Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 22

The Enfreakment of America's Jeune Fille Marier: Lily Bart to Carrie Bradshaw

Lorraine DiCicco
Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 33, Number 3, Spring 2010, pp. 78-98 (Article)
Published by Indiana University Press

For additional information about this article


Access Provided by University of Szeged at 09/29/10 12:23PM GMT

The Enfreakment of Americas Jeune Fille Marier: Lily Bart to Carrie Bradshaw
Lorraine DiCicco
Kings University College, Canada

A renewed fascination with freaks in American culture leads me to read the single woman as a hermaphrodite, what the Victorian carnies once called a half and half. Despite her enjoyment of a mans right to autonomy, independence, economic freedom and an increasing sexual freedom, she remains tethered to the female body which requires, as it did for carnival freaks, submission, display, management, silence and economic marginalization. For a limited period, the single girl enjoys a freakish hermaphroditic power until fear of her hybridity overwhelms her spectators, particularly wives, who demand she renounce her freedom and power as a both/and, crossing into a singular norm as an either/or. Instead of the gaze of awe, this boundary-transgressing unwife is met with the stare of horror. Refusing to return to the singular female body and renounce her freak status, she is stigmatized as the intolerable deviant, the grotesque, thirty-something woman alone. Keywords: single woman / carnival freak / half and half

Unwanted ... They are, socially viewed, as so much wastage.

Simone de Beauvoir, T he Second Sex

ittle People, Big World and Dwarf Family, Vanity Insanity and Plastic Makes Perfect, The Biggest Loser and X Weighted, Miss America and Americas Got Talent it is difficult to watch American television in the first decade of the twenty-first century without encountering a freak. Not surprisingly, the sudden death of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, on June 25, 2009, had Americans glued to their televisions. Although at his death, Wacko Jacko became normalized into a more benign, guy-next-door, endearingly referred to as M.J, not a drug addict but a victim of homicide, he was what David D. Yuan dubbed the celebrity freak (368). One freak dead, the circus goes on, which is exactly what the American pop star, Britney Spears, called her 2009, forty-nine show tour through the US, Canada and the UK. Perhaps, more accurately, it is not so much that the circus goes on as that the circus has been revived in the

The Enfreakment of Americas Jeune Fille Marier


American imagination. According to Robert Bogdan in his sociohistorical study of the freak show in America, the popularity of the circus had run its course by the 1940s (60), attracting in its waning years a lower class of audience, such as new American immigrants, the rural poor and the urban working class (55). The exhibition of freaks had become declass and sleazy, then downright morally incorrect. Strangely, at the turn of the twenty-first century, America is revealing a renewed fascination with freaks, a fascination that has not been so publicly apparent since the Victorian era when freak exhibits were all the rage, and not just for backward country folk waiting for the travelling circus to roll through town, but for sophisticated big city people who frequented P.T. Barnums famous American Museum at Broadway and Ann Street in New York City. This time around, it is middle America enjoying the circus on their wide-screen televisions in the privileged privacy of their dens and theater rooms. As the vast array of freaks in the popular media reveals, the circus, defined by Rosemary Thomson as a cultural space of seemingly infinite license (Extraordinary Bodies 5), has us mesmerized: dwarfs, plastic surgery addicts, tattooed people, fatties and living skeletons, crossdressers and child beauty contestants, to name a few. The world of so-called reality television, which appears to be a modern manifestation of the carnival sideshow, is either fuelling or satisfying Americas obsession with freaks. In the privacy of the home, viewers can blatantly gawk, free to stare with perverse pleasure at that from which, since we were children, we were taught to politely avert our gaze. The three-ringed circus, popularized by Barnum and Bailey,1 is nothing compared to everyday, contemporary society, a multi-ringed circus, because the freaks are everywhere. Without a doubt, Norman Rockwell has left the building. The current, renewed fascination with freaks, the experience of feeling freakish, the problematic of the freakish body, the social function of the freak, much less the difficulty of defining the freak are topics that appeal to many American artists. That said, most have not made freaks the center of their artistic cosmos as did Tod Browning in his disturbing 1933 film Freaks, in which he filmed the Siamese twins, Daisy and Violet Hilton; the Bearded Lady, Olga Roderick; the Pinhead, Slitzie; the armless wonder, Frances OConnor, as well as other human oddities; or Diane Arbus in her equally unsettling photographs of transvestites, dwarfs, nudists, the mentally retarded and even bored suburbanites. Still, many have made brief and daring forays into that strange realm. Often in high and low brow literature, if such a distinction can or should still be made, the freak emerges, sometimes barely observable in the shadowy margins and sometimes occupying center stage. Whether it is a brief reference to a foetus in a jar, as in Eudora Weltys Petrified, or a full narrative on conjoined twins, as in Mark Twains Those Extraordinary Twins, the freakish appears time and again to amaze and disturb us. I want to focus on the portrayal of the female freak, many of whom are classic carnival freak figures. Read in the context of the circus sideshow, we recognize Flannery OConnors Hulga in Good Country People as the Legless Wonder, Wally Lambs Dolores in Shes Come Undone as the always popular Fat Lady,2 Toni Morrisons Pecola in The Bluest Eye as the super-ugly, super-black


Journal of Modern Literature Volume 33, Number 3

Exotic or Missing Link, Carson McCullerss Mick in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter as the Giantess and Katherine Dunns Olympia in Geek Love as the Dwarf (who is more truthfully a super freak as she is also bald, albino and a hunchback3), to name but a few freaks who are also the central heroines of their respective texts. Their freakishness is tied to their physiologically anomalous bodies, which visibly deviate from the social norm. Because they exhibit too much (excess) or too little (absence), theirs is what Rosemary Thomson calls one of the bodies that stray (Introduction 1). Much important work in a variety of academic fields has been done on the subject of the physically deformed, physically disabled and physically non-normative. The anomalous corporeal body is that which we immediately recognize and stigmatize as freakish; however, there are other bodies that appear normal yet evoke the same awe and disturbance in the spectator that the freaks body does. I wish to consider a female figure that proves strangely freakish in part because this freak appears in a guise we otherwise recognized as the iconic all-American girl: the single, white, never married but marriageable female. This girl is not a fatty or a skinny, not a hirsute, not a dwarf or a giant, not a conjoined twin or a pinhead or a Hottentot Venus. She is not a physically deviant figure or a [freak] with disabilities (Thomson, Introduction 1). Quite the opposite: she is marriageable, implying that she has market value, which usually further implies a degree of corporeal attractiveness.4 This single is to be differentiated from those nineteenth-century American women who radically reconceived their spinsterhood as the cult of single blessedness or the suffragist freak, beginning with the unnatural New Woman.5 The white, attractive, marriageable single girl constitutes the conventional norm against which all girls are expected to measure themselves. Revered in American advertising, television programming, music and art, the single girl compels us to look at her, and the compulsion to stare is akin to the compulsion experienced when in the presence of a freak. I maintain that at the heart of this ostensibly normative being sits, strangely, the freak. The enfreakment6 of the single girl in American literature occurs when she is suddenly recognized as occupying the borderline between the norm, marked by her conformity, and the deviant, marked by her difference. Like the conventional carnival freak, the single is perceived as on exhibit, and acceptably so, until a certain point, at which time she is constructed by her society into the peculiar, the uncharacteristic, the non-conformable, the strange and troubling. What is important to consider is how her culture transforms her from the normal, allAmerican girl into a freak, and, as a freak, how she must be forced back into a norm. The single woman is enjoyed as what Barnum called a human curiosity, but for only so long until she evokes extreme dis-ease in her community and her freak show must be shut down. To understand the single girl in American literary culture, one might expect to begin where Candace Bushnell does, with those sexy, jungle-prowling 1990s Sex and the City girls, popularized by the long-running television series and long-awaited movie. However, it is useful to return to Edith Wharton, to whom

