Although confusion about the genre of New Woman Ella D'Arcy's only novella has resulted in a lack of scholarship, The Bishop's Dilemma can now be read as a social commentary that reaches beyond the New Woman subversion of the Victorian marriage plot, broadening the gender discussion at the fin-de-siècle. In this essay, I examine how D'Arcy uses Catholicism as a vehicle to create a unique space in the Catholic ritual of the confession that gives her reader privileged access to Victorian manhood. I argue that by placing her examination of masculinity in the context of the Catholic priesthood, D'Arcy renders her protagonist, Herbert Fayler, unable to use the convention of marriage as a means of subjugation or salvation of Dilemma's female characters, removing the marriage plot as a framework for the tension in the text and leaving Fayler's masculinity vulnerable to his own self-censure. I conclude that D'Arcy does not condemn Fayler any more than she blames the New Woman characters of her earlier short stories for their plight, but rather, D'Arcy constructs a figure of masculinity that exposes dangers present when men are groomed in a romanticized world with idealized notions of masculine life.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Christianson, Elizabeth Watson, "The Unsuccessful Harvesting of Figs from Thistles and Other Failures of Idealized Masculinity in Ella D'Arcy's The Bishop's Dilemma" (2011). All Theses and Dissertations. 3043.
New Woman, Ella D'Arcy, The Bishop's Dilemma, Catholicism, masculinity, priest, ideal, fin-de-siècle, marriage, confessional