As Gavin Jones points out in his new introduction, Margaret perhaps stands alone in its creation of a female character who grows in social rather than domestic power. The novel also remains unique in its exploration of transcendental philosophy in novelistic form. Part eco-criticism, part seduction novel, part temperance tract, and part social history, Margaret is a virtual handbook for understanding the literary culture of mid-nineteenth-century America, the missing piece in puzzling out connections between writers such as Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, and Thoreau.
Margaret was widely read and deeply influential on both British and American writers throughout the nineteenth century but controversial for its representations of alcoholism and capital punishment. Judd’s novel remains resonant for today’s readers as it overturns conventional views of the literary representation of women and the origins of the American Renaissance.