The Enfreakment of Americas Jeune Fille Marier


Bushnell herself makes multiple references in chapter one of her book, when she situates herself and her girls in a Manhattan world that, she feels, is light years removed from the one inhabited a hundred years earlier by Wharton. When Bushnell welcomes us to the Age of Un-Innocence (2), she not only declares the vast divide between herself and Wharton, but she also identifies her age as the more difficult one for single women, criticizing her predecessor for failing to [understand] our nineties dilemma the dilemma of Love vs. the Deal (2). Returning to Whartons The House of Mirth enables us to see that Bushnell perhaps misreads her single girls or her Manhattan as different from Lily Bart and her society, since, in many respects, the exceptional Lily Bart is uncannily ordinary in terms of narrative representations of the American single girl. Miss Barts story can be usefully reread in two ways: first, as the story of the all-American single girl, and, second, as a freak narrative. This strange alliance deserves attention because nothing seems more natural than the often told and retold story of the single girl, but perhaps we keep returning to the story of the marriageable girl, not because we want to see her marry, but because we desire to witness the disturbing moment when she teeters on freakishness. She becomes a spectacle that middle America cannot stop watching, as testified by the Sex and the City television series, which ended in 2004 but still airs in syndication, as well as the current filming of a second movie six years after the termination of the television series.7 Like a turn-of-the-century human curiosity, this figure evokes our amusement as well as our pity and loathing. In his history of the freak show, Robert Bogdan writes that nineteenth-century Americans, especially during the Victorian period, were enamored of human curiosities (27), and a hundred years later, we still are. Lily Bart and Carrie Bradshaw are both monstrously freakish single girls whose stories, like those of other singles, are conveyed in terms curiously reminiscent of those used for the exhibition of the traditional carnie freak. The House of Mirth opens with Lawrence Selden spotting Lily in the noonhour crush of people in Grand Central Station. The mere sight of her causes him to [pause] in surprise: Miss Bart stood apart from the crowd, a figure to arrest even the suburban traveller rushing to his last train (5). Apart from making him stop in his tracks and go out of his way to cross into hers, Selden notes that she always aroused speculation and an impulse of curiosity (5). He admits to himself that, as a spectator, he had always enjoyed Lily Bart (6), a woman who must have cost a great deal to make as lives were inevitably sacrificed to produce her (7). His enjoyment of the spectacle that is Miss Bart is contrasted with Lilys perception of herself as a poor, miserable, marriageable girl (8). What is paramount to this Miss, as she makes clear to him when they escape to his apartment for tea and cigarettes, is that she is a jeune fille marier (56). Her corporeal body defines her as a viable player in the marriage market, the accomplishment of which has been the objective of her social training. She knows that her market value is tied to her body and that its value is currently running so high that she is marked off from the herd of her sex (7), making it seem incredible that she even belonged to the same race of womankind (6). Selden is not alone in his reaction


Journal of Modern Literature Volume 33, Number 3

to her bodily presence. Before chapter one ends, Lily is stared down two more times, and each successive episode proves more humiliating than the last. Upon leaving Seldens bachelor apartment, she suffers the persistent gaze (13), which she later recollects as an unflinching curiosity (78), of a poor, white charwoman, and then, even worse given the racism of her time and place, of the immigrant Jew, Mr. Rosedale, who stood scanning her (13) like merchandise.8 Everyone, up and down the social spectrum, gazes at her. But it is not the gaze that mortifies her for what beautiful single girl does not want to be looked at? so much as the race and class of the gazer.9 Capturing the gaze of Mr. Bigs is the game for the women in Sex and the City, and it is not an easy task given that the city is full of squadrons of these women looking for men and pretending not to (89). Average single girls, ironically referred to as civilians or not models (36), uniformly wear the requisite black dress with Manolo Blahniks and have practically the same color blond hair (89). While Wharton focuses exclusively on the experience of one never-married single, Bushnell draws attention to the thousands, maybe tens of thousands of such women in the city, women who are the nineties equivalent of Mary Tyler Moore (25):
New York has bred a particular type of single womansmart, attractive, successful, and ... never married. She is in her late thirties or early forties. ... We all know lots of them, and we all agree theyre great. They travel, they pay taxes, theyll spend four hundred dollars on a pair of Manolo Blahnik strappy sandals. ... Theyre not crazy or neurotic. Theyre not Fatal Attraction. (25)

These seemingly normal, marriageable women struggle to fit in and yet stand out, which is arguably the quintessential American dilemma. They must conform to and still deviate from the standard, and failure to straddle this fine line can prove disastrous. As the twenty-five-year-old Cici York tells Carrie Bradshaw, nothing is worse than not garnering attention because it makes a girl not nice (128). Complicating their lives further, these squadrons of norms, according to Bushnell, have to accept that there is also a certain type of woman very beautiful and from a certain class who can do whatever she wants (49). They are not middle-class American women who always want to hook a man and who, therefore, must play by the rules (49),10 but what might justifiably be called exceptional singles. Like Whartons Lily and Bushnells Amalita Amalfi, they want, as Amalita expresses, to live but not work, a luxury their extreme beauty affords them. Not unlike Lily, Amalita creates quite a stir (49) when she arrives at Harry Ciprianis bar, dressed in a Jil Sander suit, of which the skirt alone costs upwards of $1,000, and a cashmere shell on her super-slim body. [T]he entire restaurant gaped (49) at her, which is no small feat in sophisticated, cynical New York. Such women are not just physically exquisite, but necessarily inaccessible, a combination that proves lethally irresistible, in this case, to the male gawker: their allure keeps growing on you. Their sexual power is like this amazing, dazzling force that can change your life, you think, if you can touch it, which you

