Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Dr. Elisabeth Gruner
Dr. Kathleen Hewett-Smith
As Jack Zipes explains in his preface to Victorian Fairy Tales: The Revolt of the Fairies and the Elves, "The Victorian fairy-tale writers always had two ideal audiences in mind when they composed their tales -young middle-class readers whose minds and morals they wanted to influence, and adult middle-class readers whose ideas they wanted to challenge and reform" (xiv). "It was through the fairy tale," he continues, "that a social discourse about conditions in Victorian England took form, and this discourse is not without interest for readers today" (xi). My project begins with a critical analysis of the Grimm Brothers' "Snow White" and "Rumpelstiltskin," exploring the precedent such tales set for stories of female maturation in particular. Using the Grimms' fairy tales as a point of departure, I proceed to examine the ways in which three Victorian fairy-tale authors - Christina Rossetti, George MacDonald, and Juliana Horatia Ewing -reject this precedent and employ dwarfed men to craft subversive social commentaries on nineteenth-century conceptions of masculinity. Whereas Rossetti's "Goblin Market" dwarfs and banishes the masculine altogether, MacDonald's Princess books and Ewing's "Amelia and the Dwarfs" attempt to navigate gender boundaries, working within their constraints to an extent, and yet also deconstructing popular notions of woman's (and man's) place in Victorian society. For all three authors, the dwarfed male represents an angry, violent, and inherently frustrated masculinity - one which inhibits ideal male-female interaction and growth, thereby limiting the human potential of Victorian England.
Vermeulen, Heather Victoria, "The dwarfing of men in Victorian fairy-tale literature" (2007). Honors Theses. 199.