This essay demonstrates that Anthony Trollope was one of several Victorians aware of "female marriage," a term that Elizabeth Barrett Browning used to describe committed unions between women. After establishing that Trollope knew women in female marriages at the time that he was composing his novel Can You Forgive Her? (1864-65), the essay analyzes how female marriage inscribes itself within the form of the marriage plot. Trollope's novel aligns female marriage with contractual marriage, associated with feminist demands to make unions between men and women more egalitarian as well as dissoluble. The novel works to discredit contractual forms of marriage and to celebrate indissoluble hierarchical marriage by associating the first with primitive savagery, the second with an ideal of civilization that can accommodate male violence.
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