Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Comparative Literature

First Advisor

Charles Ross

Committee Member 1

Shaun Hughes

Committee Member 2

Leila Harris

Committee Member 3

Paul Dixon


Samuel Richardson, Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy, and Jorge Amado have often been accused of making their heroines too beautiful. But these heroines are also accomplished in ways that demonstrate that their personalities are important. The ambiguous character of the novels by these authors has divided critics who find it difficult to categorize them as supporters of patriarchal oppression, or supporters of female autonomy. In face of this critical impasse, my research looks deeply into character description and character behavior to determine if these authors’ female characters should be viewed as pretty objects or not. As I demonstrate, in Samuel Richardson’s Pamela or Virtue Rewarded (1740), Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Mansfield Park (1814), Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1869), and Jorge Amado’s Gabriela Clove and Cinnamon (1958) and Tieta, the Goat Girl (1977), authors emphasize their heroine’s beauty in order to distract readers from their characters’ inappropriate acts. These acts are imprudent because they are considered improper for females in their society. Thus, by creating female characters who challenge social roles, these authors suggest successful ways for women to defy patriarchy without losing their power of agency.