Post-Modern Victorian: A. S. Byatt's Possession

1439 WordsOct 8, 19996 Pages
Post-Modern Victorian: A. S. Byatt's Possession If I had read A. S. Byatt's novel Possession without having had British Literature, a lot of the novel's meaning, analogies, and literary mystery would have been lost to me. The entire book seems one big reference back to something we've learned or read this May term. The first few lines of chapter one are poetry attributed to Randolph Henry Ash, which Byatt wrote herself. Already in those few lines I hear echoes of class, lines written in flowery Pre-Raphaelite tradition. "The serpent at its root, the fruit of gold /…At the old world's rim, /In the Hesperidean grove, the fruit /Glowed golden on eternal boughs, and there /The dragon Ladon crisped his jewelled (sic) crest…."…show more content…
Byatt's message seems to be that a personality cannot be taken or possessed by someone else, that individuality always remains, even in Victorian situations of female oppression and domination by males. This interwovenness and connection between the two couples through themes and situations, serves also to connect the past to the present, the Victorian to the Post-modern. Feminism is an important aspect in each time period of the novel. Maud is a modern feminist, attempting to balance her identity as a woman with her identity as an academic scholar, and Christabel was trying to overcome her femininity by living as a recluse with another woman before she met R. H. Ash. Similarly, Maud is a withdrawn person, wary of men, and distrustful. Christabel is doing what many women of her time were doing, that is, struggling for masculine freedom in a world that was very limited for a woman. Maud is doing what many women today are attempting to do, that is, trying to reconcile and accept her femininity in an academic, typically male, environment. Byatt played up this feminist view of literature and society by choosing to base Christabel's poetry (which Byatt wrote) on the strongly feminist poetry of Emily Dickinson, rather than on the softer voice of Christina Rossetti. Another character, Roland's old girlfriend
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