victorian women essay

Topics: Victorian era, Charles Dickens, Great Expectations Pages: 4 (1320 words) Published: February 18, 2015
Female Victorian women, in Great Expectations and Jane Eyre do not conform to their stereotype.

During early Victorian England, women did not have suffrage rights, the right to sue, or the right to own their own property. Women were seen as belonging to the domestic sphere. This stereotype obliged them to provide their husbands with a clean home, food and to raise their children. When a Victorian man and woman married, the rights of the woman were legally given over to her spouse. Under the law the couple became one entity where the husband would represent this entity, placing him in control of all that the both own. As well as losing money and material goods to their husbands, Victorian wives became the property of their husbands, giving them rights to what their bodies produced; children, sex and domestic labour. The man would also have ‘ownership’ over the woman’s body, meaning she would not have been asked for her consent to sexual intercourse.

Biddy and Clara Barley fit the disposition of the ideal Victorian women: both are caregivers. Biddy cares for Joe after Mrs. Joe Gargery’s death and Clara cares for her alcoholic father. In due course, Biddy and Joe get married and have a child together. Clara is also married by the end of the novel. These women are remunerated for taking their place in the domestic sphere. They will become optimum wives and mothers as they conform to the Victorian ideal of womanhood.

The fate of the women who do not conform to the stereotype of early Victorian England is quite different but consequentially much more interesting to the reader. Mrs. Joe, Miss Havisham, and Estella do not fit the Victorian stereotype of a good wife or mother. Consequently, when these women are segregated by what is considered the norm. Mrs. Joe Gargery, who has not even got the benefit of an identity separate from her husband is referred to negatively throughout the entirety of the novel. Mrs. Joe is extremely rude to Pip, Joe, and...
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