.Elizabeth Gaskell's re-writing ofthe Victorian stereotypes of women and femininity in fiction presents all categories of females. But, this study entirely focuses on single women

.Within the framework of the double-standard of Victorian morality, the issues of gender, class and sexuality affect more aspects of the social life of unmarried maidens rather than the married ones

.Therefore, Gaskell's interrogation of the dominant conventions represents an attempt to bring forth a new conceptualisation of femininity

.Aiming at deciphering the codes of sexuality and gender, the novelist constructs characters as personae displaying extraordinary characteristics

.On re-visiting the conventional norms, the denial of marriage by characters is a denial of its being the maidens' earthly ideal

.It presents a determined celibacy of old maids and widows. Women's unusual virility embodies Gaskell's aim at re-writing the widely-held theory of female loyalty and submissiveness

.To enforce this objective, the novelist constructs a multiplicity of portraits of female personae that testify to a diversity of possible femininities

.As such, the reassessment of Victorian clichés of single women proceeds through the revolutionary infiltration of feminine desire, as a code of femininity and sexuality

.However, if sexuality becomes a device to attain economic and social stability, working-class girls become prey to the system of exploitation

Therefore, Gaskell rises above the repressive norms of sexually deviant women to present them as personae exemplifying development from ignorance to knowledge and from innocence to experience

Through an infinite process of fluctuations between the male construct of womanhood/ femininity and the substantial desire of women's self-assertion, the novelist constructs personae struggling to attain self-knowledge as dignified human beings

.Drawing insights from the interdisciplinary approaches, Socialist Feminism and Gender Studies, Gaskell's audacious discourse makes a fallen woman die as a Saint-like figure

.Such a thought-provoking discourse on female sexuality accentuates the womanly bravery that testifies to the novelist's revived merit in the recent scholarship

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Table of contents Unveiling the self

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