The Enfreakment of Americas Jeune Fille Marier


cant (4849). Men and women can only stare in amazement at such women as they would a sideshow freak.11 Despite their dramatic corporeal differences, the exceptional singles experience with spectators in the public realm is no different than that experienced by the so-called conventional freaks as seen in Katherine Dunns novel, Geek Love, for instance. When Crystal Lil, who is little more than a human uterine beaker for a cocktail of drugs designed to give birth to monster babies, walks down the street crazily grabbing at everyone she passes, a spectator naturally gawks in her wake (14); but Olympia knows that when she a bald, albino, hunchback dwarf comes walking some twenty feet behind her mother, there is an ice moment. Even the smug feel it. They go home and tell their wives that the streets of Portland are filled with wierdos (14). What I call a freak sighting begins with what Wharton calls a pause or what Dunn calls an ice moment, followed by a freak narrative, since the exquisitely unique body immediately arouses speculation in the minds of the relatively homogenous, undifferentiated norms that surround her. The sighting and narrative that result in freak construction hinge, like the freak show itself, on difference and distance that ask us to look but not touch:
[T]he freak show consequently created a freak, or human curiosity, from an ordinary person who had a visible physical disability or an otherwise atypical body by exaggerating the ostensible difference and the perceived distance between the viewer and the showpiece on the platform. The spatial arrangement between the audience and freak ritualized the relationship between self and cultural other. (Thomson, Extraordinary Bodies 62)

The freak is a spectacular alien, whose difference and distance must be acknowledged by every norm. Consequently, when Selden, a norm, looks at Lily, he reminds himself to his great relief that he is far out of her orbit (6). Freak formation hinges on the difference and distance between these two orbits: us and them, norms and aliens. Extraordinariness depends on a sea of ordinariness. Apart from her atypical physical appearance, the exceptional single girl is further stigmatized as freakish on account of her rule-breaking behavior. Wharton identifies Lilys freakishness immediately in the first chapter of The House of Mirth when she makes it clear that Lily is caught by sets of staring eyes because of her decision to partake in a moment of rare indiscretion (13), as a single girl visiting a single man in his bachelor apartment. To the eye of the observer, Lily is every bit a woman, as is astoundingly captured in the synecdoche of her hand as she pours Seldens tea, but she has already behaved like a man. Her manliness is not tied to her smoking with Selden or bluntly talking to him about the misery of womanhood, but to her risky decision to follow that impulsive streak of sylvan freedom in her nature (12) that brings her to his apartment in the first place. This is a monstrously freakish streak for a woman, who is and should be enslaved to or constrained by her female body. Lily ought to be the victim of the civilization which produced her (8), a civilization which demands that she be submissive, ornamental, silent, managed and economically marginal or dependent on a male


Journal of Modern Literature Volume 33, Number 3

provider. What Selden senses in her nature is a deviant inclination to assume the masculine privileges of autonomy, self-control, independence and economic selfreliance. She is caught by the stares of others because she behaves and functions in the text as a both/and. She is what we today call an intersexed being, but what the carnies of Whartons day called a half and half and the medical profession of the nineteenth century back to the Greeks called the hermaphrodite. No doubt unwittingly, the show Lily makes of herself to the public is that of the half and half. Living in an exceptional womans body at a particular historical moment, she knows it is her business (12) to wed and to wed a wealthy man. She is aware of her power as a spectacle in the marriage market, a power that Rosedale crudely acknowledges, if only to himself: to be seen walking down the platform at the crowded afternoon hour in the company of Miss Lily Bart would have been money in his pocket (15). Imagining himself the husband of a trophy wife, Rosedale is not alone in his assessment of how he could profit from the exhibition of this exquisite freak show. All the men, even the married ones, are aware of Lilys market value, as are their wives, who entertain her in their homes because they share their husbands pleasure at the spectacle of the single girl, and Lily is the consummate single, the consummate prize. In Book One, the members of aristocratic society are, one and all, P.T. Barnums, collectors or what were known as freak hunters, searching out the ultimate show-stopper.12 Even highminded men like Selden, who has no money to spend (11), know that it is the mere rarity that attracts the average collector (11).13 What makes this woman particularly rare is that, like the hermaphrodite, she displays secondary masculine characteristics, evident from the outset in her resentment of servitude and social drudgery (33), her abundant energy (32), her desire to make an independent life for herself (33), her sense of resistance (47) and her vulgar desire for money (132). These germs of rebellion (47) undermine her womanly being, creating in her two irreconcilable beings: her known self and her new abhorrent being (117), a public and a private self, one womanly and the other manly. While she appears to be a norm a carefree, beautiful single girl with a world of options before her Lily gradually recognizes her hermaphroditic nature as a both/and. Her manly impulses repeatedly sabotage her feminine training. Eventually she is stigmatized by her community, outed by the norms as a freak. Before long, people were beginning to talk of her (101), and the truth about any girl is that once shes talked about shes done for (176). A freak narrative is ignited. The offshoot of Whartons singular monster is Bushnells virtual army of half and halfs. Toughened by the failure to find love in Manhattan, these women in their thirties and early forties have become members of some special club (41), which attracts girls who are cultural hermaphrodites, or as Bushnell labels them, testosterone women (41). Sitting together, sipping tea, these half and halfs discuss their earned right to just go out and have sex like a man (40). Repeated disappointment has left them marked by scar tissue (41) that has made them unnaturally unfeeling: We were hard and proud of it. ... [I]t had taken hard work, loneliness, and the realization that, since there might never be anyone

The Enfreakment of Americas Jeune Fille Marier


there for you, you had to take care of yourself in every sense of the word (41). Unlike the forty-something Samantha who has said screw it (40) to the dream of finding a love relationship, the half-decade younger Carrie Bradshaw envisions herself becoming a half and half Samantha-clone when she confesses to having had emotionless sex after months of sexual drought. Carrie states, simply, I think Im turning into a man (41), and she is initially anything but comfortable with the borderline state in which she finds herself. Uncertain about her half and half condition, she turns to science for a rationalization:
The other day, I was in the salon getting a deep-conditioning treatment because theyre always telling me my hair is going to break off. And I read in Cosmo about male testosterone in women this study found that women who have high levels of testosterone are more aggressive, successful, have more sex partners, and are less likely to get married. There was something incredibly comforting about this information it made you feel like you werent a freak. (42)

Like Victorian medical practitioners who took freaks out of the popular museums and into the specialized realm of the medical theatre,14 Carries instinct is to pathologize her condition, signalling her discomfort with her new freakishness. Her discomfort, however, is not shared by girlfriends, Magda and Charlotte. To have sex like a man, Charlotte states, a girl has to be either a real bitch or incredibly sweet and nice, but she rejoices in not being an either/or. She identifies herself and girls like Carrie as girls who fall through the cracks, which confuses men (42). In identifying themselves this way, Charlotte touches on what makes them true freaks: they are hybrids, not the socially acceptable either/or, but the disturbing both/and. Like Miranda, Olympias monstrous daughter in Geek Love, who ultimately refuses to have her (manly) tail surgically removed,15 Carrie is described, at the end of this brief segment, as sitting like a man, legs apart (43), a gesture which attests to her unwillingness to forfeit her hermaphroditic, freak status. In Intolerable Ambiguity: Freaks as/at the Limit, Elizabeth Grosz focuses specifically on the hermaphrodite and conjoined twins because their bodies are incorporeally unclassifiable (58). The dilemma they pose for the spectator is that they present the human subject as ambiguously one identity and two, or one sex and the other (58), stirring up in the viewer an intolerable ambiguity. She identifies the freak as:
an object of simultaneous horror and fascination because, in addition to whatever infirmities or abilities he or she exhibits, the freak is an ambiguous being whose existence imperils categories and oppositions dominant in social life. Freaks are those human beings who exist outside and in defiance of the structure of binary oppositions that govern our basic concepts and modes of self-definition. They occupy the impossible middle ground. ... Freaks cross the borders. ... They imperil the very definitions we rely on to classify humans, identities, and sexes our most fundamental categories of self-definition and boundaries dividing self from otherness. (57)


