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The Salt of the Earth or the Murderess? The Problem of Femininity in the Novels of Agatha Christie

Authors
  • Baučeková, Silvia Rosivalová
Type
Published Article
Journal
Prague Journal of English Studies
Publisher
Walter de Gruyter GmbH
Publication Date
Jul 01, 2021
Volume
10
Issue
1
Pages
7–22
Identifiers
DOI: 10.2478/pjes-2021-0001
Source
De Gruyter
Keywords
License
Green

Abstract

Agatha Christie’s outlook on gender, as depicted in her novels, has been described as conservative or even criticised as anti-feminist. However, more recently, a growing number of feminist scholars (Alison Light, Susan Rowland, Merja Makinen) have begun to oppose this view and instead argue that Christie’s approach to the various social phenomena depicted in her novels, including gender, is more nuanced and ambiguous than previously assumed. This paper explores the role of domesticity in general, and of food, eating and cooking in particular, in constructing such ambiguous portrayal of femininity in three of Agatha Christie’s detective novels: Cards on the Table (1936), The Hollow (1946), and 4.50 from Paddington (1957). The novels depict three groups of female characters possessing varying degrees of power and independence: the salt of the earth, i.e., the conservative homemaker, the eccentric, and the murderess. It is the aim of this paper to demonstrate that, paradoxically, it is o en through these female characters’ roles within the domestic setting and their engagement with food that they are able to overcome the limitations imposed on them by patriarchal society and achieve a certain level of autonomy within it.

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