Elisabeth Bronfen
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Deathbed scenes
in Over her dead body
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The literary convention of the deathbed scene of a virtuous young woman has its most distinguished source in Samuel Richardson's novel, Clarissa, or the History of a Young Lady. Its heroine, Clarissa Harlowe, setting an example for the triumph of virtue by giving up her life willingly, is the most striking model for all subsequent narrative representations of a 'good death'. She gives up her life after several attempts at eluding her rapist Lovelace and asserting her independent will against the tyranny of her family. The author presents an analysis of deathbed scenes from Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Julie, ou la Nouvelle Heloise, and then from two Victorian examples: the deaths of Charles Dickens's Little Nell and Harriet Beecher Stowe's Little Eva. The main purpose of Julie's deathbed scene is to name successors to her social role and assure the preservation of family unity.

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Over her dead body

Death, femininity and the aesthetic


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