Journal of Modern Literature Volume 33, Number 3

Using Groszs definition as a template, we are better able to see how the single girl functions in her cultural/textual space as a hermaphrodite. Norms stare at her in awe and horror as she challenges her spectators to resolve the ambiguity she stirs up between her female body and her assumption of male privilege, both of which are bluntly visible for all to see and yet strangely incomprehensible when fused in one being. Although hybridity stirs up ambiguity by confounding binary opposition and confusing the social order that relies on it, it also brings with it a certain amount of power to which the single can become quite attached. The hermaphroditic figure, an emblem of hybridity, can be seen enjoying the effect her spectacular presence has on her society. As Mary Russo reminds us in The Female Grotesque, we have, historically, been deeply bothered by the woman who makes a spectacle of herself: For a woman, making a spectacle out of herself had more to do with a kind of inadvertency and loss of boundaries ... these women had done something wrong, had stepped, as it were, into the limelight out of turn (53). Lily disturbs her spectators from the moment she enters Grand Central Station, not only because she is a spectacle, but also because she is clearly secure in the shelter of her conspicuousness (18). Her deviant pleasure in her physical presence is again apparent when she attends the opera, where she enjoys displaying her body. She knows that, despite Gus Trenors fantasy that only his eyes would feed upon her, he is, in reality, in company with several hundred other pairs of eyes (91). During the Wellington Brys party, Lily again brazenly exposes her unique body to spectacular effects (103). While her older, conservative Aunt Peniston disagreed with both her niece and aristocratic New York society in the late 1800s, Lilys behavior of partying, gambling, smoking, pursuing a rich husband and even flirting with married men was viewed as normal for a young woman in the mating season (39). Her American experience is not Daisy Millers European one. Further, her power extends over both the men and women in her world. On American soil, as a beautiful single girl, Lily is celebrated as the centre of ... feminine solicitude (39), and the married women entertain her in their homes to amuse themselves, to facilitate a match for her and, most importantly, to offer her temporary social sanction (101). In Sex and the City, despite civilized American soil turning jungle-like, Carrie, too, enjoys her raw power. In a moment of selfempowerment, she gets out of her cab to prowl the streets in half-animal and half-human fashion. She takes on the appearance of the once popular sideshow freak known as the What Is It? that was staged as a missing link between the savage beast and civilized human:16
The city is hot. She feels powerful. Like a predator. A woman is walking down the sidewalk a few feet in front of her. Shes wearing a loose white shirt, its like a white flag and its driving Carrie crazy. Suddenly Carrie feels like a shark smelling blood. She fantasizes about killing the woman and eating her. Its terrifying how much shes enjoying the fantasy. (140)

The Enfreakment of Americas Jeune Fille Marier


Her experience of her power is no different than Lilys when at her performative peak. Like Lily, Carrie is a hybrid creature that demands and commands attention. She also enjoys a freakish freedom, freakish because she is a woman claiming a right to male prerogatives, and freedom as defined by Selden in Emersonian terms of personal freedom ... [f]rom everything from money, from poverty, from ease and anxiety, from all the material accidents. To keep a kind of republic of the spirit (55). However, the single woman can enjoy the manly privilege of personal freedom for a limited time only, and even then she pays for it. For a period of time society tolerates, even accepts, the half and half s blurring of culturally sanctioned gender lines and her bold display of manly power. Because normal persons define hybridity as chaos, however, her hybridity is permitted only for a spell. Singles are received as what Mary Douglas, in Purity and Danger, calls persons in a marginal state ... left out in the patterning of society who are placeless. They may be doing nothing morally wrong, but their status is undefinable (118). The ambiguously positioned, as is the case with single girls, are often treated as both vulnerable and dangerous (118). As Douglas argues, [d]anger lies in transitional states simply because transition is neither one state nor the next, it is undefinable. The person who must pass from one to another is himself in danger and emanates danger to others (119). The connection between difference and danger as relates to the single girl could be seen as underlying Betsy Israels argument in Bachelor Girl that single women seem forever to unnerve, anger, and unwittingly scare large swaths of the population, both female and male (2). Lilys narrative begins with her ambiguous positioning. She is becoming aware that people are getting tired of [her] (10) as a single woman and she of them on whom she must rely:
A few years ago it had sufficed her: she had taken her daily meed of pleasure without caring who provided it. Now she was beginning to chafe at the obligations it imposed, to feel herself a mere pensioner on the splendour which had once seemed to belong to her. There were even moments when she was conscious of having to pay her way. (23)

Occupying a kind of placelessness throughout Book One, Lily persists in pressing to the limit of her opportunities (101) her privileges as a single, but the time has come for her to pass from one state to the next. Rather than submit to the culturally demanded ritual of marriage, Lily exerts an almost heroic effort to continue to profit from her girlish beauty as a single. Certain of her power, she concedes to flirt with Bertha Dorsets husband, George, so as to distract him from his wifes pursuit of a new boy toy, Ned Silverton. She has, however, already begun gradually losing control of the situation (101), her major slip occurring earlier when she took financial tips (101), actually money, from another married man, Gus Trenor. At that time, Trenor, having paid, forces into Lilys consciousness the ugly reality that, if she wants to play with the boys, she, too, must pay and pay


Journal of Modern Literature Volume 33, Number 3

as they pay (132). The game requires her as a biological female to pay up (114) sexually. In an anger spawned by a sense of masculine entitlement, he comes close to raping her. A few chapters later, it is apparent that not only Trenor, but also the larger society of which he is a member, has also suddenly imposed the rules on her. Ned Van Alstyne states at Mrs. Fishers dinner party that when a girls as goodlooking as that shed better marry; then no questions asked. In our imperfectly organized society there is no provision as yet for the young woman who claims the privileges of marriage without assuming its obligations (124). The rules that ultimately affect Lily, as they do all singles, exceptional or otherwise, rest on the tiresome distinction between what a married woman might, and a girl might not, do (63). The binary opposition must be maintained. The rights of marriage are, without a doubt, the husbands and, by extension, his wifes. Single girls can apparently assume those manly privileges only for a period of time. Even then she is, consciously or unconsciously, as well as literally or figuratively, paying for them. The price girls pay is apparent in both The House of Mirth and Sex and the City. As Lily explains to her cousin, Gerty, it just appears that she and others like her are parasitically living off the rich:
You think we live on the rich, rather than with them: and so we do, in a sense but its a privilege we have to pay for! We eat their dinners, and drink their wine, and smoke their cigarettes, and use their carriages and their opera-boxes and their private cars yes, but theres a tax to pay on every one of those luxuries. (207)

