Inoculation and Empire: Cigarette's healing power in Ouida's Under Two Flags

Issue: Vol 1, No 1: Summer 2009
Pages: 22-38
Author(s): J. Stephen Addcox (University of Florida)
Citation: http://www.victoriannetwork.org/index.php/vn/article/view/5

Abstract

As the popular literature of the nineteenth century receives more attention from scholars, Ouida's novels have grown more appealing to those interested in exploring the many forms of the Victorian popular novel. Under Two Flags is perhaps her most well-known work, and this fame stems in part from the character of Cigarette, who fights like a man while also maintaining her status as a highly desirable woman in French colonial Africa. Whilst several scholars have argued that Ouida essentially undermines Cigarette as a feminine and feminist character, I argue that it is possible to read Cigarette as a highly positive element in the novel. This is demonstrated in the ways that Cigarette's actions are based on a very feminine understanding of medicine, as Ouida draws on contemporary and historical developments in medicinal technology to develop a metaphorical status for Cigarette as a central figure of healing. Specifically, we see that Cigarette takes on the form of an inoculation for the male protagonist's (Bertie Cecil) downfall. In this way, I hope to offer a view of Ouida's text that does not read her famous character as merely an "almost-but-not-quite" experiment.



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