A number of stereotypical characters truly reflect their gender in the love story Malachi’s Cove, written by Anthony Trollope in 1864. Trollope’s short story refects the values and expectations of people in Victorian times as represented by, or seen through his characters. Men are typically portrayed as logical, physically and mentally strong with their natural place being in the workforce and the outdoors.
Women, on the other hand, are portrayed as hysterical, physically and mentally weak with their natural place being in the home and the domestic setting the home provides.These stereotypes are rigid in the genre of the love story, and it is certainly not typical for a man to be in any way weaker then a woman. Taking this into consideration, Malachi’s Cove is a very unusual love story. The lead character, Mahala (Mally) Trenglos, a complex, animated character, while retaining the basic stereotypes, does defy a number of the constraints set by both the genre and Victorian times.
Mally Trenglos, is a vibrant example of this mixture of defiance and conformity in relation to gender stereotypes and genre conventions within the story or Malachi’s Cove.The first character encountered by the reader is Malachi ‘Old Glos’ Trenglos, a poor crippled old man who is the soul guardian of Mally, his granddaughter. It is through him that the character of Mally is introduced indirectly. And even before the reader is directly introduced to Mally, the very way in which she is referred to shows typical elements of the constraints of genre, as well as gender stereotypes.
In the second paragraph of page 86, for example, there is reference to Malachi’s habitation being wisely not built entirely upon a foundation of sand, but on a foundation of rock instead.This being a metaphor that reflects the good values of Malachi, and thusly reflecting the good values that must be bestowed upon Mally, as she is of the same stock. The first direct encounter the reader has with Mally paints a different picture, although the basic principle of a pure woman with good values is still invested within her character, much of this encounter shows the way in which Mally indeed does not conform to the expectations of Victorian society.She is portrayed as a “wild looking, almost unearthly creature, with wild-flowing, black, uncombed hair, small in stature with small hands and bright black eyes” (pg.
8) an image that does not conform at all to the stereotype of a proper Victorian woman. It is not only her appearance that conveys a lack of conformity, for it is noted that Mally “was very strong, and the children around declared that she worked day and night, and knew nothing of fatigue”(pg. 88), showing that she is, in fact, a strong, working woman. Working women have their place in the writings of this period, but certainly not as the central figure of a love story.
After this rather harsh introduction to Mally, Trollope re-assures the reader that Mally does conform to the constraints of the genre by telling us of the way in which she buys nothing for herself, and only a little gin and tobacco for her grandfather, the gin, being something that she would never meddle with. It is this statement that helps solidify Mally’s character as being the stereotypical good and pure at heart. It seems, however that this is only a brief reassurance, as Mally then defies all of which she should conform.Mally not only defies stereotypes of dress, and work, but it is now shown that she defies the regulations of religious practice as well.
Although there is some evidence of Mally being aware of her wrong-doings in regard to dress within the church (“She had pleaded to the clergyman….
that she had no church going clothes” pg. 89) the way in which she attends church leaves something to be desired, showing her obvious disregard for the conventions imposed upon her by Victorian society (“Mally continued to sit upon the stone bench in her short serge petticoat, with her long hair streaming down her face” pg. 9). Trollope has, however, attempted to give an explanation for Mally’s general behaviour, and lack of conformity.
The justification is that Mally has been isolated from society, both by her social status as a member of the working class, and her physical location, being situated well away from civilisation. It can also be understood that the lack of a sufficient role model has contributed to Mally’s lack of concern for Victorian conventions, having no mother, or proper father figure, just her grandfather, who, whilst having good morals, fails to teach her the intricate workings of Victorian society.Thus, Mally has been brought up lacking the basic teachings needed to produce someone know ledged in the way one must operate. Being an unconventional working-class woman excluded from the rest of society, it is of course predictable that Mally will have a bleak future, however, a glimmer of hope for the ‘taming’ of this wild woman is seen in the character of Bartholomew ‘Barty’ Gunliffe.
Barty is a more conventional male character, constructed in a stereotypical way that reflects the constraints of the love story genre.From the reader’s first encounter with Barty, he is perceived as a good, moral character, showing the typical physical attributes of a male in the love story genre (“Bartholomew Gunliffe was a very fine young fellow as far as the eye went. He was about five feet eight inches high, with strong arms and legs, with light curly brown hair and blue eyes..
. Everybody liked Barty” pg. 92). At first, the reader is positioned to see Barty from Mally’s point of view, conveying elements of her original hatred for him in the way he is described, none-the-less, the reader still perceives Barty as the stereotypical good male character.
Trollope also conveys through the antagonism of Barty and Mally something ultimately sexual about the relationship between these characters as they come to terms with their feelings for one another. It comes as no surprise to the reader Mally ends up marrying Barty. In fact, Trollope need only hint about this at the end. Mally’s ending up in the kitchen of the Gunliffe’s comfortable civilised farmhouse is, clearly and obviously explained.
Barty gathers seaweed not just to make money for his family, but also to master Mally.To want to master a woman can be twisted into by a slight turn of one’s attitude, to wanting to have intercourse with her. Says the narrator of Barty’s motives: “He would not be beaten by a girl” (pg 96). Mally, although being represented as a young woman who defies the stereotypes of her gender in Victorian times, is ultimately still unable to avoid conforming to the basics of these gender stereotypes.
She is a free, wild spirit, but only until a man such as Barty ‘chooses’ her to be his bride.She becomes submits herself to the life of a stereotypical woman in Victorian, mainly due to the genre of the story needing such an ending in order to fit with its conventions. A different ending would have been too controversial for the time period in which it was written. From this we can also draw the conclusion that it was Mally who rescued Barty literally from the merciless grasp of the water by which he was almost overpowered, but it was Barty who rescued Mally more figuratively from the merciless grasp of being an unconventional working class woman to who would have had no other option but to live her life as a recluse from society.