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Fiction Literary

The Odd Women

by (author) George Gissing

edited by Arlene Young

Broadview Press
Initial publish date
Feb 1998
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 1998
    List Price

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George Gissing’s The Odd Women dramatizes key issues relating to class and gender in late-Victorian culture: the changing relationship between the sexes, the social impact of ‘odd’ or ‘redundant’ women, the cultural impact of ‘the new woman,’ and the opportunities for and conditions of employment in the expanding service sector of the economy. At the heart of these issues as many late Victorians saw them was a problem of the imbalance in the ratio of men to women in the population. There were more females than males, which meant that more and more women would be left unmarried; they would be ‘odd’ or ‘redundant,’ and would be forced to be independent and to find work to support themselves. In the Broadview edition, Gissing’s text is carefully annotated and accompanied by a range of documents from the period that help to lay out the context in which the book was written.

In Gissing’s story, Virginia Madden and her two sisters are confronted upon the death of their father with sudden impoverishment. Without training for employment, and desperate to maintain middle-class respectability, they face a daunting struggle. In Rhoda Nunn, a strong feminist, Gissing also presents a strong character who draws attention overtly to the issues behind the novel. The Odd Women is one of the most important social novels of the late nineteenth century.

About the authors

George Gissing's profile page

Arlene Young is professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba.

Arlene Young's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“When it comes to the complexities of everyday life in late-Victorian London, there is no better guide than Gissing and no better Gissing than The Odd Women. And now, in Arlene Young’s carefully edited and annotated edition, we have the definitive guide to Gissing’s novel. Students will also find the historical documents gathered in this volume an invaluable resource in the study of the “woman question” and the sociology of work in the 1890s.” — Stephen Arata, University of Virginia

“Broadview’s enterprise is especially welcome in the case of The Odd Women, Gissing’s second most commonly studied novel. [This edition] deserves to become the text of choice for teachers—especially given its modest price.” — The Gissing Journal

Other titles by Arlene Young