Trans4mind Home Page
~ Making the Human Heart Visible ~

Looking for a better life?

Our online, interactive video workshops present the most effective methods of holistic personal development, combined with personal support from expert life coaches.

Explore Article Library

The Mysterious Female in American Romanticism

By Mary Arnold

The Mysterious Female: Elusiveness as a Means of Increasing and Prolonging Male Desire in American Romanticism

Several years ago, I read an article in a women's magazine which advised its readers to never let men see them apply their makeup or style their hair. Women were encouraged to retire from men au naturel, and then reappear in their presence with all their beauty ministrations completed. I did not pay much attention to the article at that time, but as I began thinking about "the elusive female in American Romanticism I realized that denying men access to female beauty rites would most likely create for her an aura of mystery (How does she do it?). And as evidenced in Poe's "Ligeia, Fitzgerald's "Winter Dreams, Toomer's "Fern, and the film Out of the Past, the mysterious and elusive female exerts a powerful force on male consciousness. He may love her, he may hate her, but he can never forget her.

In Edgar Allan Poe's short story "Ligeia, he explores the psychological effects of female mysteriousness produced upon a man. While the narrator of the story is married to Ligeia and, in one sense, can be said to "possess her, in another sense she remains aloof and perplexing. Though they remain married for several years until the death of Ligeia, he is never able to discover the "unfathomable meaning behind the eyes of Ligeia (Norton 706). The narrator is "possessed with a passion to discover the quality that Ligeia withholds from him (Norton 706). Her elusiveness captures his imagination, exciting a longing to know, and take possession of, the "secret of her expression (Norton 706). The narrator describes how in his "intense scrutiny of her eyes, he has felt this knowledge "approaching but yet "not quite be [his] and "so at length utterly depart (Norton 706). Even after Ligeia's death and the narrator's subsequent remarriage, he is completely unable to forget his beloved Ligeia. In his "opium dreams, the narrator would "call aloud upon her name, as if the "consuming intensity of [his] longing could "restore the departed Ligeia back to life (Norton 710). His refusal to let go of the memory of Ligeia succeeds in recalling her back to life.

In Jean Toomer's story "Fern, an extract from Cane, a man from the North is visiting Georgia when he becomes enchanted with a young woman named Fern. She doesn't seem to do anything other than sit on the railing of her porch and watch the landscape. Similar to Ligeia, Fern has "strange eyes, in that "they sought nothing and that they "gave the impression that nothing was to be denied (Norton 2122). Her eyes "desired nothing that [anyone] could give her, and yet most of the men who see her feel "bound to her and vow to themselves "that some day they would do some fine thing for her (Norton 2122). The men of the town dream about being Fern's secret admirer, sending her anonymous gifts, and being her knight in shining armor, rescuing her "from some unworthy fellow who had tricked her into marrying him (Norton 2122). Fern also preys upon the mind of the narrator long after he returns North. He, too, longs to be able to "do something for Fern, but yet he does not know what. Like Ligeia, Fern's elusiveness is solely psychological; she does not withhold her physical presence from people, but she does withhold her "essence." In Fitzgerald's short story, one can see the inverse of female elusiveness, i.e. a woman who does not keep back her "essence." Her elusiveness derives from disallowing men access to her physical presence.

The protagonist in "Winter Dreams is well aware of Judy Jones flawed personality, e.g. being self-centered and an incurable flirt, but Dexter Green cannot resist her charms. Judy can turn "her dark eyes upon him, and Dexter feels like "she [is] exerting some force upon him (Norton 2135). Dexter likens the pursuit of Judy to the "following of a grail, a romantic and arduous quest (Norton 2135). Dexter is "one of a varying dozen who revolve around Judy, and whenever one shows signs of "dropping out through long neglect Judy will shower attention on him to keep him interested "for a year or so longer (Norton 2136). For over a year, Judy treats Dexter "with interest, with encouragement, with malice, with indifference, with contempt, until he finally realizes that he "could not have Judy Jones (Norton 2137). He becomes engaged to another girl, but drops her when Judy saunters back into his life. Even though Judy stays with Dexter for a month afterwards, he never "regret [s] that night (Norton 2140). Because Judy is unattainable for Dexter, she remains firmly planted in his mind, and he "would love her until the day he was too old for loving (Norton 2141). The desire of men to obtain the unattainable is also exemplified in the film Out of the Past.

