Falling Angels

all lands unite

I find the spatial politics within Tracy Chevalier’s Falling Angel’s to be particularly interesting. The Coleman’s are upper-middle class and therefore live in a larger house with live-in servants and vast, luxurious gardens. Kitty Coleman embraces the modernity that she is able to afford, and creates the space that she lives in to reflect her interests. However, Gertrude Waterhouse represents a lower class, and has a greater appreciation for traditional lifestyles. The two mothers therefore end up clashing and resenting their daughter’s friendship, because in life, the spaces that they inhabit are too different. When analyzing these spaces from a Marxist viewpoint, one could say that the Coleman’s money therefore defines their spaces as more powerful, which could be the cause of the rise in Kitty’s ego and the reason that Gertrude feels threatened by the Coleman’s.  This spatial politics between these two being sour is ironic in juxtaposition with the reason that the two daughters met: their family’s own adjacent plots in Highgate Cemetery. Therefore, once the families have been stripped of everything (money, life, their current spaces), they will lie to rest for eternity in spaces which deem them equals. Neither family is then better or worse than the other, for they are both just people and share the same ultimate fate

.submissive housewife

            The two families slowly grow to work together, as they realize how similar their fates are, how alike their desires are, and how the pushing apart of women was what was keeping them from moving forward. Virginia Woolf describes in her essay “Professions for Women” the one person who kept her back from writing and achieving what she wished as the ‘Angel in the House.’ Woolf defines this angel as, “intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily… in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or a wish of her own.”  I believe this type of Angel represents what was expected of women in the Edwardian time period. Women were expected to excel within the household and family matters, to succumb to each of their husbands desires and satiate all of their children’s needs, but never to exist outside the home. Women were thus deemed obedient creatures, merely slaves to their own households and expected to thrive under these societal expectations as perfect, compliant beings. Therefore, Woolf’s desire to kill these Angels is a commentary on her belief that women are worth so much more than just as obedient housekeepers.  Falling Angels even in the title itself is an extension of the argument in Woolf’s essay; that in order to excel in life women must break free of these expectations that limit them in order to recognize and bring their full potential to fruition. By placing the mothers in the book, Kitty and Gertrude, against each other, Chevalier is showing how women succumbing to the norms of society and believing that money or a large house can be the defining factor in what makes someone worthwhile can only hinder women from growing. Also, to refer back to my last post on The Emperor’s Babe, the women in Falling Angels also find power in their sexuality. Richard Coleman states in his first entry he thought by making Kitty jealous that would “open her bedroom door to [him] again.” Chevalier is also alluding to the idea that much of a woman’s power is found in her sexuality.

Interesting Links:

Virtual Tour of Highgate Cemetery

Tracy Chevalier finds stories in paintings



1 thought on “Falling Angels

  1. Laura, I thought you did an incredible job at pointing out the sexual frustrations of the women featured in Tracy Chevalier’s “Falling Angels.” I thought it was brilliant that you used Virginia Woolf’s “Professions for Women ” as another literary example to relate back and forth with. I feel the best aspect of your piece was when you were quoting Woolf, you quoted a part in her essay that shows this rejection to the values of subservience that women were brainwashed to obey. You definitely point out these factions of feminism and the struggles with sexual freedom that was preached.

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