While it takes a near rape for Lily to awaken to the fact that she has to pay for the freedom of her hybridity, by the end of the next century, girls know only too well that they are always paying. Amalita in Sex and the City is one of these girls. Unlike Lily who does not know how to work, Amalita simply prefers not to: Ive always just wanted to live (54). Desiring to get rid of her irritating female roommate who, ironically, was putting her up, Amalita moves in with Lord SkankyPoo. Amalitas power to steal him away from the roommate who actually wanted him and so doubly wound her ex-roommate gives her pleasure, but she admittedly pays for her heartless victory. Living with Skanky-Poo requires her to do her geisha routine ... back rubs, bringing him tea, reading the newspapers first so I could point out what was interesting (50), as well as tolerate his quirky desires to cross-dress and be spanked. The scene harkens back to Lily who performs her own geisha routine when she orders and serves tea on board a moving train to impress her prospective future husband, the wealthy Percy Gryce. That is after boning up on Americana so she will be able to entertain him with intelligent questions that will allow him to showcase his greater knowledge. For Amalitas geisha schtick, he took her shopping (50); for Lilys performance, he might ultimately decide to do her the honour of boring her for life (23). To live in what Lily calls this crowded selfish world of pleasure (41), in which you are either in or out since the ruling norms had a force of negation which eliminated everything beyond their own range of perception (40), the single girl must pay the price of always [keeping] herself fresh and exquisite

The Enfreakment of Americas Jeune Fille Marier


and amusing (208). At twenty nine, Lily is fully conscious of the little creases (34) on her face, but add another ten years and, as Amalita explains to Carrie, you still have to keep up. With the clothes and the body. The exercise classes. The massages, facials. Plastic surgery. Its expensive. Look at Ray. Shes had her breasts done, lips, buttocks; shes not young, darling, over forty. What you see is all shes got (54). Like the carnival freak, the single girls primary function is to amuse the norms, and as Robert Bogdan makes clear regarding freak shows, amusement always trumps truth (89). When a girl fails to amuse, she is in trouble. Like a couple of gaffed freaks or carnival phonies (Bogdan 8), it is little wonder that, prior to the contemporary age of almost commonplace botox injections and plastic surgery, Truman Capotes Holly Golightly will not take off her sunglasses and Tennessee Williamss Blanche DuBois will not come into the light. When a girl reaches that age, which is known but never distinctly declared, she is perceived to be straddling the boundary line between the assumption of male autonomy and proper female submission to and management by a husband, a line which her culture demands she cross. Should she hesitate too long without crossing, she becomes stigmatized as that in-between figure: an unnatural, freakish unwife, a term used by Anne Kingston in The Meaning of Wife to foreground how the representation of single women hinges on the fact that they arent married (200).17 Single at twenty nine, Lily knows that she has reached her expiry date, having attended too many brides to the altar (69). While in many instances throughout history, freaks have been, over time, comfortably subsumed into a broadening definition of the norm, the opposite seems to be the case for the American single girl. This free-floating single is kept constantly aware of the horror of suddenly not continuing to be received as a norm but of becoming an intolerable deviant the grotesque, older girl alone.18 Given the American craving for novelty (7), change must occur, and change requires her to transition or pass from successful single to the normative existence of wife. Boundary blurring will not be tolerated for long by norms who demand that, at a certain point, a girl renounce her single status. The single girl as spectacle produces pleasure in normative society so long as norms are assured that she is planning to marry. By extension, despite her exquisite inaccessibleness (Wharton 199), the single is not allowed to forget that she is a collectable that must be collected by some man at some point. At a certain physiological age, she is required to stop living like a both/and so as to start exercising the necessary self-government (Wharton 150) to become an either/or.19 In the case of Lily, not only are the norms no longer confident that she is going to marry, but also she, herself, seems to have forgotten that she must be collected before she is thrown out into the rubbish heap (240). Like many a single girl, Lilys corporeal beauty masks what her culture reads as an inner monster: an unnatural half and half inhabiting a boundary line. The enfreakment of the twenty-nine-year-old Lily is the result of the norms ultimate intolerance of spectacular difference and hybridity. Significantly, the non-compliant single is treated in a manner that is uncannily similar to that of


Journal of Modern Literature Volume 33, Number 3

turn-of-the-century sideshow curiosities as discussed by Robert Bogdan in his study on the exhibition of freaks in America. First, in Freak Show, Bogdan claims that [f]reak is a frame of mind, a set of practices, a way of thinking about and presenting people (3). So, too, the older, never-married, single girl is socially constructed into a freak as was apparent from the minute Selden, a lawyer who symbolizes social laws and customs, read Lily as an awe-inspiring alien. As Book One comes to a close, just as Selden has abandoned her, society sours toward Lily, and its earlier awe turns to repulsion as the norms re-identify her as a non-compliant boundary transgressor. Distinct cultural practices and social mores govern freak construction. Second, after the conventional sideshow freak is constructed, as Bogdan argues, the freak is put on exhibition both for a public [that] craved entertainment (30) and for the profit of exhibitors. The ornamental Lily is similarly put on exhibit by every tier of society, starting with the Trenors and the Dorsets and descending to the Gormers and the divorce, Norma Hatch. These norms never allow the single girl to forget that she is constantly on view and, thus, required to maintain a flawless external finish (22) and a pure moral core. Proud of her pliability (31), Lily knows she has a knack (156) for producing the right effect (17). But putting on a daily show is exhausting her and she finds herself making mistakes. She works her corporeal conspicuousness to amuse her set, as well as to provide a shelter (18) for all norms, not just the reticent Percy Gryces of society. The single girl, like the carnie freak, fulfils the necessary social function of protecting those who gawk at her from the same kind of close, alienating scrutiny. In the presence of the freak, spectators are allowed to drift into a safe anonymity that erases their difference from one another, confirming their much-needed normalcy. Not only are spectators protected by the lightening rod of her extraordinariness, but also they, like showmen and freak promoters, profit from her exhibition. Nowhere is the profiting from the exhibition of the freak perhaps more apparent than when the Wellington Brys host a lavish party that is to include fashionable women participating in tableaux vivants for entertainment. The Brys clearly profit from the drawing power of Lilys exhibited body: the party is a huge success and they are promoted another rung up the social ladder. Third, according to Bogdan, the exhibition of and profiting from freaks have always relied on public misrepresentation: Fraud is central to the freak show (11). Lilys fate is no different from that experienced by conventional carnival freaks in that she maintains a public masquerade for as long as possible, with one notable exception: ultimately, she is not in on the very game that destroys her. While for a time Lily is not unlike the conventional carnie freaks who willingly participate in duping the rubes who paid to see them, Lily does not consent to Bertha Dorsets false representation of her to their set as a monstrous husband-stealer. Thinking she is helping the married Bertha hide her sexual tryst with Ned, Lily is herself duped. When it is discovered that the married Bertha spent the night with her lover, not returning to the yacht until morning, Bertha misrepresents Lily to their clique as having run off that night with her husband, abandoning her. Berthas lie compromises Lilys good name, which is all the single girl has to protect her,

