Judgment and Justification in the Nineteenth-century Novel of Adultery
Greenwood Press, 2002 - 144 pages
The 19th century novel typically examines social problems and values. Several novels of that period treat adulterous relationships; in doing so, they consider the attitude toward adultery in particular societies. Using the adulteress as an archetypal figure of the realist tradition as a constant, this book compares and discusses six novels of adultery from around the world to show how they reflect the standards and judgments of the nineteenth century. These ethical contexts are informed by diverse philosophical systems, including Christianity, naturalism, and nihilism.
Included are discussions of Flaubert's Madame Bovary, Queirós' O primo Basilio, Tolstoy's Anna Karenin, ClarÍn's La Regenta, Fontane's Effi Briest, and Chopin's The Awakening. The book gives careful attention to the perspective of the person telling the tale in each novel, the manner in which consciousness is portrayed, and the way in which events are witnessed, to demonstrate that the judgments made upon the erring wives stem from the ethics of hypocritical societies. While some authors are more authoritarian than others, all make their judgments known, and adultery is shown to be neither an escape nor a liberation for women but an ailment caused by their arranged marriages, romantic ideals, and lack of education.