Authors and Authority in 'Lives of Girls and Women'

Margaret Harris


The title of Alice Munro's novel Lives of Girls and Women is the title also of one of its chapters, which in tum picks up a phrase spoken by Del's mother

... in her grave, hopeful, lecturing voice.
"There is a change coming I think in the lives of girls and women. Yes. But it is up to us to make it come. All women have had up till now has been their connection with men. All we have had. No more lives of our own, really, than domestic animals. He shall hold thee, when his passion shall have spent its novel force, a little closer than his dog, a little dearer than his horse. Tennyson wrote that. It's true. Was true. You will want to have children, though."
That was how much she knew me.

Here Mrs Jordan is quoting from The Princess, a poem which speculates about the old order yielding place to a new one in which among other evolutionary advances women have become less subservient. Mrs Jordan explicitly identifies with Princess Ida in the poem: for some of her contributions to newspapers "she used the nom de plume Princess Ida, taken from a character in Tennyson whom she admired" (p. 80).2 Her appeal to The Princess as a tutelary text for the liberation of women is, however, rejected by her daughter for whom, partly because of the association with her mother, Tennyson offers images of oppression and constraint rather than of liberation.

Full Text: