This article examines representations of gestural and rhetorical modes of male suffering in Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights and George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss. It argues that these novels, focusing on the transition from a traditional yeoman economy to a system of capitalist property ownership, present male suffering as authentic and histrionic, indicative of both power and powerlessness, and as an attempt to manage perceived threats to the self. By depicting male psychic pain in this way, Brontë and Eliot attempt to locate the source for the violence men inflict on women in an unreconstructed liberalism—rather than an entrenched cultural hostility—that can be transformed through female sympathy as the basis for reciprocal familial relations. However, Brontë's and Eliot's depictions actually give rise to a paradox in which male authority relies on female sympathy to keep it intact.

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