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Nobody's Angels: Domestic Ideology and Middle-Class Women in the Victorian Novel

Elizabeth Langland
PMLA
Vol. 107, No. 2 (Mar., 1992), pp. 290-304
DOI: 10.2307/462641
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/462641
Page Count: 15
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Nobody's Angels: Domestic Ideology and Middle-Class Women in the Victorian Novel
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Abstract

This essay focuses on a central strand of a complex process: the intersection of class and gender ideologies in an icon of Victorian fiction, the "Angel in the House," who comprises and is constituted by her ideological other, the servant. A wife, the presiding hearth angel of Victorian social myth, actually performed an important and extensive economic function. Prevailing ideology held that the house was a haven, a private domain opposed to the public sphere of commerce; but, in fact, the mistress managed her husband's earnings to acquire social and political status and thus served as a significant adjunct to his commercial endeavors. Several discursive practices coalesced in the 1830s and 1840s to give middle-class women unprecedented power, so that running the bourgeois household became an exercise in class management, a process both inscribed and exposed in the Victorian novel.

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