All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Daniel J Siegel

Advisory Committee Members

Alison Chapman

Bruce M McComiskey

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences


ABSTRACT This thesis discusses Victorian notions of respectability at death and burial as they are portrayed in Jane Eyre, David Copperfield, Middlemarch, and The Nether World. Because such notions are, by nature, fluid in that the death of an individual is spread across a canvas of public ritual, the novel provides a better way than newspaper accounts or diaries to bring together divergent and competing perspectives to form a more complete account of respectability's meaning for Victorians. Each of the four novels takes a different position on the idea of the respectable death and customs associated with it. From the beginning of the Victorian period, the ideal death meant facing with bravery and courage while putting one's spiritual affairs in order and leaving behind a written will that gave a final accounting of the deceased's financial obligations and provided for loved ones' economic security. A decent funeral and burial, which, at minimum, included interment in a private grave, was the accepted social marker indicating that the deceased's death was indeed respectable. In later years economic success became relatively less important as a determinant of respectability at death.



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