Trapped in her lover's arms : the problem of courtship and romance in selected novels by L. M. Montgomery
Peden McParland, Andrea Maureen
Master of Arts
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L.M. Montgomery may be viewed as a subversive author, rebelling against patriarchal authority. She employed the conventions of the courtship or domestic novel of popular fiction as a vehicle by which to challenge existing gender roles. Montgomery recognized that tales of perfect love and happily-ever-after were not a part of most women's reality. However, the market demanded these happy stories. Consequently, Montgomery was motivated to create a fiction which would combine the fantasy of happily-ever-after with her perception of reality. She arranged romantic marriages for her heroines for those readers who wanted this message, but she also established a counter-discourse which suggests that marriage, ultimately, can be entrapping for a young woman. These stories could simultaneously satisfy the reader and question assurances of the heroine's future happiness. On a superficial level, the resolutions of these novels seem to assert the value of romantic love. However, the 'happily-ever-after' ending fails to satisfy, as in each case the heroine's marriage also marks the necessity of leaving behind something essential to both her identity and her happiness. Thus, Montgomery questions society's emphasis upon romance as the greatest fulfilment for women. In the novels, the young woman's desire for respect and equality comes into conflict with a romantic world view. I have selected five novels in which Montgomery addresses the critical issues of identity and equality. In each of these, the development of character and the resolution of the heroine's romance address how courtship and the promise of marriage challenge the integrity of the heroine's identity. A close examination of these narratives reveals that Montgomery's apparent focus upon love and romance does not preclude the absence o f a deeper, shadowy meaning about the hazards of male-female relationships.