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Rape in Public: Overlooking Child Sexual Assault in Charlotte Mary Yonge's The Daisy Chain

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 March 2022

Abstract

Charlotte Mary Yonge's Victorian novel The Daisy Chain (1856) is not a text that has been discussed in terms of sexual violence. A “family story” that apparently inspired Alcott's Little Women (1869), The Daisy Chain has been most often considered a novel about the conflict between female vocation and religious duty. However, in this essay I argue that The Daisy Chain is also a novel that grapples openly with the problem of child sexual assault and features violence against women and girls as an accepted custom of what Berlant and Warner call the “heterosexual life narrative” (“Sex in Public”). Our postmodern abstraction of rape and the terminology surrounding rape have made sexual assault harder to “see” in both reality and representation, but in the context of the #MeToo movement, this essay pushes for an understanding of rape in The Daisy Chain as an event that happens in plain sight. Toggling between the two meanings of the word “overlook,” I argue that rape is a normalized custom of heterosexual belonging that can only be seen in the novel by girls with bad vision. Ethel May's myopia allows her to see what the rest of her family overlooks: rape in public.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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