The Angel in the House of Death: Gender and Identity in George MacDonald’s Lilith



This chapter seeks to address the theme of the ‘Angel in the House’ by exploring the representation of the female (and specifically the maternal) in Lilith, the fantasy novel by George MacDonald. The relevance of this approach to the theme is corroborated by Barbara Koltuv’s The Book of Lilith, when in the chapter ‘Lilith and the Daughters of Eve’, she cites in extenso the passage in Virginia Woolf’s essay ‘Professions for Women’ in which she talks about the need to kill the Angel in the House. Koltuv is a Jungian analyst who talks of ‘the war between Eve and Lilith,’1 or in less oppositional language ‘the [endless] cycle of alterations between the Lilith and Eve aspects of woman’s psyche’.2 Another Jungian analyst, Siegmund Hurwitz, has taken Koltuv to task in his Lilith — The First Eve, ostensibly for scholarly inadequacies, but by implication as one of those who overlook the point that the Lilith material is ‘above all about the anima problem of the Jewish male’,3 and ‘only applies externally ... to the real woman in a secondary fashion’.4 While I myself resist conversion to the Jungian gnosis, nevertheless I find it difficult to resist the analogy that George MacDonald’s Lilith is about the problem (call it ‘anima problem’ if you will) of a Scottish male.


Male Image Symbolic Order Real Woman Immortal Life Pyrrhic Victory 
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  1. 1.
    B.B. Koltuv, The Book of Lilith (York Beach, Maine: Nicholas-Hays, 1986), p. 83.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    S. Hurwitz, Lilith: The First Eve (Einsiedeln: Daimon Verlag, 1992), p. 12.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    L. Pearce, Woman/Image/Text (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991), p. 139.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    In T. Moi, ed., The Kristeva Reader (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), pp. 160–186Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    J. Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982)Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    R.L. Wolff, The Golden Key: A Study of the Fiction of George MacDonald (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1961).Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    G. MacDonald, Phantastes, with an Introduction by David Holbrook (London: Everyman Paperback, 1983).Google Scholar
  8. 13.
    In a secret drawer in MacDonald’s desk were found, after his death, a lock of his mother’s hair and a letter by her containing the following reference to his premature weaning: ‘I cannot help in my heart being very much grieved for him yet, for he has not forgot it... he cryed desperate for a while in the first night, but he has cryed very little since and I hope the worst is over now’; see Greville MacDonald, George MacDonald and His Wife (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1924), p. 32.Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    G. MacDonald, Phantastes (London: Dent, 1915), p. 10.Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    G. MacDonald, Lilith (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), p. 32.Google Scholar
  11. 19.
    Cf. K. Oliver, Reading Kristeva: Unraveling the Double-bind (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), p. 58.Google Scholar
  12. 40.
    See D.W. Winnicott, The Maturational Process and the Facilitating Environment (London: Hogarth, 1965), p. 57fGoogle Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

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