A Marriage of Consumption in George Meredith’s The Egoist

Jessica Lewis

Abstract


This article acknowledges the cannibal rhetoric used by George Meredith in his 1879 novel The Egoist. Much academic attention has been paid to the author’s employment of physical and social aesthetics; this article expands on the notion of the significance of aesthetic pleasure in suggesting that the accompanying incessant cannibal rhetoric aestheticizes the potential marriage partner to the point of corporeal assimilation.

The article suggests that the cannibal imagery identifies the commodification of eligible bodies within the Victorian marriage market, specifically emphasising the vulnerability of women in their role as prey for predatory bachelors. Sir Willoughby Patterne epitomises the socially conscious, economically and aesthetically-motivated groom, whose competitive nature extends to procuring only the most beautiful bride. His civility and anachronistic romanticisms provide however, only a thin veil for his innate atavism, his appetite for marriage manifesting in metaphors of feeding and consumption.  


Keywords


Meredith; Egoist; Marriage; Victorian; Consumption; Metaphor

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Durham University Department of English Studies | Research English At Durham