By Kay Heath
Getting older through the booklet bargains an cutting edge examine the ways that center age, which for hundreds of years have been thought of the major of lifestyles, was once reworked in the course of the Victorian period right into a interval of decline. unmarried girls have been nearing center age at thirty, and moms of their forties have been anticipated to turn into sexless; in the meantime, fortyish males anguished over even if their “time for romance had long gone by.” famous 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 via the e-book unmasks and confronts midlife anxiousness by means of reading its origins, demonstrating that our present damaging angle towards midlife springs from Victorian roots, and arguing that basically after we comprehend the culturally developed nature of age do we disclose its ubiquitous and stealthy impression.
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Additional resources for Aging by the Book: The Emergence of Midlife in Victorian Britain
Charlotte Brontë valorizes a widowed mother who orients her life around her daughter’s marital fortunes, but she protests against spinsters being obliged to practice the same self-sacriﬁcing behavior. Elizabeth Gaskell upholds the sexless Introduction 21 service paradigm for single women when she requires two elderly sisters to serve the next generation’s mating while denigrating the marriage of a middle-aged widow. Margaret Oliphant indicates the extent to which the menopausal paradigm had become expected behavior by comedically switching the roles of the marriageable young woman and the mentoring matron.
Age anxiety also is characteristic of ﬁctive nineteenth-century men before they become elderly, and erotic viability becomes an especially signiﬁcant factor in the male midlife marriage plot that emerges when middleaged men fall in love with younger women. That the husband should be older than the wife is an axiom not only of Victorian marriage but a crosscultural norm (Buss 51). 15 In Victorian novels, when spousal age difference exceeds the recommended ten years, the larger the disparity, the greater the chance of failure.
Aging masculinity also was affected by women’s gains in the nineteenth century. Newly empowered women were seen as a threat to male employment, because, as Mary Poovey argues, separately gendered spheres protected men’s jobs by keeping women out of the workforce (10–11). W. R. ” expresses a deep fear of the “hundreds of thousands of women” in all social classes “who have to earn their own living, instead of spending and husbanding the earnings of men” (436). While he ﬁnds that the problem of “redundant women” is most severe among the educated and upper classes, he also suggests that 32 Aging by the Book female labor, though often preferable because cheaper, must be monitored to prevent depletion of male jobs: “If, indeed, there were only a certain ﬁxed and unaugmentable quality of work to be done, and too many hands to do it .