Edgar Allan Poe and Female Victimization

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in English


Department of English


Advisor: Bryan Bardine


This is an essay about feminist theories and five of Edgar Allan Poe's Gothic stories: "Ligeia," "Morella," "Berenice," "The Black Cat" and "The Oval Portrait." Different than many essays that have similar topics and criticize Poe's patriarchal thoughts, this essay examines the overlap between Poe's Gothic stories and feminist theories and analyzes Poe's feminist ideas and thoughts. This essay argues that there is a feminist element in Poe's stories, and describes the kind of feminist thought he holds.This essay introduces some feminist theories that are relevant to victimization in Poe's stories. These theories are helpful to understand Poe's five stories-mainly the women in these stories, and their relationship with patriarchal power. With the combination of these feminist theories, this essay analyses some different aspects of the stories (the female characters' appearances, sex, the position of females in their family relationships, children, the dependence and independence females) and it tries to figure out the overlap between Poe's stories and feminist theories to determine the kinds of feminist thought Poe holds. At the same time, this essay reviews previous essays about Poe and his female characters from scholars who studied Poe and women- such as their exploration of the images in Poe's stories, and their positive or negative comments on Poe's works. This essay tries to fill the research gap by using feminist theories to analyze Poe's feminist thoughts and have a better understanding of the five stories and the female characters. This essay covers studies beyond the Western world and introduces some Eastern voices. Victimization regards women as victims of patriarchal power. With the help of theories about female victims that Virginia Woolf mentions in Three Guineas and "A Room of One's Own," Germaine Greer's theory about victims in The Female Eunuch, victim feminism that Diane Long Hoeveler examines in Gothic Feminism, Karen Weekes' opinions of the husband/inflictor and wife/victim in "Poe's Feminine Ideal" and so on, this essay determines that although Poe represents some traditional and domestic women in his stories, he creates some independent females who pursue the agency of sex and knowledge at the same time, such as Ligeia and Berenice. Poe praises their beauty, charms or characteristics of all these women in his stories. Poe is aware of the pressure of patriarchal power on women: no matter what kind of woman-traditional or progressive-the women in Poe's stories choose to be: they all suffer oppression from their lovers or destiny; in other words, Poe shows them as victims in a patriarchal world. Therefore, Poe did not ignore or loathe the progressive women in his stories and his understanding of females was similar to victimization.


Literature, Edgar Allan Poe, Feminism, Victimization

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