Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Monika Elbert

Committee Member

Lee Behlman

Committee Member

Jonathan Greenberg


In “The Illusion of Influence: Gender and Class Conflict in Three Gothic Works by Louisa May Alcott,” the works A Modern Mephistopheles, A Long, Fatal Love Chase, and Behind a Mask are analyzed as representative works of Alcott’s gothic fiction in terms of how they reflect the changes that were taking place in mid-nineteenth century America, as society developed from a sentimental culture to one that was theatrical. In Chapter One, I focus on the ways in which Alcott’s gothic heroines embody a blend of sentimentality and theatricality and how each looses or gains influence over others as a result of her embrace or rejection of these opposite cultures. I will also attempt to explain how the fate of each of her heroines underscores Alcott’s opinion about the desperate state of women in nineteenth century America. In Chapter Two, I study how Alcott repeatedly used the archetypal con-artist, the literary embodiment of nineteenth-century fears about changing cultural mores, via her reappropriation of the Faust tale, in order to tell the stories of heroines who are victimized by the patriarchy and, despite their attempts to gain power over their own fates, are ultimately unable to do so. I hope to shed light on whether Alcott was able to gain power over her own fate, as her heroines tried to do, and illustrate Louisa May Alcott’s eerily astute grasp of the significance of the changes taking place within her own culture, particularly as they related to the status of women in the mid-nineteenth century, who she feared would remain forever without influence over their own fates.

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