From nature to virtue : moral formation and community in novels by Charlotte Yonge and Elizabeth Gaskell.
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Barker, Alisha M.
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This thesis explores how novels by Charlotte Yonge and Elizabeth Gaskell contest popular Victorian assumptions that moral influence stems from maternal nature. By offering virtue as the true source of moral influence, these authors also challenge Victorian ideas about who should be involved in the moral formation of the young. In this thesis, I first examine how these authors' portrayals of bad mothers demonstrate their belief that maternal instinct is distinct from a woman's ability to be a positive moral influence on her children. Next, I consider how Yonge's and Gaskell's frequent use of virtuous female mentors demonstrates their belief that moral formation is both a communal activity and social duty. Finally, I explore how understanding the virtue that enables moral influence as domestic rather than feminine leads Yonge and Gaskell to portray fathers and male mentors who play a significant role in the moral formation of young people.