The Enfreakment of Americas Jeune Fille Marier


and enables her to profit off Lily: she sacrifices the single girl to protect her loveless marriage and her social credit [which] was based on an impregnable bankaccount (204). A manufactured freak, an exhibit used for the profit of others, a fraudulently misrepresented subject Lily is treated as exhibited freaks have been throughout history. One hundred years later, it should be added, singles seem to be either more in control of or more accepting of their fraudulent misrepresentation, making them not the tragic figure that Lily became. Duping a Mr. Big into marriage is the game girls play, and to that end, the accoutrements required for their deception are all available in a capitalist marketplace that links a girls beauty, power and desirability with high-end, name-brand logos like Manolo Blahnik, Gucci and Calvin Klein, as well as status signifiers like Lear jets, minks and ski holidays in Aspen. While brand names became critical to the success of the single in Sex and the City, such was not the case some thirty years earlier when Helen Gurley Brown published Sex and the Single Girl, in which there is virtually no reference to name-brand products. Having come from a desperately poor (1) family, Brown, a self-proclaimed ruthless pennypincher (95), promotes home remedies to keep the single girls costs down, even sharing her recipe for excess arm and leg hair bleach (203). What has, however, remained a constant from Lilys time to the present is the sheer necessity for fraudulent misrepresentation. Brown shamelessly encourages the plain girl to create the illusion of beauty (188) because, if we all ever went really au naturel wed scare each other to death (193). For those willing to make the big investment that can conceivably push you over the edge into real beauty (203), she recommends buying contact lenses, a good wig and a face-saving machine that lifts and tightens, as well as having plastic surgery. As she tells singles, you cant afford to leave any facet of you unpolished (6), advice that the Sex and the City girls continue to take to heart even when they cannot literally afford it, despite their high-paying jobs as magazine editors, investment bankers and models. Clearly, the only way to maintain the fraud is, as Carrie states, to get rich (239). The best way to get rich is to marry a Mr. Big, as the four girlfriends realize when they observe the wealth and leisure enjoyed by their city girlfriends turned suburban wives. Although both Lily and Carrie know perfectly well the rules of the game of being single and the rewards of marriage, still neither one is ultimately able to renounce her freakish status. Girls who refuse to comply and who attempt to maintain their existence as half and halfs beyond the tolerated time frame must then be stopped. Their behavior will not be tolerated, especially by the wives in society, who perceive these girls as unacceptably blurring of the requisite line between wives and singles. Lily first steps on a wifes toe when she allows Gus Trenor, a married man, to invest for her, while actually giving her his money. The culturally sanctioned line dictates that, while a married woman can borrow money from a married man, a single girl may not.20 A tiresome distinction (63) to Lily, perhaps, but not to the wife whose husband does the lending. Having escaped near rape, however, Lily does not escape the next calamity: once her conservative Aunt Peniston hears that


Journal of Modern Literature Volume 33, Number 3

her nieces name has been mixed up with that of a married mans, her lily-white name is tarnished. Her monstrous, grotesque self exposed, Lily now repulses both family who disinherit her and friends who shun her. Throughout Book Two, this twenty-nine-year-old single is no longer tolerated by her community. Shamed and stigmatized as the abject by the norms of her world, Lily is and must be expelled, cast out, as a boundary transgressor, whose hybridity has stirred up unacceptable cultural chaos. To this end, wives play a crucial role in the single girl narrative. Without a doubt, Bertha Dorset most vividly displays the ruthless power of wife in Lilys world: she hires Lily to distract her husband for three months of European cruising and she fires her when the plan explodes and her marriage is threatened. She turned into an enemy (170), accusing Lily of an affair with her husband and immediately exiling her from their ship and, worse, their society. The single girl is made a scapegoat and, necessarily, sacrificed (177). Although it is Bertha who draws the line that results in the enfreakment of Lily, all the wives, even the divorced Carry Fisher, follow her lead. Lily believes that the wives accept Berthas fraudulent story because she has a big house and an opera box, and its convenient to be on good terms with her (176), but it could be argued that in the single girl freak narrative the power of wife is the power of the normative. Unlike the single girl, the wife is emblematic of an either/or cultural logic: masculine/ feminine, manager/managed, owner/owned, power/powerlessness, voice/silence. Social order requires clear categorization, and it is the wifes role to maintain that order by ensuring that we remain horrified by a hybridity that must be read as monstrous. Her role is to stigmatize the noncomplying other, and as Erving Goffman writes, in Stigma: Notes of the Management of Spoiled Identity, by definition ... we believe that a person with a stigma is not quite human (5). To that end, at a certain point, the wife re-identifies the single woman, not as an emblem of freedom and power, but as an unnatural, unhuman unwife: a dangerous force that can lead to cultural chaos if not shut down, like a carnie show that has turned offensive. When Lily is made to leave the Sabrina, she sees, not the faces of friends, but the faces of wives and incredulity ... in the mute wretchedness of the men behind them (170). Wives, the chief punishers of single women, foreground their deviance and, more importantly, force them to renounce their freakish hybridity, to move out of this transitional stage, and to adhere to the rules. In short, wives see to it that she becomes a wife like them. The culturally savvy Carry Fisher bluntly articulates the power of wives when she says to Lily, simply: You must marry as soon as you can (187). Marriage signals the return to the feminine body and the prison-house of reproduction. Hers can no longer be the spectacular freaks body but must become the invisible, normative body of wife. As with physiological hermaphrodites, this half and half must be cured, not surgically but socially corrected to an either/or, and wives see to it that the mission is accomplished or that the price for noncompliance is paid. In Bushnells Sex and the City, it is clear that the signifier wife has a psychological stranglehold on single women. In an aptly titled chapter, Downtown Babes Meet Old Greenwich Gals, a sketch is provided of what happens to single

The Enfreakment of Americas Jeune Fille Marier


women when brought face to face with the lived reality of their girlhood dream. Brought out of the city and into the suburbs of Connecticut for a bridal shower, the singles confront their counterparts: the wives. The powerful, rich husband, exotically named children, a grand home in the suburbs this was the expected happy ending for the all-American girl. Still the dream eludes Carrie:
How did it happen? How did you find someone who fell in love with you and gave you all this? She was thirty-four and shed never even come close, and there was a good chance she never would. And this was the kind of life shed grown up believing she could have, simply because she wanted it. But the men you wanted didnt want it, or you; and the men who did want it were too boring. (85)

