Tracing the Origins of the Eighteenth-and Nineteenth-Century Rake Character to Depictions of the Modern Monster
Date of Award
Master of Arts in English
College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
Language Arts, Literature
While critics and authors alike have deemed the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literary rake figure as a “monster” and a “devil,” scholars have rarely drawn the same connections between monsters to rakes. Even as critics have decidedly characterized iconic monsters like Victor Frankenstein and Dracula as rapists or seducers, they oftentimes do not make the distinction that these literary monsters originated from the image of the rake. However, the rake and the monster share overarching characteristics, particularly in the inherent qualities their respective authors attribute to them, which shape the way they treat women and offspring. A side-by-side comparison between the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century rakes of romantic British literature and the nineteenth-century monsters of British Gothic literature exposes similarities in composition and characterization coupled with underlying patriarchal authority. From these similarities, I assert that the literary rake depicted throughout eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature evolves into the literary monster depicted in nineteenth-century Gothic novels. This monster reveals the true barbarianism of the rake by transforming his physiognomy from that of a wealthy aristocrat to that of a grotesque breeder of threatening monsters, underscoring the threat of patriarchal authority which rakes continually convey over their female counterparts and debunking the eighteenth-century misinterpretation “that a reformed rake makes the best husband” (Richardson 36).
Conrad, Courtney A., "Tracing the Origins of the Eighteenth-and Nineteenth-Century Rake Character to Depictions of the Modern Monster" (2019). ETD Archive. 1152.