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The Victorian Woman Suicide: “The Idiots,” The Secret Agent, and Chance

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Abstract

The figure of the nineteenth-century female suicide, a young woman who drowns herself to escape disgrace, serves as a poignant moral reminder for Victorian women to value their sexual purity. Conrad repeatedly invokes the figure of the female suicide from his early story “The Idiots” to the novels The Secret Agent, and Chance. Departing from the more familiar sentimentalized notion of this figure, Conrad frames the suicides in the former two texts ironically as the remedy to the impossible liberation provided by murder. This contrasts with Flora in Chance, who considers suicide repeatedly as a remedy to her sensationalized tragic role yet chooses to live. Conrad’s treatment of the figure of the woman suicide legitimates the women’s frustration with their conventional roles.

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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EnglishUniversity of South AlabamaMobileUSA

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