Textual Analysis: Fingersmith

Discuss the way that sexuality is presented, in the TV drama programme Fingersmith.


Fingersmith represents the sexuality of Maud, the lady of the programme, via the exaggerated sounds from the dress scene. The bristling of the dress, and the heavy breathing/panting, shows Maud is enticed by the look of the servant, and the closeness of them. The dress, which obviously belongs to Maud, the lady, contrasts the two characters’ roles within society. This is contrasted by where Maud placed the dress over the servant, as to show that she does not wish for them to be segregated and separate. This is further solidified via the narration from Maud, which is put forward in a soliloquy-styled piece, which shows her true thoughts and feelings towards her.

The narration continues through another scene, which showed Maud reading books, which were fixed by the servant, showing how the relationship between the two characters is very much appreciated by Maud. The scene is lit by a warm fire, which shows the warm love which Maud experiences when she is reminded of or is with her servant. The camera slides across the room, which immerses the viewer into the scene, so that they feel the appreciation and love which Maud also feels.

The scene in the bed, of the servant sleeping and Maud brushing her hand over the servant shows their mental separation – in the 19th Century, same-sex relationships were illegal. This is only shown further as she wears her gloves, which represents a physical barrier – Maud and her servant’s sexual similarities.

Outside along the riverbank, Maud is seen painting the sleeping servant. Usually, in the 19th Century, the roles would be reversed, and the servant would not be sleeping whilst her master paints her. This shows Maud’s feelings for her, as she lets this happen. Maud is placed  underneath a black sunshade/umbrella. Black usually represents badness, which fits the sense that Maud is in love with another woman, which was illegal at this time. In this scene, a gentlemen is present, and makes comments to Maud such as “She must believe we truly are in love”, which suggests that Maud is hiding her love from the servant. Her feelings for the servant are further presented when she asks the gentleman to “wake her else she’ll burn”, showing that Maud does not wish for physical harm to come to her. The quickly-cut shots between Maud and her servant’s body shows Maud’s desire for her servant.

The scene following, next to the tree, show’s how Maud is uncomfortable being put in that situation with the male, presumable of same status to her. The male, is easily seen as a heterosexual, is different to Maud, who presumably is homosexual. The contrast here helps to enforce the uncomfortable situation that Maud is being put to.

In the final scene, one where Maud is seen watching her servant undress in the firelight, is edited into a way where the shot is slowed down. This shows Maud’s desire for her servant. Furthermore, the warm colours (such as red and orange), from the firelight, shows the danger which her sexuality poses, but also shows the lust which Maud feels for her servant.


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