Out of the Past is a classic example of the genre of film noir. The hero Jeff knows that the femme fatale Kathie is a woman he should not become involved with. Kathie had shot her former lover and stolen forty thousand dollars from him, but Jeff doesn't care. He has become completely enchanted by Kathie:

Jeff: There was still that something about her that got me.

A kind of magic or whatever it was (Tourneur).

He knows he is being a "sucker by getting involved with Kathie, but he does anyway. Jeff asserts he is unafraid of her gangster ex-boyfriend seeking vengeance; he is only "afraid [she] might not go away with him (Tourneur). Jeff suppresses knowledge of Kathie's viciousness because he feels an overwhelming desire to have her for himself. When Kathie shoots another man, Jeff turns away from her, and when he finds out Kathie has reconciled with her gangster boyfriend, he begins to despise her. Even though Jeff refrains from being Kathie's dupe again, he still feels the powerful seductive, mysterious quality she possesses.

Mysteriousness, then, seems to incite a desire to find out, and elusiveness increases the desire to pursue and possess. Whether the female withholds herself mentally or physically, she seems to exert an extraordinary power upon his imagination, and her elusiveness only intrigues him more.

About The Author

Mary Arnold holds a B.A. in literature and history. She is an author on http://www.Writing.Com/ which is a site for Creative Writers. Her writing portfolio may be found at


Careers & Employment
Grief & Loss
Kids & Teens
Public Speaking
Self Help
Self Improvement & Motivation
Sexual Relations
Stress Management
Travel and Leisure

From our extensive site, you'll find good info on many topics using this search:

Support your personal development with these popular and effective hypnosis downloads...

  • Public Speaking Fear ~ Banish speaking anxiety and nerves with hypnosis.
  • Motivate Yourself to Exercise ~ Build a powerful exercise habit that you can't break.
  • Get Rid of Fear & Anxiety ~ Stop worry and apprehension wrecking your life.
  • Self Esteem ~ Break the negative trance of low self esteem and give yourself a chance in life.
  • Create Your Own Reality ~ Use the power of your unconscious mind to transform your life.
  • Deeper Self Respect ~ Use hypnosis to connect with your true inner worth.
  • Detach From Fear ~ Tune out nervousness and anxiety with hypnosis.
  • Improving Concentration and Focus ~ Learn how to discipline, direct and command your mind to improve your performance.
  • Exercise Motivation ~ Give you powerful keys to getting back on track with your exercise - and staying there.
  • Overcoming Shyness ~ Provides an invisible security blanket allowing you to develop social ease and overcome shyness.
  • Quick Confidence Booster ~ An audio hypnosis session that's specifically designed to get you (quickly!) back on track.
  • Stop Negative Thoughts ~ Learn powerful hypnotic techniques to stop negative thoughts before they start.
  • Overcoming Procrastination ~ Let hypnosis help you get on with what you need to do, when you need to do it. Let nothing hold you back.
  • Think Thin ~ Use hypnosis to re-train your brain and lose weight naturally... that's how to get and stay slim.
  • Fall Asleep Fast ~ Relearn how to fall asleep fast and enjoy a good night's sleep.
  • The Next Level ~ Designed to radically boost your performance in any field. It's based on a technique used by top athletes and other successful people to help them make a big stride forward.
This is our selection of favorites, but there's a session for every need! Choose from over 800 Hypnosis Downloads...
Search now on an issue that interests or concerns you...
Get a free Hypnosis Download at Facebook
Copyright © 1997-2016 Trans4mind Ltd