Mesmerized with envy for the wives material acquisitions and stumped by what it was like to be them, Carrie encounters two objects in Jolies bathroom that represent for her the price of wifedom. First, a bidet signals washing before playing and, hence, a lack of sexual spontaneity and passion. Second, a fourteen-byseventeen color photograph of Jolie, Demi Moore-style, naked save for a skimpy negligee that was open in the front to reveal humongous tits and a huge belly (85) foregrounds her reproductive role as a wife. Carrie represses a scream of horror and flees the scene. Although the vignette ends with Carrie first telling Mr. Big that she could never get used to a life of babies, private schools, country clubs and nannies, and then seeking shelter in Bowery Bar (87), she continues to pursue the privileged status of wife and the kind of life she grew up expecting to have. However, late in the book, we learn that Carrie has been misbehaving for weeks with her gay boy pal, Stanford Blatch, because she is unhappy in her relationship with Big, who seems perpetually away on business. When Samantha Jones tells Carrie over lunch that her writing project is cute, Sam expresses what every single girl perhaps represses but knows to be true: bad writing, like bad behavior, is fine for now since youre probably going to marry Mr. Big and have kids. Come on. Thats what everybody wants (220). Wives signify the normative life and the normative female body, and as long as the single girl makes it clear that she, too, yearns for this normative existence, she is tolerated in her current state of deviant ambiguity. In response to Sams remark, Carrie says, Arent I lucky, but significantly, in manly fashion, it is she who picks up the check (220). Despite the cultural power exercised by wives, time and again they fail to pressure the spectacular single into submission, and it becomes clear that a marriage will not occur. When the single girl refuses to become a collectable and her enfreakment is well underway, and even then she cannot cross, she begins to notice that her once dazzling freak status is starting to fade. Her power as a freak typically diminishes in a fashion analogous to that experienced by the circus sideshow in days past. Just as the circus historically devolved from its days of grandeur in the Victorian age to its final days in the Depression era as a tawdry, disreputable site that attracted only the lowest members of society so, too, Lilys social presence


Journal of Modern Literature Volume 33, Number 3

and power collapse. She stubbornly remains unable to concede to the rules of the norms: she might have married more than once the conventional rich marriage which she had been taught to consider the sole end of existence but when the opportunity came she had always shrunk from it (123). All along, this resolutely single girl is like a circus sideshow freak, performing in a circus-like society and living in a house of mirth, a house that got seedier and sleazier as evident by her slide down the social ladder. The first stop on her circus run is with Sam and Mattie Gormer, a fast-rising, fun-loving couple, who refuse to recognize differences and distinctions (184): theyve started a sort of continuous performance of their own, a kind of social Coney Island, where everybody is welcome who can make noise enough and doesnt put on airs (181).21 In this Coney Island world of theirs, they hope to profit off Lily, who is their star attraction. Her second stop in this traveling circus that is her life is the more degraded Emporium Hotel, the overly lit world of Mrs. Norma Hatch, a newly divorced young woman whose life is a vast gilded void (215). Despite feeling an odd sense of being behind the social tapestry, on the side where the threads were knotted and the loose ends hung (215), Lily still experiences a certain amusement in the show, and in her own share of it (215) and, after all, the show must go on. She brings what will be her final performance to the underworld of toilers (223), Mme. Reginas millinery shop, where she functions as a minor attraction as human curiosities go, attracting a few gawkers who wonder not about her exquisiteness, as gawkers once did, but only how such a star could have fallen so low. To the end of her narrative Lily remains a freak who refuses to surrender her hermaphroditic identity. Although a woman, she, like a man, cannot say the word love and so she dies a half and half, a freak, alone, tawdry and dingy. Carrie is also enfreaked by her society and is ultimately alone. Rather than pass into mature womanhood and accept the status of wife, she regresses to the behavior of teenager whose parents are out of town. She, like Lily, sabotages the conventional marriage because she knows that getting married will not make her the star attraction of the show: Why had she thought that if they were married, shed get the attention she wanted? Why didnt she understand that if they did get married, shed become more and more of an accessory? That was a pattern (230). As her relationship with Big disintegrates and she suspects him of an affair, Carrie spirals into suspicion, anger and depression. The girl with the guts to be single (235) is enfreaked by Mr. Big, the norm. It is he who identifies her as an unnatural freak, the freak he must reject because he wants to be with someone normal so as to have a normal life (237). Not only does he use the word normal twice but, when criticizing her out-of-control, crazy behavior, he also adds that people dont like you as much as youd probably like to think they do (235) because she is too aggressive (235). He interprets her behavior as too manly to warrant continued tolerance on the part of norms, adding, Youre too old to act the way you do. Youve got to grow up (237). No wonder she fights back the desire to call him Dad (231). Carrie has failed to make the transition into adult womanhood and, like Lily, she begins to slide, but hers is a slide not into literal death but an

The Enfreakment of Americas Jeune Fille Marier


emotional death. Months later, after the break-up, she runs into Mr. Big, at which time he puts the finishing touch on her freakish identity when he says, every time I tried to talk to you, you would go to that place in your head. Youre like a cyborg or something (241). Mr. Bigs closing judgment is that of all normates who cannot read between the lines, see nuances ... It was black or white. In or out. (237). Carrie is between the lines. Part-human and part-machine, she is the ultimate single freak, a half and half that once attracted and now repels. The final sentences signal the necessary binary opposition maintained by culture: Mr. Big is happily married. Carrie is happily single (243). One must be, in the end, an either/or, not a both/and. The single girl as half and half and neither of either, as Angela Carter defines the bipartite in Nights at the Circus (66), cannot commit to an either/or state and, consequently, she is finally without any place to go. While it was easy enough to despise the world, it gradually dawns on Lily that it was decidedly difficult to find any other habitable region (204). What she learns is that there is no world outside of the social circus for the never-married girl who is a both/ and. For the stubbornly single American girl, there is only the house of mirth, a social world dominated and controlled by amusement-seeking norms.22 Both narratives ironically end not with a bride but with a single girl, one dead and the other hysterical. While the conventional girls story ends with the bride about to begin her new life, these narratives end just as abruptly: what story can one tell about the grotesque figure of the aging single woman? Her freak show is decidedly over. Notes
A version of this paper, entitled Single White Female: Americas Cultural Hermaphrodite, was presented at conference on American Deviances at Universit Michel de Montaigne, Bordeaux, France, September 1719, 2009. 1. According to Robert Bogdan, one-ring circuses were the convention until the 1850s, when W.C. Coup introduced the second ring (40), the third ring not introduced until 1881 by Barnum and Bailey (288, n17). 2. Andrea Stulman Dennett argues that, despite the power of the Americans with Disabilities Act to safeguard the rights of the physically anomalous, there remains one true physical freak in modern culture: the obese person ... Being fat is so stigmatized in American culture that fat people are often perceived as having mental, emotional, and even moral impairments (323). 3. Rick Jamess pop song Super Freak, released in 1981, makes use of the term to refer to a girl who is the stuff of heterosexual male fantasy: the girl groupie who claims threes not a crowd to her. This girl is the kind you dont take home to mother, not because she is the corporeal freak that Olympia is, but because she is freakishly sexual. According to Wikipedia, the slang use of super freak is a reference to a woman who enjoys sex, perhaps (but not necessarily) a woman who is promiscuous, is willing to experiment sexually, or is hyper-sexualized (see Super Freak). 4. In Candace Bushnells Sex and the City, the unmarriageable girl is identified as the quintessential party girl, a girl so wild no man would consider marrying her, but plenty tried to get in her pants (190).


