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Spinsters, Surveillance, and Speech: The Case of Miss Marple, Miss Mole, and Miss Jekyll

Kathy Mezei
Journal of Modern Literature
Vol. 30, No. 2 (Winter, 2007), pp. 103-120
Published by: Indiana University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4619330
Page Count: 18
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Spinsters, Surveillance, and Speech: The Case of Miss Marple, Miss Mole, and Miss Jekyll
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Abstract

Agatha Christie's The Murder at the Vicarage, E.H. Young's Miss Mole, and Ivy Compton-Burnett's A House and Its Head are inter-war, middlebrow, domestic and detective novels characterized by narrative ambiguity and illusion. Through the voice and gaze of their spinster protagonists, socially marginal, yet potentially transgressive figures, these novels covertly query power and gender relations, while simultaneously upholding the status quo. Each novel's techniques of focalization and narration are reviewed in order to demonstrate how normalizing concepts of home and heterosexual families are explored and critiqued. During cataclysmic events like murder or the death of a mother, ways of seeing are pushed to the fore. Yet in each case, once the cataclysmic event is resolved, the conventional order is restored by the effective surveillance of these spinsters.

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