Women and Pets as Domestic Objects

The print “Fannie’s Pets” captured my eye as it appears to be one of the most dynamic prints in the way the subjects appear to be moving, and who doesn’t adore the cute animals? The print features a woman outside, perhaps in a small garden, interacting with many species of birds: parakeets, ducks, a rooster, a peacock, etc. The light shines upon her and the animals so the audience’s attention immediately is drawn to those subjects. Behind the woman, on the left of the print, is a man crouched down in the dark, observing her.

This print brings to mind the role of Count Fosco in The Woman in White and his interaction with women and animals. The woman in the print seems to be interacting with the animals very naturally, while Count Fosco’s interactions with his pets are very strategic due to his training of them. He gives his pets treats when they perform to his satisfaction. He goes as far to call his birds his “children” (270). Count Fosco also gives his wife treats as she gives him his cigarettes which seems to parallel his treatment of his pets. He does not seem to have much of a sense of humanity or intimacy, instead his wife and his pets are objects of enjoyment and entertainment who are rewarded for how they serve him.

“Fannie’s Pets” creates a discourse with The Woman in White that shows the roles of women and domesticated animals to be more similar than different under the observation and manipulation of a Victorian Man. From the male view (assuming the audience takes on the viewership of a man or uses the man in the work itself), the main subject of the print is a woman and her pets and their values are both in their inherent beauty and entertainment-value. When the image is read through the lens created by The Woman in White, the woman and her pets are just objects to be manipulated and observed for enjoyment. There is further symbolism in the image of the birds flying and grabbing the garments of the woman, and while it might be a playful action, it seems to also represent freedom. Birds have the ability to fly away and the woman does not. Yet, this brings light to the captivating qualities that Count Fosco has over women and his manipulative nature towards his pets and women which really leave no opportunity for freedom.

6 thoughts on “Women and Pets as Domestic Objects”

  1. I like that you wrote about the relationship betweens humans and animals and specifically the relationships these humans have with the animals. The woman and Count Fosco are so different, and I agree, the woman does seem to be interacting much more naturally with the animals than Count Fosco does. In another person’s close reading on here of Fannie’s Pets ( http://blogs.dickinson.edu/victorianlit/2016/10/11/close-reading-of-fannies-pets/ ), they make the point that the animals are symbolic of purity and some sexual desire. This ties in nicely with your idea of control (especially how Count Fosco, a male, is controlling and manipulative towards his animals). Fannie’s Pets clearly shows that this woman is not controlling the animals, she is simply being with them, she is living her life, with them present. This commentary helps to further your idea about control and I think it is really interesting.

  2. I enjoyed the connection you made between the figures in the image and the Foscos. I agree that the way each person treats the animals is very different, and in the Count’s case, intentional.

    I also really like your point about women as domesticated animals, particularly as I have been thinking about this in relation to Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. The two queens turn into cats at the end of Looking Glass and the way animals and humans are treated similarly. I also noticed when both the unicorn and Alice are called “monsters” by each other (Carroll 192). I found this to be a more direct version of referring to women as creatures frequently in many works, and the relationship we have discussed between women and nature in art.

  3. I really liked how this post connected the imagery of women shown with pets and how Count Fosco interacts disturbingly similarly with both his pets and his wife. It would have been interesting to see how both the woman in the picture and Countess Fosco are both subject to the male gaze, and how this male gaze perpetuates rigid Victorian gender norms. For example, the woman in the picture is excessively feminine: beautiful, maternal portrayal with her interactions with animals and ,above all, completely unbothered by the fact that man crouching in the shadows derives what seems to be some kind of voyeuristic pleasure from watching her. This could also be said about Countess Fosco: she too is subject to the gaze and treatment of Count Fosco, which ultimately shapes many of her actions throughout the novel.

  4. Great connection! Reading your post made me realize that although Count Fosco is very similar to the man lurking behind Fannie (?), he is also like Fannie himself. He somehow seems to put himself in the spotlight quite often like she seems to be doing here. He also lets his mice run up his arm and always seems to be surrounded by animals. Here, the birds are perched on Fannie as other animals gather at her feet. So, I feel as though this picture shows the two sides of Fosco: his “masculine side” and his “feminine side”.

  5. The focus on pets in Victorian novels is incredibly interesting, especially as you remarked on the manipulative power that Count Fosco exercises over his pets in The Woman in White, paralleling the control of men over woman in this era. I find it interesting that in Alice in Wonderland, it ends up being a little girl who often exhibits control over either her pets (Dinah and the kittens) or characters in the novel, such as the King and Queen chess pieces that she lifts into the air. Although, despite Alice attempting to have authority, she is constantly mocked and degraded throughout the novel, placing her back within the realm of a female who can’t do or say anything right.

  6. The use of women and animals as domestic objects in “Fannies Pets” and The Woman in White is contrasted really interestingly against the woman and the snake featured in “Salambo.” Instead of portraying the female subject or her relationship with an animal as an ordinary facet of daily life, the artist has chosen to exoticize them, and the sexualization of the woman in that second painting is much more overt. This seems to deal with race. The white woman and the ‘exotic’ woman are both objectified, but one is infantilized and the other could very well be a femme fatal.

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