Manipulation of Romance
In British literature, there are many different types of relationships that we read about. This could be humans and monsters, family, and even relationships between enemies. Most of these texts also have romantic relationships that get heavily focused on. When they are seen or read, they usually, more often than not, are formatted in a very similar way. Its always the man that gets the most control over the relationship than the woman. They often manipulate, dominate, or use force against their partner in the stories.
To start, one book that focuses on this point is Jane Eyre. In the story, Jane eventually meets Rochester, who becomes her love interest throughout the book. Janes feelings, however, do not develop in a healthy way. At first Rochester doesn’t open up to Jane when they first meet. Rochester doesn’t even really show much of his identity, in general. This can be seen when Jane first sees Rochester in chapter 13. She states “He went on as a statue would, that is, he neither spoke nor moved. Mrs. Fairfax seemed to think it necessary that some one should be amiable, and she began to talk. Kindly, as usual—and, as usual, rather trite—she condoled with him on the pressure of business he had had all day; on the annoyance it must have been to him with that painful sprain: then she commended his patience and perseverance in going through with it.” (Jane Eyre, Chapter 13) Rochester can be seen to be keeping to himself in the conversations they have. He acts this way so Jane, and mostly everyone else, doesn’t find out who he really is as a person. This isn’t the only way Rochester manipulates with Janes feelings. Rochester also does everything to manipulate Jane into marrying him through the character of Blanche. He flirts, parties, and does everything to hint that he’s marrying Blanche. However, this was revealed to only make Jane jealous. Rochester says it himself in chapter 23 when Charlotte Brontë writes “’Little sceptic, you shall be convinced. What love have I for Miss Ingram? None: and that you know. What love has she for me? None: as I have taken pains to prove: I caused a rumour to reach her that my fortune was not a third of what was supposed, and after that I presented myself to see the result; it was coldness both from her and her mother. I would not—I could not—marry Miss Ingram. You—you strange, you almost unearthly thing!—I love as my own flesh. You—poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are—I entreat to accept me as a husband.’”(Jane Eyre, Chapter 23) Not only is he admitting to trying to make Jane jealous, but also the fact that he was using Balance Ingram. It is pretty much clear that Rochester is a man who manipulates and uses others to get his way. He is the type to not see true value in others unless they provide him a benefit.
The next piece of literature that focuses on the manipulation of romantic relationships is Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. And yet again, the person that is seen to be in control of the relationship through manipulation is none other than Rochester himself. He is also the narrator throughout a good portion of the book, further showing how controlling he is in the story. One example of how controlling he is, is when he changes Antoinette’s name to Bertha. His on explanation for the change is when he says “Because it is a name that I’m particularly fond of. I think of you as Bertha.” (Wide Sea Sargasso, Pg 155 Part 2) He also tries to say its “what is best for us” despite Antoinette making it clear that she is uncomfortable with it. This shows a few common manipulative traits in romantic relationships such as trying to change her opinion and pushing her own boundaries to the point where she is uncomfortable. He can be seen doing things like this to Antoinette until she becomes a madwoman. He takes her money, becomes jealous over her, and even making Antoinette lose her own opinion about herself.
There are also plenty of examples of manipulation in books that don’t involve Jane Eyre. The story of Mexican Gothic shows examples as well. The first person who shows this is no other than the character Howard. Howard is known for being the most controlling and evil character. In the story, he does whatever it takes to grow the fungus, including sacrificing his own wife. In chapter 26 it is revealed that Howard used his own wife to make the fungus when it states. “Doyle systematized. And all he had needed were people like Agnes. His wife. His kin. But no there was no Agnes. Agnes was the gloom, and the gloom was Agnes, and Howard Doyle…”(Mexican Gothic, Chapter 26 pg.360) Howard has killed Agnes to make her the host mind of the gloom, literally using her for his own plan for extending life. Howard is using his wife only as a tool for his plan. He has crossed the line already when it comes to being a controlling husband. Another character also can be seen to be controlling and manipulative towards their wife. Virgil is a lot like his father in a few ways. He takes a lot of control over his wife and her wealth. An example of this can be found in chapter when his father says “It is pretty clear when they married that his family’s funds have run dry. But as long as they are married, he has access to her bank account.” (Mexican Gothic, Chapter 1 pg. 26) Virgil is also responsible for controlling other things such as his wife’s dreams and her health throughout the story. He is trying to be in control of others, just like his father. Mexican Gothic is a story that really shows the dark side of family and what it takes to gain power, even if you have to use others in the process.
The film Gaslight is one that shows a lot of these common elements from British literature. Thorold Dickinson does a great job expressing a lot of themes of manipulation through Paul and her relationship with Bella in the movie. From the beginning when Paul gets mad at Bella it usually because he accuses her of stealing from him, which are situations he creates to manipulate Bella. When Bella questions why he gets so mad at her, he says “My only anxiety has always been to get you well.” In other words, his excuse is that he is “doing what’s best” for her. He repeats his manipulation to the point where Bella almost becomes crazy through guilt and confusion. She is no control of the relationship let alone her own mind. Paul is also very secretive around her so he doesn’t reveal who he truly is to Bella. He only manipulates Bella and hides his identity for the sake of a couple of rubies he has been searching for.
British literature are pieces of texts that can show us a lot about past lives and how they viewed the world. These stories are never afraid to show the dark side of all things, including romances and marriages. They are never afraid to show the true horrors of manipulating a significant other in order for someone to perceive their goals. Whether the intent was to show how horrible it is to manipulate someone you love, or the consequences of using someone, it can be seen most of British literature thrives on using male dominance over relationships in their stories.
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Penn, Amanda. “History of Male Dominance in Society: 3 Theories on Why.” Shortform Books, 11 Mar. 2022, https://www.shortform.com/blog/history-of-male-dominance-in-society/#:~:text=A%20second%20theory%20explaining%20the%20history%20of%20male,fought%2C%20the%20more%20power%20they%20gained%20in%20society.
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