Sleeping Beauty Lies In Her Dreams: A Comparative Essay Of The Ideologies Of Modern Day Female Characters And The Nineteenth Century Romantic Heroine

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Jill Ker Conway in her book, When Memory Speaks, describes the romantic heroine, the nineteenth century "archetypal female" (40) literary creation. She is the woman fairytales are made of, the possessor of natural beauty, little known intelligence, and extreme passivity. Her story revolves around her internal desires for romantic love and to become "the complement of the male romantic sensibility"(41). And as in Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, the romantic heroine's story ends when her one true love sweeps her away into the happily ever after of domesticity (42).

In contrast, the modern day plot of Bone, the heroine in Dorothy Allison's Bastard out of Carolina, does not end so happily. She is a girl confronted with unimaginable external pain and conflict, being abused and raped by her stepfather and, in the end, abandoned by her mother. Yet, Bone's internal yearnings for beauty and love parallel those of the nineteenth century heroine.

The origin of these romantic desires resides with Bone's mother, Anney. As mother, she is one of her daughter's prime examples of how a woman should act, think, and feel. Thus, Anney's romantic yearnings and subsequent actions play a major role in the shaping of her daughter's personal identity, as well as, her understanding of beauty and love.

One of Bone's internal longings is to have the aesthetic beauty the nineteenth century romantic heroine possesses. She wants "to be more like the girls in storybooks, princesses with pale skin and tender hearts" (Bastard 206) instead of the "[g]awky, strong, ugly" girl she views herself as. She "hate[s] being nothing like the pretty girls with their delicate features, and slender, trembling frames." She relates herself and her unappealing body to the women she reads about in books, the ones who are "almost never the heroine." In other words, Bone...