Master of Arts, Department of English Language and Literature, Eastern Michigan University, July 15 (2008)
This thesis seeks to identify patterns of villainy in late nineteenth-century detective fiction in order to examine middle class conceptions of criminality and the way those models reflect the values of Victorian society. Through a study of more than sixty pieces of short detective fiction, this study identifies and focuses on six primary categories: the visual depiction of the criminal, the criminal class, the jewellery heist, the colonial subject, the violent female offender, and the domestic villain. The creation of each criminal category and the reinforcement of that, “type” in popular literature functions to establish order and to support beliefs crucial to Victorian middle class identity and authority. Yet as each story attempts to validate and reproduce this identity, each criminal simultaneously expresses anxiety about defects in that culture and about a denial of responsibility in growing social problems and Imperial practices.