Gendered Ecologies in Anthony Trollope’s The Eustace Diamonds
Considering the impact of Darwinian evolutionary discourse on Anthony Trollope’s The Eustace Diamonds, this essay examines the construction of the main character, Lizzie, through shifting cultural understandings of gender roles and human/animal identities. Looking at the impact of Darwinian theory on ecology from multiple perspectives elucidates the novel’s concerns with social structures that shape and constrain individual agency in women’s lives particularly. The Descent of Man’s complicating of
the human/animal divide demonstrates the complexities of Lizzie’s reptilian characterisation while Victorian considerations of domestic animals highlight the importance of her portrayal as a cat. Her feline behaviour is a means of violating domestic norms and defining herself outside of traditional dichotomies. The legal ecology of the novel shows the inseparability of human and object materiality, a cultural concern to which Darwin’s work contributed. The animals and gemstones contribute to the novel’s larger
argument about women’s ownership of their bodies and sexuality. Thus, relationships between the human, animal, and material challenge Victorian norms while fitting into the Palliser series’ interest in the limits and potential of women’s agency.