Date of Award

Spring 5-2015

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Alexandra Valint

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Nicolle Jordan

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Emily Stanback

Committee Member 3 Department



Charles Dickens’s novel Little Dorrit (1857) depicts an abundance of surrogate mothers while simultaneously revealing an absence of biological motherhood. The primary female characters become surrogate mothers in their own ways in order to bypass the legal and physical dangers associated with biological motherhood. To do this, they embrace various alternate forms of femininity—the crone, the maiden, the woman warrior, and the seductress. These women negate themselves willingly in actions that would seem to reinforce the gender norms of their time, but their self-negation actually leads to empowerment and sustainability for themselves and for others. Furthermore, a Jungian interpretation of both these female characters and Dickens’s personal relationships reveals that Little Dorrit might have been an attempt to reconcile his desire for the normative maternal with his desire for a strong female presence separate from the domestic realm, thus providing a more nuanced view of Dickens’s ideas on femininity.