Gissing’s work presents a rich variety of women, for which he has been justly admired; from the neurotic Maud Enderby to the carefree Totty Nancarrow, the self-effacing Mrs Alfred Yule to the horrendous Ada Peachey, the sensible Lydia Trent to the giddy Alma Rolfe, and so on. One can say, nevertheless, that in the broadest sense, their interest for Gissing has two main, related aspects. On the one hand, there are the victims, trapped in many and various ways, by class, by sex and by money: Carrie Mitchell, Ida Starr, Jane Snowdon, Marian Yule, Monica Madden and many others. On the other hand, there are the rebels, actively engaged in passionate and sometimes desperate revolt against their limiting circumstances: Ada Warren, Clara Hewett, Rhoda Nunn and Nancy Tarrant being the most memorable. Gissing was able to engage with the frustrated energies of an identifiable group when he could see beyond the class issues, and in so far as the primary, though certainly not exclusive, obstacles to which they bear witness are those of sex and its cultural definitions, women were ideally qualified.
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