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Falling Angels by Tracy Chaveliar Critical Essay

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Updated: Jun 28th, 2019


Falling angels is the third novel of Tracy Chevalier, an American born writer. It began in January 1901, which marked a new epoch since Queen Victoria had died. Her son, Dandy King Edward became an emperor. This novel presumes a wide cultural focus, looking at death and burial as shown hundred years ago.

This narrative is ruthlessly prepared with around ten first person voices all of them differing in age and societal position. Girls, looked upon maids, disturbed fathers and the gravediggers son form the main characters of this novel and help carry the story line.

This novel describes how fundamentally societies can transform within the space of ten years. Tracy Chevalier in her setting of this novel was motivated by her increasing interest in eras of change, moving from one array of values to another (Tracy 215).

Two incompatible families are obliged into contact by a condition of having elaborate family graves. One of the graves is triumphed by an angel while the other one is surmounted by an urn. The two tombs are besides each other.

One of the families is advancive of intellectual personalities and tastes while the other is firmly bourgeois, being totally spiritual and conventional.

Elements of lost arts of entombments and grieving in this narrative are fascinating and prompts us on how much peoples approaches to death has culturally detached us from our predecessors.

Tracy Chevalier in this novel investigates the injustice and faults of a changing time in opposition to a gas lit background of societal and political history. Tracy chevalier in her novel discusses a theme with a great effect to the society, which is the status of the female individual.

This paper will discuss gender inequality as demonstrated in this novel and assess how post modernism has helped solve this problem (Mitchell 138).

Gender inequality and post modernism as illustrated in this novel

Tracy Chevalier in this novel illustrates an actual division between male and female sexes. The female world functions nearly as a subversive movement with predicaments of sex and pregnancy being dealt with without discussing or complaining to the men folk.

Post modernism refers to a movement away from the perspective of modernism. It entails the conviction that noticeable realities are merely societal constructs and are vulnerable to change. Post modernism in this novel emphasizes sharp issues such as gender inequality, that is, males versus females (Benhabib 141).

In this novel, post modernism tries to problematise modernist boldness, by depicting how confident the females in this novel need to be in order to meet their theoretical purposes.

Women characters in this novel especially Kitty Coleman struggle to obtain self determination and overwhelm loneliness. It shows how issues faced by female characters in this novel differ with the issues faced by women today.

Post modernism in this novel is illustrated through feminism whereby the women in this novel get involved in movements headed for identifying, instituting and safeguarding equal political, financial and social rights. Its perceptions go beyond those of womens’ privileges.

Feminism is a post modernism aspect which mainly concentrates on womens issues. Since feminism tries to find gender equality, men’s freedom is an essential part of it.

Feminism in this novel is seen through the surfacing of feminist movements such as the womens suffragettes association. It also entails the social creation of sex and gender.

Feminist campaigners in this novel are seen to be struggling for womens rights such as education, rights to vote and reproductive rights. Women are in opposition to domestic aggression and sexual harassment ( Hamilton and Jones 318).

Gorgeous and restless, Kitty Coleman and the plain religious Gertrude Waterhouse are the main female character in this novel.

Kitty looks forward to modernism while Gertrude sticks to Victorian customs.Richard Coleman, Kitty’s’ husband, initiates the novel as an open minded scientist devoted to his wife but towards the middle, he becomes an opponent and suppresses Kitty.

These matriarchs are completely opposed in nature yet they develop to a moving joint society reflecting its inflexible class distinctions. Supporting feminism in this story is the cruel ubiquitous truth of male power and the impediments of prudery. This makes actual interactions between both male and females impossible.

This is evident when Kitty’s husband instructs her to have sex with another man. She conforms to this with no complaining. In this case, Kitty falls under the enchantment of a drastic feminist. She even carries out an abortion at a time when this is frankly risky.

Post modernism in this case is shown where Kitty enthusiastically turns her concentration to the women’s suffrage movement. It is clear that discussing with these intellectual women gives Kitty some of the psychological sustenance she needs.

She gets drawn in womens rights and starts to dump the Victorian regulations. The woman’s suffragist movement played a very big role in the society. It was concerned with women who didn’t worry about politics or those uninterested in search of enthusiasm.

Gender inequality in this novel is further demonstrated where bright adult women were not allowed to take part in public live and in nearly all intellectual undertakings. This is evident where early in the novel, Kitty stares at her husband go for work.

She feels a sense of enviousness just like she had felt before while young as she watched her brother leave for school. Girls were kept from going to school. She however cannot help this situation and only begins to cry. Kitty seems to be uninterested with her family and her way of living.

She craves of being back to her home with her fostering father and brother in order to be liberated to learn and make art. In this novel, men do not understand how education could fit women for any broadly extending responsibility until they came to an agreement of their true stable duty in the society.

Male chauvinism is also illustrated where the existence of young females at home is taken as a basis of anxiety. Families with daughters are not interested in seeing their daughters happily married but in the finances they get if marriage occurs. This novel plays a role in depicting promiscuity in females.

