatra painting, Lucy is interested in what men think is beautiful, though at the same time, she does experience the undoing that Marcus describes.  Ultimately, Lucy does not develop any lasting female friendships, as the marriages of both Paulina and Ginevra cause her to lose contact with those women.

*Between Women:  Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England (2007) by Sharon Marcus

The above painting is Idleness (1900) by John William Godward.

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