The power to destroy false images: eight British women writers and society 1945-1968

Anderton, Marja Arendina Louise (1994) The power to destroy false images: eight British women writers and society 1945-1968. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
Download (16MB) | Preview
Printed Thesis Information:


This dissertation aims to oppose the assumption underlying many studies that the immediate post-war period was a `silent' time in which there were no signs that women were not generally content to follow the ideal of femininity, and that the feminist movement started suddenly in 1968. This thesis focuses on the dissenting voices which could be heard both in society and literature before 1968.

Part I deals with the position of women in society between 1945 and 1968. It concentrates particularly on women at work and in the family. The fact that more married women than ever before entered the labour market after World War II contradicts the idea that British women in the '50s were mostly housewives. Furthermore, in spite of the apparent coming into existence of the so-called `affluent society', women had many reasons to feel dissatisfied. Women were mainly found in low-status and low-paid jobs, and in the family women had very little power, especially sexually and financially. This part of the thesis also deals with women in society who were expressing the discontent they felt. First of all, there were middle-class journalists (e.g. Stott) and sociologists (e.g. Gavron, Klein) who were registering women's dissatisfaction in their publications. Secondly, an outlet for grievances for women was formed by The Guardian's women's page (especially the letters section) which discussed many controversial issues.

Part II deals with another group of middle-class women who turned to the problematic position of women in society in their publications, eight British women novelists who started writing in this period. This part discusses the lives of Doris Lessing, Iris Murdoch, Muriel Spark, Penelope Mortimer, A.S. Byatt, Margaret Drabble, Edna O'Brien and Beryl Bainbridge, with particular reference to their emergence as writers. The biographical section refers to interviews as well as to letters to the author.

The final part of the dissertation discusses several novels by each writer. There are three main themes which recur again and again in these novels, the search for an identity (a female form of the Bildungsroman is very popular), the restrictive influence of the family on the heroines, and the importance of work for the self-esteem of many of the female characters.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Littlewood, Dr. Barbara
Date of Award: 1994
Depositing User: Angi Shields
Unique ID: glathesis:1994-4409
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 18 Jun 2013 11:54
Last Modified: 18 Jun 2013 11:54

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year