M arriage domesticates both Bold and Grantly, former enemies who "have become almost friends." The female-coded domestic influence of Harding and Eleanor, regardless of gender, enables a social space free from the enmity of Mr. Bold's abandoned lawsuit and Grantly's stubborn adherence to the church. Although Mr. Harding's new position at the "church of St. Cuthbert at Barchester" yields only "seventy-five pounds a year," he still "performs afternoon service every Sunday, and administers the Sacrament once in every three months" (282). He abandons his position as Warden but is "still precentor of Barchester." In other words, Harding's capacity to continue preaching parallels Aurora's literary agency in that both point to narration's capacity for domestic production. As Armstrong argues, the domestic woman surveys and disciplines the household — a microcosmic community — not through economic leverage but through "writing" the historical conditions of courtship practices and kinship relations that we have come to take for granted. Think of John Hiram's ambiguous will as a challenge for the readers of Barchester; throughout the whole novel, Sir Abraham Haphazard and others debate upon the meaning of the will that "writes" the futures of Harding and his twelve employees. As Nancy Armstrong argues in relation to Pamela:

Domestic order is not based on one's relative socioeconomic position so much as on moral qualities of mind. This principle enters into the household through the female and reforms that household by means of her writing. (130)

In a broader sense, then, both Trollope and Barrett Browning "write" the rise of the domestic woman. Whereas Aurora's rise to domestic control is predicated upon Marian's demonstration of motherhood, Harding reconciles his domestic obligations to church, family, and employees with the help of Elee household had emerged as a "partitioned and hierarchical space under a woman's surveillance" that served to discipline Early Victorian class antagonism (185). As Armstrong suggests, the Victorian novel transformed the "household space into an instrument that can be used to classify any social group and keep it under observation" (201). By surveying, disciplining, and controlling the household as a site of sexual relations and middle-class interactions, the domestic woman controls those participants competing for social dominance. She emerges as a new Victorian hero — a female hero that confronts, domesticates, and displaces the violent martial hero of the Medieval Period and later Victorian revival in the poems of Tennyson and Robert Browning.

In Book Seven of Aurora Leigh (1855), Elizabeth Barrett Browning suggests the martial hero's undoing in the face of an emerging female domestic hero. Shortly after Marian discloses to Aurora the story of her rape and subsequent flight to France, Aurora considers the evolving relationship between heroism and gender:

The world's male chivalry has perished out,
But women are knights-errant to the last;
And if Cervantes had been Shakspeare too,
He had made his Don a Donna. (Book VII, lines 224-227)

With "male chivalry" on the decline, the domestic household replaces the battleground as a nexus of political and sexual power relations. After Romney's physical and financial crippling at the hand of reform-violence, Aurora domesticates her fallen lover just as Jane domestanor and Mr. Bold's mutual self-sacrifices for the good of their collective household space. Empowered by her confrontation of a violent of rape, Marian rejects Romney's hand in marriage; she domesticates violence in the same way that marriage quells the resentment felt between Mr. Bold and Grantly. Ironically, despite Barrett Browning's criticism of the Medieval revival, even Tennyson's "The Passing of Arthur" portrays the ways in which middle-class, household values shape the interaction between lord and retainer. Bedivere's heaves Excalibur into the mere, casting-off an emblem of violence so as to cement his fealty to his dying King. In other words, Arthur domesticates Bedivere, in the same measure that Aurora domesticates Romney and Jane Eyre domesticates Rochester. The domestic female hero replaces the violent martial hero of the Medieval revival, "writing" our understanding of the household as we understand it today.

Other Sections of "From Violence to Domesticity: Heroism and Gender in Aurora Leigh and The Warden"


Victorian Web Overview The Warden Anthony Trollope

Last modified 1998