Abstract

Female bildungsroman critics Susan Rosowski and Marianne Hirsch have described female Bildung as “awakenings to limitations” in a society that cannot allow women a physical journey to growth (67). While both critics agree that female Bildung is an inner journey within societal limitations, neither considers the emotional ability an inward journey allows its heroine. Bildungsroman studies have become a gendered discussion and, in the endeavor to be nonrevisionist, are considering the parameters of growth for women characters. I posit that George Eliot recognized and successfully depicted the complex female journey through her powerful, moral mirror character, Mary Garth. Her “inner ability,” which I believe is an essential role in the female bildungsroman genre, gives Mary Garth a silent power to manipulate society around her. This correlation has not been recognized by feminist and female bildungsroman scholars, neither is Mary Garth recognized as a Hegelian example of a beautiful soul.

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