Byatt’s novel Possession. Although the novel tells a fictional tale of two literary scholars tracking down evidence of a love affair between two Victorian era poets, episodes dedicated to the poets themselves reveal a great deal of information regarding the way of life of women during this period in history. Unlike much of the non-fiction articles that have been written about life in Victorian England and elsewhere, Byatt’s novel provides a glimpse of several different women during this period that held quite opposing views regarding their individual sexualities. By tracing through the novel Possession and comparing it with non-fictional accounts of this period and critical evaluation, one can begin to gain a sense of how women had been severely restricted in their options in Victorian society as well as how they rebelled or worked within it to achieve their own sense of sexuality.
There are three principle female characters involved in the Victorian portion of the novel, each with her own strengths and weaknesses demonstrating how she has both conformed to and resisted the definitions placed upon her by the strict nature of Victorian England. Christabel LaMotte is a scholar and minor poetess who is the object of Randolph Henry Ash’s fascinated attention. Blanche Glover is the companion of Christabel, sharing her home and dream of independence but not able to retrieve the same sense of fulfillment as she does not receive recognition for her actions. A fourth woman, Sabine Kercoz, Christabel’s younger cousin, adds her own perspective regarding female sexuality during the Victorian age from the unique oblique of the French countryside.