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Girls in Bonds: Prehensile Place and the Domestic Gothic in L. M. Montgomery's Short Fiction


In the gothic literary tradition, the home is often a site of terror. While L. M. Montgomery's fiction for girls is known for its idyllic settings, the terrors of home are evoked in the landscape adjacent to the domestic sphere. Tracing the pattern of dangerous, retentive natural sites throughout her work, this essay explores how Montgomery adapts the gothic trope of the unhomely house to reflect the restrictive domestic choices available to adolescent girls in early twentieth-century Canada. Montgomery's underexplored magazine stories experiment with social critique, showcasing a society that, while ostensibly outgrowing distinctions of class and gender, transferred working-class girls on their arrival at womanhood from one powerless position to another. In particular, "The Waking of Helen" (1901), "The Magical Bond of the Sea" (1903), and "Fancy's Fool" (1943) demonstrate how the prehensile place in the landscape can be read as a "shadow home," a device used to interrogate the institutions of marriage and the family.