This is a guest post by Evy Journey, the author of Sugar and Spice and All Those Lies.
Let me first make a small confession: I wrote a lot of the Wikipedia entry on the novel North and South by Victorian writer Elizabeth Gaskell. I had read the book and ample information on the topic already exists in the French Wikipedia. I thought: why not? But I also did my own research—old habits die hard.
Why am I telling you this?
In my research, I learned from Jill Matus in The Cambridge Companion to Elizabeth Gaskell that Gaskell focused on the “interiority” of her female protagonist, Margaret Hale.
That piqued my interest. I am a big fan of interiority.
But what’s “interiority”? You have it; I have it. Some people like to wallow in it. I know I do. A few even live inside their heads much of the time. No, they’re not crazy. Not usually, anyway.
Interiority is your deep, usually guarded inner life. You may not talk about it much although you may engage with it a lot. Among other things, it’s where your secrets are kept. It helps make you self-aware.
Many readers criticize Margaret Hale for rejecting the hero’s love. But this event actually helps Ms. Gaskell show Margaret’s interiority. First, she rationalizes her actions to herself. Later, she struggles to accept her feelings for the hero.
Margaret refuses to succumb to the scourge of Victorian repression when society saw women as “angels of the house” incapable of rational thought and opinions. She chooses to cope with this insidious sexism internally.
All my heroines from Margaret (in a N&S sequel I wrote) to Gina in Sugar and Spice and All Those Lies are high on interiority. They have rich inner lives.
Gina mulls over her experiences, assessing what they mean, learning from them. For instance, she tries to understand why she feels responsible for her friend Cristi’s actions. She thinks it’s guilt:
Guilt, I think, gets planted more deeply in our guts, our hearts. It endures like embers that keep giving off heat even when you can no longer see them glow.
As she reflects, Gina begins to understand others, as well as herself. She grows; overcomes expectations that she can’t rise above the life she was born into.
In this age of information and social media overload, interiority may frustrate modern readers impatient with the inactivity of thinking. We prefer action and excitement.
Evy Journey, writer, wannabe artist, and flâneuse (feminine of flâneur), wishes she lives in Paris where people have perfected the art of aimless roaming. Armed with a Ph.D., she used to research and help develop mental health programs.
She’s a writer because beautiful prose seduces her and existential angst continues to plague her despite such preoccupations having gone out of fashion. She takes occasional refuge by invoking the spirit of Jane Austen to spin tales of love, loss, and finding one’s way—stories into which she weaves mystery or intrigue.