Helena Ifill
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Lost for Love
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Braddon depicts education as a means of cultivating character in her largely overlooked novel Lost for Love. The novel’s heroines, Flora Chamney and Louisa Gurner, find happiness because of their intellectual abilities, and end up marrying men who are responsible for their intellectual development, providing a sort of unofficial higher education. Braddon shows that women are capable of rigorous intellectual pursuits, and that this will make them attractive, interesting and useful companions to men. By emphasising woman’s role as helpmate to man, Braddon places a conservative sheen over a potentially radical depiction of female ability, and in doing so makes several inferences regarding both biological and social determinism in relation to women. On the one hand, Braddon presents women as having vast inherent intellectual potential which requires education to fulfil its promise. However, she also acknowledges that in Victorian patriarchal society it is men who are responsible for women’s development and implies that if men are going to rule society they must think more carefully about the women they want to cultivate as future wives and mothers. In this way Braddon’s addressing of the Woman Question, and her depiction of companionate marriage are grounded on her beliefs regarding character formation.

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Creating character

Theories of nature and nurture in Victorian sensation fiction


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