Aging by the Book: The Emergence of Midlife in Victorian by Kay Heath

By Kay Heath

Getting older through the booklet bargains an leading edge examine the ways that heart age, which for hundreds of years were thought of the top of existence, used to be remodeled through the Victorian period right into a interval of decline. unmarried ladies have been nearing heart age at thirty, and moms of their forties have been anticipated to develop into sexless; in the meantime, fortyish males anguished over no matter if their “time for romance had long gone by.” recognized novels of the interval, in addition to ads, cartoons, and clinical and recommendation manuals, Kay Heath uncovers how this ideology of decline permeated a altering tradition. getting older by way of the publication unmasks and confronts midlife anxiousness by means of interpreting its origins, demonstrating that our present destructive angle towards midlife springs from Victorian roots, and arguing that in basic terms after we comprehend the culturally developed nature of age will we disclose its ubiquitous and stealthy impact.

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When characters in Victorian novels speculate about age and marriageability while looking in a mirror, they reveal psychological aspects of how fiction instructed Victorians to think about growing older. The fifth chapter, “In the Eye of the Beholder: Victorian Age Construction and the Specular Self,” examines fictive Victorians who influence their own marriage market success or failure by their attitudes as they gaze at their mirrored faces. I make use of Kathleen Woodward’s concept of the mirror stage of old age in which she argues that association with or dissociation from the signs of age can influence how one ages.

No one, who saw us together, would suppose it for an instant. Mr. Rochester looks as young, and is as young as some men at five-and-twenty” (267). Jane’s estimation of Rochester as an age peer is apparent in a telling detail of the gypsy scene, when she recognizes his true identity by his hand, describing it as “no more the withered limb of eld than my own: it was a rounded supple member” (204). Rochester is eminently attractive to Jane, made more desirable because his looks defy the model of the elegant young swain and are, as she says, “not beautiful, according to rule; but they were more than beautiful to me” (177).

Jane’s estimation of Rochester as an age peer is apparent in a telling detail of the gypsy scene, when she recognizes his true identity by his hand, describing it as “no more the withered limb of eld than my own: it was a rounded supple member” (204). Rochester is eminently attractive to Jane, made more desirable because his looks defy the model of the elegant young swain and are, as she says, “not beautiful, according to rule; but they were more than beautiful to me” (177). She responds to him as ruggedly masculine, in no way the superannuated older man.

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