Masaryk University Faculty of Arts Department of English and American Studies



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7Women Manipulating and Manipulated


Women are said to be emotional which displays them as a very easily manipulated subjects. Men, due to their historical dominant position, tend to invent various techniques and methods for manipulating women and master them. The male partners generally like to be in control and thus manipulate their victims, on the other hand, women are rational and they built up a feature of manipulating their partners which reverses the roles of women and men. For instance, they are able to manipulate men into liking them or make them do whatever they like even though it may look like that it was men that invented the activity or the procedure. Lies, in principle a frequent women practice, are also considered to be a manipulation and other female activities which support their ideas and desires symbolize women in control. All the four female authors discussed portray women manipulating individual relations between women and men, as well as among only women. Sometimes they root it in more natural and matrimonial links to create protectionist tendencies, or sometimes it is only their own desires and they want to have power over somebody.

7.1Christie’s Women in and out of Control


“At the heart of Agatha Christie’s writing, productive of both its reassuring comedy and of its narrative grip, is just such a game of make-believe which plays deliberately with the metamorphosis of the everyday and the comfortable into the unfamiliar and the sinister (Light 89). The metamorphosis can be spotted in Miss Waynflete’s character which is fully discussed in the chapter on Women Criminals. Now I look at her figure in a more detailed description from the manipulating perspective. Miss Waynflete epitomizes the evil woman who is not the only person with the power of manipulation, for example, the innocent Bridget Conway somehow manipulates her nearest and dearest people without even realizing it.

First, I would introduce Bridget manipulating as well as being manipulated and provide the great example of Miss Waynflete’s manipulation further on. When Luke meets Bridget for the first time, he describes her almost as a witch: “Her black hair was blown up off her head by the sudden gust and Luke was reminded of a picture he had once seen – Nevinson’s ‘Witch’. The long pale delicate face, the black hair flying up to the stars. He could see this girl on a broomstick flying up to the moon…” (MIE 37). She behaves very confidently and Luke cannot resist her beauty, he instantly falls in love with her and gradually continues to gain her love. Bridget becomes the subject that easily manipulates Luke without being aware of it. After talking to Major Horton: “Fellow needs a wife to keep him up to scratch, otherwise he gets slack – yes, slack. He lets himself go” (MIE 148), Luke realizes that he needs someone to support him, someone to manipulate him in the right direction and finally someone to show him the meaning of life. Unfortunately, Bridget respects Lord Whitfield and she lets herself be manipulated, for example, when she plays tennis with his fiancé and lets him win. She innocently explains to Luke why she did it: “One mustn’t quarrel with one’s bread and butter. Gordon is my bread and butter. You are not” (MIE 158). Bridget reveals her weak side and points out that as a secretary she has only six pounds a week, but as his wife she would have a hundred thousand settled on her, therefore, she drifts herself along and behaves as a straight and narrow wife. She also suggests that she possesses some kind of power by being rather a mother, than a wife to Lord Gordon since he “is a small boy who has not quite grown up” (MIE 158). That means that she is determined to obey his rules and orders, listen to his high words about himself and occasionally play his mother. On the one hand, Bridget acts as a strong woman manipulating Luke’s love and partially Lord Gordon’s life, but on the other, she is nothing more that a servant to Lord Gordon’s caprice.



Miss Waynflete displays almost a pathological creature that can manipulate anyone she chooses to. Her success is enormous since she lives in a small village where, according to anyone, “everybody knows everything about everybody else,” which is contradicted by Luke, who says that “no one human being knows the full truth about another human being” (MIE 130). And he is right. It takes a while before anybody suspects Miss Waynflete of the evil activities she performs. She must be a very influential and powerful woman if nobody from the village can see through her malice and revenge. Even Luke Fitzwilliam fails to notice her intentions as well as her aims, and she even plays with him when he tells her about meeting Miss Pinkerton and her description of the possible murderer. She knows exactly what happened and who the murderer is, but she acts in a professional way and hardly shows any signs of pretending and lying to him. Miss Waynflete triumphs over Lord Whitfield since she “made him believe that there was something very special about him! He believed it quite easily. Poor dear Gordon, he’d believe anything. So gullible!” (MIE 295). She had him in her pocket and could do anything what she set heart upon. The same can be applied to all her victims, who either accidentally or intentionally crossed her path. Miss Waynflete carefully chooses them and enjoys the killing while playing with the others and deceiving them whether it was a murder or a suicide. However, her main purpose is to humiliate Lord Whitfield and get him accused of all the murders, which she finally almost manages. Eventually, the order must be though restored, like in a fairy tale, and Miss Waynflete is caught in her evil plan to kill any possible enemy to Lord Whitfield and so her revenge is staved off. Waynflete’s manipulation fails to last forever and on the contrary, the woman manipulated, Bridget, finds her happiness.

