chapter  6
45 Pages

Aberrant youth

The dandy, the wild man, and the deviant
ByAlice Crossley

In W. M. Thackeray's Pendennis, Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope, and George Meredith's The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, male adolescence is considered a period of experience simultaneously characterised by queer sexuality, transnormative social and fraternal dynamics, and the eroticisation of both privacy and violence. Youth emerges as a porous, labile identity, which struggles to adhere to dominant social and cultural strictures on acceptable behaviour, and to dominant codes of manliness which emphasise the merits of social integration and of individual sovereignty or self-control. George Meredith, W. M. Thackeray, and Anthony Trollope emphasise the fundamental difference of youth from other categories of age-determined experience, highlighting the complexity of maturation, and creating exploratory figures of male youth each of whom subverts Victorian expectations of, and assumptions about, youth as a linear form of development. The male protagonists in these three novels inhabit irregular styles of manliness in their struggle to achieve culturally-determined types of acceptable masculinity.