Madness in Marriage: Erotomania and Marital Rape in He Knew He Was Right and The Forsyte Saga

Issue: Vol 4, No 2: Winter 2012
Pages: 47-71
Author(s): Helen Goodman (Royal Holloway, University of London)
Citation: http://victoriannetwork.org/index.php/vn/article/view/37

Abstract

This article challenges the view that the Victorian novel is based on an essentially female courtship plot leading to marriage by reassessing the assumption that it presents marriage as a healthy physical and psychological fulfilment of masculine desire. Drawing attention to the failed and masculine marriage plot, I argue that Anthony Trollope's He Knew He Was Right (1869) and John Galsworthy's The Forsyte Saga (1906-21) illustrate dangers of masculine desire and the pathologisation of jealousy. Both writers position themselves within hotly debated areas of nineteenth-century marital law, viewing their male protagonists through the eyes of a judge and jury. The use of psychological language to describe jealous monomania illustrates the influence of new forms of psychiatry upon fiction, and there is evidence of reciprocal contributions to that new discipline. Combining the analysis of Victorian marriage law reforms, treatises on insanity, and studies of marital violence, this article considers Trollope and Galsworthy's novels in a new light. Trollope's writing can be seen as a foundation for Galsworthy's more overt critique of Victorian marriage laws, such as the legality of marital rape, while masculine desperation for absolute control, increased rather than reduced by marriage, is presented as a cause of psychological disorders such as erotic monomania or erotomania.



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