Fallen women including seduced maidens and remorseful maladies are portrayed as playing a didactic role to caution the female audience against the remunerations of sinful sexual satisfaction. Paradoxically, such tasks were played by the same women who had tentatively yielded to such enticements as actresses.

Tracy deems the actress and prostitute areas of work as parallel and not automatically convergent. She contrasts female musicians who present on the public stage with prostitutes.

Such women are in close immediacy since prostitutes were very common in concert halls. Daughters who chose these kinds of life were regarded dead in their families.

Due to this issue of gender inequality, Maude, the only daughter of Coleman, is seen to suffer devastatingly rather than declare her menstruation to her father.

She is not free with her father and cannot explain to him her menstrual problems. She therefore continues to perform her home duties at the expense of her suffering. These approaches are however shifting with the new century.

Gender inequality is also illustrated where women were not allowed to participate in elections. During this time, almost all men were allowed to vote discriminating only those who did not possess property, those living with their bosses, male illicit and lunatics.

This is so unfair since women have contributed so much to bring in peoples liberty and rights. Post modernism was however demonstrated in this novel since women started agitating for their rights to vote in 1906.

Tracy Chevalier in this novel is concerned with the continuing change in the role of women in the society. In reality, Richard Coleman has insignificant grounds for disapproving his wife’s’ conduct. The novel opens with a stint of wife swaps initiated by him.

Post modernism here is seen where Kitty denies Richard the right of entry to her bed from the time Maude, their only daughter, was born. Tracy Chevalier also illustrates how women have changed sexuality to their benefits in the twentieth century.

Women in this novel achieve a right to be heard at a very high cost. Feminine character is built and maintained through enduring pain and sacrificing. Kitty Coleman enrols in the womens suffragettes association so as to make an assertion before a traditionalistic husband and a dictatorial mother in law.

Kitty becomes a member of this movement hoping that she is doing so for her daughter Maude, to enable her to vote and go to institutions of higher education. This would allow Maude to be possibly free from the powers of any man. However, Kitty is slightly understood by Maude.

She relentlessly suffers from lonesomeness. Post modernism in this case is demonstrated whereby Kitty recompenses with her own life for preferring a path different from that designed by her mother in-law (Anderson 72).

Gender inequality is also portrayed whereby in the Victorians brains, women are perpetuated as sensualised, vulnerable and fallen. Money due to its shady influence is said to belong to a man’s world and not in a woman’s extra ethical world.

The base of the issue of women rolling up at the public stage was the tie in Victorian minds. This was between female artists and prostitutes who sanctioned to be employed for the amusement of anyone who could pay for the price. Female actresses were equittted with prostitutes.

Gender inequality is also portrayed where upper and middle category women were not permitted to work beyond their homes and in remunerative jobs. Their hypothetical idleness at their homes acted as a symbol of the male relative capabilities to sustain them in a manner applicable to their social status.

Cases where women played a role in the family income or were self accommodating were considered unfavourable on gender responsibilities. Social accountability was at risk.

Post modernism was applied in cases where the society recognized that some gentle women families were facing hard times from the demise of husband or father or from other monetary constraints. Women in this case were allowed to work until the financial crisis was resoluted.

Women were restricted employment chances due to lack of solid edifications or marketable skills. This predicament was especially common in spinsters who lacked sufficient funds. They therefore ended up doing dress making jobs or acting as ladys’ attendants. All these were carried out under a home environment.

In this novel, women were supposed to be satisfied with what men considered necessary for them. Men had all the authority in the world though they succeeded to women only a small segment of this power.

Women in this novel are encouraged to present their music in commission to others rather than for self enhancement. Young women equipped with a skill in music sought jobs as music governess in homes or as presenters in public appointments.

This was however opposite to the males who were allowed to present their music in national functions.


Feminists believe that women are unrestricted to equal rights and respects. People are however not required to give a judgement on the fact that women are being treated unfairly in the society.

The causes of disagreements both with and within feminism are however hard to identify. As a result feminists should have certain goals for creating social change on the behalf of women.

The above explained novel focuses on the development of female characters. Women in the society should follow the character traits of Kitty so as to live a happy life.

They should join women movements that bring meaning to their lives. As such, women should struggle by all means to fight cases of gender inequality and male chauvinism which act as hindrances to their success.

Works cited

Anderson, Elizabeth. What is the Point of Equality? London: Oxford University Press, 1999. Print.

Benhabib, Seyla. Situating the Self: Gender, Community, and Postmodernism in Contemporary Ethics. New York: Routledge, 1992. Print.

Hamilton, Geoff and Jones, Brian. Contemporary Writers and Their Work: Literary Movements. NY: Infobase Publishing, 2009. Print.

Mitchell, Sally. The fallen Angel: Chastity, Class and Womens reading 1835-1880. NY: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1981. Print.

Tracy, Chaveliar. Actresses as working women: Their social identity in Victorian Culture. London: Routledge, 1991. Print.

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