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"A Sort of Adopted Daughter": Family Relations in The Lamplighter

Weinstein, Cindy (2001) "A Sort of Adopted Daughter": Family Relations in The Lamplighter. ELH: English Literary History, 68 (4). pp. 1023-1047. ISSN 0013-8304. doi:10.1353/elh.2001.0039.

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My title comes from a passage in Maria Cummins's The Lamplighter (1854). Throughout the novel, Gerty, the main character, has no stable place in any one family. She is alternately Trueman Flint's "adopted child" or the child of True and Emily Graham who have "adopted her jointly." She is both a "doubly-orphaned girl" (176), according to Mr. and Mrs. Arnold, and she is an "orphan child" of the "good foster-mother world" (278). Exactly what it means to be an adopted child in Gerty's world, or to be doubly orphaned, is tantalizingly imprecise. The array of relational possibilities is quite stunning, whether from the parental perspective or the child's. This imprecision has significant consequences in terms of Gerty's development in the novel, most importantly in producing her capacity to dispense what I shall be calling "judicious sympathy"; that is, an ability not only to recognize and respond to the multiple claims people make upon her sympathy, but more importantly, to prioritize those claims and to mete out her sympathy accordingly. Gerty exercises her sympathy the way she goes about making her family--freely, rationally, and contractually.

Item Type:Article
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Additional Information:© 2001 Johns Hopkins University Press.
Issue or Number:4
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20180828-102001806
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Official Citation:Weinstein, Cindy. ""A Sort of Adopted Daughter": Family Relations in The Lamplighter." ELH, vol. 68 no. 4, 2001, pp. 1023-1047. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/elh.2001.0039
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:89205
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:28 Aug 2018 18:32
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 00:33

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