“His most ardent desire is to be ranked with Zola and rejected by Mudie”:
Gerard; or The World the Flesh and the Devil –
M. E. Braddon’s Fin-de-Siècle Faustian Rewrite
Faust’s pact with the Devil and his subsequent decline into hedonism have been the basis for many rewritings and adaptations since Marlowe’s Elizabethan tragedy. Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s radical rewrite of the Faust myth from a fin-de-siècle perspective – Gerard; or the World, the Flesh, and the Devil (1891) – updates the conflict between God and the Devil vying for man’s soul into a non-supernatural tale to comment on fin-de-siècle bourgeois materialism, atheism and decadence. Braddon draws on two source texts for her adaptation: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust: A Tragedy (1808) and Honoré de Balzac’s La Peau de Chagrin (1831). Braddon’s three main characters critique different, yet interconnecting, social issues: the dandy hypnotist, Justin Jermyn, warns of the dangers of increasing pseudo-scientific knowledge; the nouveau riches Gerard Hillersdon illustrates the harm done to both mind and body when religious doubt and material culture collide; and the fallen woman, Hester, comments on women’s agitation for social change. Overall, Braddon’s combination novel transcends her trademark sensationalism to become an excellent example of the female aesthetic novel.
Mary Elizabeth Braddon; Faust; Balzac; Goethe; adaptation; rewriting; fin de siècle; decadence; hypnotism; fallen woman
Date of acceptance: 18 June 2019
Date of Publication: 30 June 2019
Double Blind Peer Reviewed
Recommended Citation: Hatter, Janine. 2019. “‘His most ardent desire is to be ranked with Zola and rejected by Mudie’: Gerard; or The World the Flesh and the Devil – M. E. Braddon’s Fin-de-Siècle Faustian Rewrite.” Victorian Popular Fictions. 1.1: 35-58.
ISSN: 2632-4253 (online).
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