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In A Constant State of Painful Ambivalence Essay Example

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In A Constant State of Painful Ambivalence

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In A Constant State of Painful Ambivalence. In the same way, authors Amis and Waters release their pent up frustrations with a society that imposes its standards and values on its people mostly leaving them without any choice but conform. Waters effectively uses the theme of lesbianism in shrewdly exposing the hypocrisy of Victorian society. Victorian women are reared to attract husbands by showing off domestic and artistic skills and shunning talents or tendencies that could turn away potential husbands. Men are seen as sources of security who have the power to whisk off a lady to a life of “happy ever after”. It fails to see the woman for what she is – her own preferences, her own power to be who she wants to be. Nan and Kitty (Nan’s female love interest) become male impersonators in the theater and later, lovers who need to keep their relationship a secret lest society frowns on it.

Wilson (2006) expresses that Victorian male impersonators were seen as figures of anarchy who emasculate men and threatened to topple down gender boundaries. The New Woman was a rare species that ignored societal gender rules and lived as she wanted. Both the male impersonator and the new woman were subject to scrutiny and satire.The theme of lesbianism in the Victorian era is fraught with ambivalence and internal struggle. Nan’s cross-dressing clearly depicts this dilemma of shifting from one gender to another depending on the situation. “For Victorian women, clothing was one way of expressing their femininity and for Nan, constantly changing costume and altering the visual signifiers of gender creates a conflict between those norms she can subvert and those she cannot.” (Wilson, 2006) She further learns that gender and sexuality can and must be performed and finds herself doing so in most of her situations. She also knew how to manipulate the use of her clothing and costumes both onstage and off, as if she herself changes her sexuality during each costume change.A parallelism is discovered between her stage performances and her actual life. In both, she puts up a front, carefully hiding inside her true self. In her performances, expressions of sexuality and intimacy encourage the development of her sexual and personal identity expected by her audience. With both Nan’s music hall education and a traditional Victorian woman’s education in music, economic and social support is gained in the form of employment for Nan, and a husband, for the traditional. In A Constant State of Painful Ambivalence.

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Amis, M. (1992), Time’s Arrow. New York: Vintage.

Constantini, M (2006) “’Faux-Victorian Melodrama’ in the New Millenium: The

Case of Sarah Waters, Critical Survey, Vol 18, No. 1

Harris, G (1999) “Men Giving Birth to new world orders: Martin Amis’ Time’s

Arrow”, Studies in the Novel, Vol. 13, no. 4

Malinowitz, H. (2000) “Taking the Road to Ruin”, The Women’s Review of Books,

Vol 17, No. 5

Mccarthy, Dermot (1999). “The Limits of Irony: The Chronillogical World of

Martin Amis’ Time’s Arrow”, War, Literature & the Arts: An International

Journal of the Humanities, Spring/Summer1999, Vol. 11 Issue 1

Theweleit, K. (1995) “The Bomb’s Tomb and the Genders of War”, Gendering

War Talk, ed. Miriam Cook and Angela Woolacott

Waters, S. (1999), Tipping the Velvet. New York: Riverhead.

Wilson, C.A. (2006), From The Drawing Room To The Stage: Performing

Sexuality In Sarah Waters’s Tipping The Velvet, Women’s Studies,Vol 45,


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preview essay on In A Constant State of Painful Ambivalence
  • Pages: 9 (2250 words)
  • Document Type: Essay
  • Subject: Literature
  • Level: Undergraduate
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