A postmodern end for the violent Victorian female



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Texas Tech University


Recent media attention on the trial and conviction of Andrea Yates, the Texas woman convicted of drowning her five children, as well as on female suicide bombers in Israel, indicates not only "a morbid curiosity in the United States relating to mothers killing their children" (Meyer and Oberman 19), but also a special, intense fascination with women who involve themselves in "masculine" acts of violence, especially murder. Since contemporary examples of violent women abound, why do authors--and the public--continue to turn to the past, to nineteenth-century cases of female aggression, for inspiration? Perhaps it is as Margaret Atwood suggests, that in turning to the past we hope to explore and then expose the possible misconstruction of that past, thereby infusing it with multi-layered meanings for present and future generations {In Search 3 9). Not only Atwood, but also Angela Carter and Toni Morrison have claimed the past of individual violent women, exploring and infusing the stories of Grace Marks, Lizzie Borden, and Margaret Garner with new, alternative endings, thereby redeeming the violent women of yesteryear, and perhaps all women "because we are the ones who need it" (Atwood 39). By rewriting the past with postmodern tools, all three authors offer a brighter tomorrow, one loosened from the grip of a history that is often structured oppressively with respect to women.



Atwood, Margaret. Alias Grace, Literature, Modern -- 20th century -- History and criticism, Postmodernism (Literature), Morrison, Toni. Beloved, Women in literature, Women and literature -- History -- 20th century, Crime in literature, Carter, Angela, 1940- Fall River axe murders, Literature, Modern -- Philosophy, Women -- Social and moral questions