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EMILY BANKS Emory University Haunting the Hospital: Medicine and Gender in Ellen Glasgow’s “The Shadowy Third” IN ELLEN GLASGOW’S “THE SHADOWY THIRD,” WE ENCOUNTER A GHOST hardly frightening in the traditional sense. A little girl “dressed in Scotch plaid, with a bit of red ribbon in her hair,” Dorothea is marked as an uncanny figure only by the “look of profound experience, of bitter knowledge” in her eyes (56). In this story, the ghost functions not to scare but to expose the terrifying conditions of subjugation and confinement experienced by women in a culture of male dominance. Interacting exclusively with women, as is often the habit of literary ghosts, Dorothea’s presence creates a haunted space that subverts the male gaze and facilitates a powerful relationship between two women: the Victorian relic, Mrs. Maradick, and her independent modern nurse, Margaret. Through the characters’ interaction, Glasgow makes significant claims regarding the persistence of patriarchal oppression in modern American culture, particularly in the fields of medicine and psychoanalysis. Building on feminist readings of Glasgow’s ghost stories previously undertaken by Pamela R. Matthews, Stephanie R. Branson, and Emma Domínguez-Rué, I argue that in “The Shadowy Third,” Glasgow imagines the haunted house as a queer space in which women areabletoconvenewithoutmasculineinterference.Throughthefantasy of a daughter who avenges her own and her mother’s deaths at the hands of the ultimate patriarchal figure—both father and doctor— the story suggests the power of intergenerational bonds between women to unsettle the patriarchal order. Illustrating the harm done by male dominationinthemodernizingtwentiethcenturymedicalestablishment and suggesting a feminist critique of Freudian psychoanalytic theory, Glasgow uses the haunted relationship between Margaret and Mrs. Maradick to expose the insidious new forms of masculine tyranny obscured, in the modern day, by conventional narratives of historical progress. In “The Shadowy Third,” Glasgow demonstrates skepticism for modern medical practitioners—undoubtedly informed by her own 354 Emily Banks lengthy history of illness—through the characters of Doctor Maradick and the esteemed alienist Doctor Brandon. When Margaret Randolph, a young nurse, is charged with caring for Mrs. Maradick, the ailing wife of the excessively popular Doctor Maradick, she is able to see the ghost of Mrs. Maradick’s daughter, Dorothea, which the doctors insist is the patient’shallucination.TheolderwomanrevealstoMargaretthatDoctor Maradick killed Dorothea for her inheritance, but the nurse has little power to argue with the doctors, who ultimately send Mrs. Maradick to an asylum where she dies. As is often the case with ghost stories, Glasgow allows room for disbelief, and some earlier critics read Margaret as an unreliable narrator whose belief in the ghost demonstrates her psychological abnormality. Julius Rowan Raper understands the ghost, who, at the end of the story, causes Doctor Maradick to fall to his death, as “the phantasy through which Margaret deals with her guilt” for startling him and making him trip while harboring feelings of hatred towards him, “as much for his choosing a woman other than herself as for whatever he did to Mrs. Maradick” (81). Though his reading has some basis in the text, it relies heavily on stereotypes of feminine jealousy, and fails to consider the complexities of gender relations in American medicine at the time of the story’s publication. As Branson argues, “One of the consistent ironies of the story is that medical men (Drs. Maradick and Brandon) whose job it is to heal harm instead” (82). An understanding of the changing place of doctors in American culture at this time and the effect of this shift on women prompts a reading that gives more credit to Margaret and Mrs. Maradick, situating Doctor Maradick as a representation of the dangerous allure of twentiethcentury medicine and its harmful results for women. The doctor’s mystical appeal to women creates a cult-like aura reflective of the male-dominated culture of the rising American medical industry in the early twentieth century. In The Social Transformation of American Medicine, Paul Starr describes the industry’s growth in this time period: “During and after the First World War . . . physicians’ incomes grew sharply; and their prestige, aided by the successes of medicalscience,becamesecurelyestablishedinAmericanculture”(260). Oddly, though, this growth did not open doors to aspiring female doctors; as...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2689-517X
Print ISSN
0026-637X
Pages
pp. 353-370
Launched on MUSE
2020-01-28
Open Access
No
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