7.2Sayers’ Female Authority


The female manipulative tendencies emerge straight at the beginning of the novel. Women pride reflects the incident at the court when the inside information about jury is revealed. Coincidently, it is a woman who first suggests Harriet’s innocence and, therefore, manipulates the whole verdict and evidence that cannot be relied on. She expresses her hesitation and doubts that the case is so obvious and states that it is “perfectly possible that Boyes had taken the stuff himself, or that his cousin had given it to him” (SP 42). Her behavior is influenced by a male attitude towards the whole case since “at first she was ready to vote with the majority, but she took a dislike to the foreman, who tried to bear her down by his male authority” (SP 42) and she eventually decides to disagree with the evidence and stay in the opposition with Miss Climpson. Her vote leads the whole case towards a new investigation and she thus tampers with the fate of Harriet Vane. Miss Climpson also acts her part in the manipulation, not only in the case of Harriet, but also in her professional life and her employers’ lives. She owns a typing bureau and employs only women who had suffered from lack of money and other necessities, which gives her the power to manipulate such women and they are attached and obedient to her. She is in control, but never misapplies the power towards her female employers. Her manipulation springs from her goodness and kindness, which help the women in need of help.

Sayers further on emphasizes the marital institution and highlights the notion of changing a woman’s name after her husband. She signifies the manipulative feature of a man when he gets married to a woman. In the novel, Luke happens to interrogate Mrs. Bulfinch who explains how a woman is determined to a personal sacrifice when she enters a marital institution: “Well, my lord, before I was married I was barmaid at the Nine Rings, as the Chief Inspector says. Miss Montague I was then – it’s a better name than Bulfinch, and I was almost sorry to say goodbye to it, but there! a girl has to make a lot of sacrifices when she marries and one more or less is nothing to signify” (SP 116). Her family name indicates Shakespeare’s famous tragedy Romeo and Juliet which draws the attention to the meaning of it. Mrs. Bulfinch is sorry for losing her name that is connected with such a well-known character, Romeo. The name merely gives her a partial celebrity which she lacks after marrying a man with a different name. This remarkable sacrifice governs the woman life and leads her to the status of woman manipulated by the man, but most of the time it is the woman’s choice if she prefers to keep her name or to assume her future husband’s name nowadays.

A similar case is seen in Harriet’s feelings towards Lord Peter Wimsey and their relationship. The image of a modern woman gradually appears on the scene; modern women take control of late male-dominated duties, they speculate about their position within society and strive to form independent entities which reject to be subjected to men. Harriet Vane represents the excellent example of such an independent woman and she emphasizes her position by refusal of Peter’s suggestion of marrying him. Although she undoubtedly rejects Peter’s offer because of her fear, she agrees to live with him since she points out that free relationships are now openly accepted not like in Victorian era when “you wouldn’t have to slink abroad with your impossible wife and live at obscure Continental watering-places like people in Victorian novels” (SP 265). Harriet finds herself in a position of a woman manipulating Peter who must accept her proposal of half-marital status otherwise he would come out from the relationship as a loser. Philip Boyes also personally experiences her attitude towards men. At first he desires to live in an open relationship, but suddenly he decides to marry her which Harriet refuses and breaks up with him. The manipulative tendencies root in Harriet’s behavior which shows her female power over men.

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