(Un)Representations of the Subaltern in Three Victorian Novels

Hend Hamed Ezzeldin


In its general usage, the term ‘subaltern’ denotes alterity, difference, inferiority, and subordination. This theory has been foregrounded by the writings of Antonio Gramsci, Ranajit Guha, and Gayatri Spivak. Spivak declares the impossibility of representing the subaltern groups or giving them voices in narratives written by powerful parties as the typical representation of the subaltern groups often obscures their voice. In the context of colonialism, the subaltern cannot speak and is thence, unrepresented. This paper traces the representations or rather the un-representations of the subaltern in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four. Written in the Victorian period which was one of imperial expansion, the subaltern, in these three novels, is rather dehumanized, associated with madness, darkness, and savagery and is denied a voice to express his true feelings or defend his actions. Being always the object rather than the subject of narration, the subaltern is never given a chance to recount his-story, always seen as the inferior other whose history should be told by more powerful entities. Falling prey to fear and despair, and failing to express his feelings in a humanely manner as a result of un-representation, the subaltern, in these novels, breaks out in uncontrolled irrational behavior; in an attempt to be recognized. 


Humanities; Literature

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