Journal of Modern Literature Volume 33, Number 3

5. For a discussion on the cult of single blessedness, see Chambers-Schiller; on the suffragette, see Tichner 16774; and on the New Woman, see Pingree. 6. David Heveys term adopted by Rosemarie Garland Thomson in Extraordinary Bodies, 17. 7. Sex and the City, the television series, ran for six seasons, from 19982004, and the movie version premiered on May 12, 2008. The second movie is expected to be released in May 2010. 8. For a discussion of anti-Semitism in The House of Mirth and turn-of-the-century New York society, see Goldman. 9. In Sex and the City, Bunny Entwistle, a fortyish sometimes actress, exhibits the singles compulsive need to be looked at: Bunny snapped open a compact, pretending to check her eyelashes but really, Carrie thought, checking to see if anyone in the restaurant was looking at her (191). 10. See Fein and Schneider. 11. An illustration of the circus freak/woman who demands to be looked at can be seen in Angela Carters Nights at the Circus when Walser looks upon Fevverss physiologically anomalous body with its four arms, all perfect, like a Hindu goddess, and reads it as saying, Look at me! With a grand, proud, ironic grace, she exhibited herself before the eyes of the audience as if she were a marvellous present too good to be played with. Look, not touch (13). 12. Freak hunting was a full-time occupation in the 1880s (Bogdan 37). 13. Robert Bogdan explains that the job of freak hunting became increasingly more challenging because at the height of freak show popularity, despite rigorous recruitment at home and abroad, there was a shortage of born freaks (234). Consequently, to meet the demand, self-made freaks, such as sword swallowers, snake charmers and Circassian Beauties, were produced and exhibited (235). 14. Rosemarie Garland Thomson argues that teratology, the science of monstrosity that eventually tames and rationalizes the wondrous freak is the product of Enlightenment thinking, and that the pathologizing of the freak is directly linked to the work of French zoologist Isidore Geoffroy SaintHilaire in 1832 (Freakery 4). Robert Bogdan argues for a later date, stating that, nineteenth-century science supported and legitimized the growth of the freak show, [while] twentieth-century science began to undermine it by medicalizing human variation and stripping exhibits of their mystery (67). Both he (6263) and Leslie Fielder (21) draw specific attention to the role played by the modern eugenics movement. Whether placed in a hospital or an asylum, by the 1930s, the proper place for the pathologically sick which now included the physiologically deviant was no longer on the public stage. 15. Mirandas hybridity is apparent when she explains that she wears skirts to hide her almost footlong tail which, uniquely, has a bone in it (26). 16. On the appeal of exhibited primates to Victorian Americans, see Bogdan 11946. 17. In Bachelor Girl, Betsy Israel quotes a forty-four year old woman who speaks of what she calls The Pass-Over Ceremony: In your twenties, youre a free bird. You are an unmarried person who has options she hasnt yet exercised. After the pass over ... its metamorphosis. ... You are viewed, and you know it, as a different woman. An unmarried, as opposed to a merely single, person (10). 18. Simone de Beauvoir writes, in The Second Sex, [m]any men of today feel a sexual repugnance in the presence of maidenhood too prolonged. ... The curse is in their flesh itself, that flesh which is object for no subject, which no mans desire has made desirable, which has bloomed and faded without finding a place in the world of men; turned from its proper destination, it becomes an oddity, as disturbing as the incommunicable thought of a madman (155). 19. The actual physiological age is critical but not a constant throughout actual or literary history. In seventeenth-century New England, a girl was a spinster at twenty-three and a thornback by twenty-six, according to Lee Virginia Chambers-Schiller (11). In the nineteenth-century, Alcotts Jo March, in Little Women, fears becoming an old maid (342) at age twenty-five. In mid-twentieth

The Enfreakment of Americas Jeune Fille Marier


century, Helen Gurley Brown celebrates the end of her singleton status at age thirty-seven (1). By late twentieth century, Candace Bushnells toxic bachelors determine women to be marriageable between the ages of twenty-six and thirty-five, with thirty-six at the outermost limit (26). In the early twenty-first century, Betsy Isreal identifies the tolerated age limit for single women to the mid-thirties and early forties (10). 20. Helen Gurley Brown addresses the taboo subject of money borrowing. She gives only four reasons for why a single girl should need to borrow money major surgery, long unemployment, family members in trouble or your being sued which she follows with one example when she borrowed money from, significantly, her boss wife, money which she did not use and immediately repaid (98). Brown says single girls can accept gifts from men, single or married, and should attempt to get adopted by a wealthy couple (98), but nowhere does she condone borrowing money from married men. 21. The allusion is significant since, according to Bogdan, Coney Island saw its first freak show in 1880 ... and became a center for freak shows. During the period 19101940, no single place in the world had more human oddities on exhibit (56). 22. Not surprisingly, one of the largest traveling sideshows in America during the heyday of freak shows was called The World of Mirth, which featured strange human freaks alive (see Ostman 126).

Works Cited
Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. 1868. Eds. Anne K. Phillips and Gregory Eiselein. New York: Norton, 2004. Print. Bogdan, Robert. Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1988. Print. Brown, Helen Gurley. Sex and the Single Girl. Montreal: Pocket Books, 1963. Print. Bushnell, Candace. Sex and the City. New York: Warner, 1996. Print. Carter, Angela. Nights at the Circus. London: Vintage, 2006. Print. Chambers-Schiller, Lee Virginia. Liberty: A Better Husband. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1984. Print. de Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. Trans. and ed. H.M. Parshley. New York: Vintage, 1989. Print. Dennett, Andrea Stulman. The Dime Museum Freak Show Reconfigured. Freakery 31526. Douglas, Mary. Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London and New York: Routledge Classics, 1966. Print. Dunn, Katherine. Geek Love. New York: Vintage, 1983. Print. Fein, Ellen and Sherrie Schneider. The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right. New York: Warner Books, 2006. Print. Fielder, Leslie. Freaks: Myths and Images of the Secret Self. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978. Print. Goffman, Erving. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1963. Print. Goldman, Irene C. The Perfect Jew and The House of Mirth: A Study in Point of View. Modern Language Studies, 23.2 (Spring 1993): 2536. Print. Grosz, Elizabeth. Intolerable Ambiguity: Freaks as/at the Limit. Freakery 5566. Israel, Betsy. Bachelor Girl: The Secret History of Single Women in the Twentieth Century. New York: HarperCollins, 2002. Print.


Journal of Modern Literature Volume 33, Number 3

Kingston, Anne. The Meaning of Wife. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2004. Print. Ostman, Ronald E. Photography and Persuasion: Farm Security Administration Photographs of Circus and Carnival Sideshows, 19351942. Freakery 12136. Pingree, Allison. The Exceptions That Prove the Rule: Daisy and Violet Hilton, the New Woman, and the Bonds of Marriage. Freakery 17384. Russo, Mary. The Female Grotesque: Risk, Excess and Modernity. New York: Routledge, 1994. Super Freak. Wikipedia. Web. 8 Oct. 2009. Thomson, Rosemarie Garland. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia UP, 1997. Print. , ed. Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body. New York: New York UP, 1996. Print. . Introduction: From Wonder to Error A Genealogy of Freak Discourse in Modernity. Freakery 119. Tichner, Lisa. The Spectacle of Women: Imagery of the Suffrage Campaign 190714. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1988. Print. Wharton, Edith. The House of Mirth. 1905. New York: Norton, 1990. Print. Yuan, David D. The Celebrity Freak: Michael Jacksons Grotesque Glory. Freakery 36884.

Centres d'intérêt liés