“or they'll break their hearth – ethpethially the women”: A Reading of the Hearth Fire and Dickensian Women
Publication Type
Original research

This article re-investigates the conventional relationship between the Victorian hearth and women in Dickens’s Great Expectations and Hard Times. The Victorian hearth is ideologically tied with meanings of social and familial stability; a place that also signifies patriarchal hegemony and togetherness. However, the hearth and its bodiless, anti-spatial fire go beyond this definition by escaping traditional gendered representations of patriarchy and instigating meanings of sexual transgression for suppressed women. To female subjects of the Victorian household, the hearth remains a mobile site of constant re-birthing of passion and confrontation with masculinised spaces and their implied moral superiority. This confrontation subverts unyielding patriarchal systems such as Thomas Gradgrind’s factual indoctrination in Hard Times. The article also discusses scenes of contemplation and self-immolation via the consuming hearth fire, and finally suggests that smoke functions as a sign of corporeal transformation of the female subject. If smoke expresses the language of factories and denotes a Victorian culture of industrialisation and facticity, it also implies women’s violent rebellion and re-signifies their powerful return as immaterialised spirits to socially-monitored spaces of passion, freedom and subjectivity. Smoke functions as a denial of Victorian patriarchal views on education, women’s roles, morality and the gendering of spaces.         

English Studies
Taylor & Francis
Publisher Country
United Kingdom
Impact Factor
Publication Type
Both (Printed and Online)