Död som en oktoberfluga : En analys av dekadent tematik i Victoria Benedictssons Pengar
Sammanfattning: This paper aims to analyze the 19th century novel Money (Original title: ”Pengar”, 1885) by Victoria Benedictsson (1850–1888) and its possible correlation to the contemporary decadence movement. The decadence movement was most prominent at the end of the 19th century, and can be understood as a reactionary movement to modernity in which growing secularization, industrialization, and urbanization create feelings of displacement, moral decay, and anxiety, all of which shows in the literature belonging to this genre. The method used for this paper is a comparative analysis of decadent themes and motifs used in the novel. As a reference point I use a number of literature scientific and idea-historical works made on decadence, as well as on the authorship of Benedictsson. The analysis is divided into seven sections. The first section discusses one of the novel’s more prominent themes: the will and ability to act. The second part deals with themes of illness and flower metaphors. The third section looks at signs of secularization and religious themes. The fourth discusses disillusionment of previously romanticized ideas and the upheaval of values. The fifth examines feelings of anxiety and pessimism. The sixth section focuses on gender roles and fear of the sexual. The seventh section examines how the view on money changes throughout the novel. The paper ends in a summarized discussion of the analysis. The results I have gathered in this paper show that the novel contains a number of common themes of decadence, but also that these almost always are paired with a moral argument that advocates for societal change. The main source for the decadence experienced in the novel is the marriage and its inequality. Because of the marriage, the protagonist sees herself having turned into a ”fallen” woman and experiences strong feelings of anxiety and pessimism. Due to this, the novel can be seen to contain a characteristic decadent fall in which the main character is experiencing their own and their surrounding society’s decline. The novel portrays two different views on decadence, one argued by the main character and one by the surrounding society. By having the protagonist experiencing and arguing for another decadence than her surrounding environment, Benedictsson is able to criticize her contemporary society for their hypocrisy and faults concerning traditional marriage and gender roles. The novel also criticizes the expanding capitalism, which is seen to objectify the female body into a commodity that is sold through the guise of traditional marriage. The novel is also seen to be influenced by the increasing secularization and criticizes christianity for defending said marriage.
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