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Victorian literature Jane Eyre, Tess of the D'Urbervilles and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Dissertation Example

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This research aims to evaluate and present such examples of Victorian Literature as Jane Eyre, Tess of the D'Urbervilles and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. In each of these novels, the female heroine rebels against society and the strictures put upon them as women. …
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Victorian literature Jane Eyre, Tess of the DUrbervilles and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
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Download file to see previous pages The intentions of this study are The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Jane Eyre and Tess of the d’Urbervilles as Victorian novels with a feminist bite. In order to place the novels in the proper historical context, a history of the Victorian Age, as it relates to feminism, is necessary. The Victorian Age, according to Abrams was marked by a feminine ideal which was modeled on the Queen of this age, Victoria. Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901, thus the era was termed “The Victorian Age,” after the reigning monarch. Victoria herself, according to Abrams, was the paragon of marital stability and domesticity. She was the very embodiment of the home as being cozy and domestic, and ruled by the female, in that the female was the person in the family who was called upon to attend to the home and the domestic chores associated with it. Even after her husband died, according to Abrams, Queen Victoria still did not give up her focus on her home and her family, preferring to retreat to this refuge, as opposed to making public appearances. Thus, the ideal woman was modeled upon the reigning monarch. Just as the Queen emphasized home and domesticity, so should the woman of that particular era. Abrams also states that the Victorian mores were emphasized in the way that the ladies dressed. The fashion of the day, which centered around hoopskirts, crinolines and corsets, was a way of telling the outside world that the woman is not to be in the world of outside work. The woman was considered to be a wife, mother and domestic manager, and nothing else, and this clothing was symbolic of this. Along with dress, children, and the woman's role in producing and rearing the children, were also symbolic of the Victorian-age woman. The children of the home were the focus of the Victorian woman, and motherhood was not only idealized, but was considered to be sufficient emotional sustenance for these women. Motherhood created the woman's identity, so much so that if a woman could not have children, she was seen by society as being deficient, inadequate, a failure and abnormal. Since children's lives, and the woman's focus on these lives, were so important during this era, if a woman could not have children, she was expected to become a governess or a nursery maid to “make up for this loss” (Abrams, 2001). During this period, the woman was very much subjugated to the man. Women could not own property, could not vote and did not have access to a wide range of social activities (Visweswaran, 1997, p. 598). The woman was the property of the man. It was just this type of relationship which prompted Friedrich Engles to protest on behalf of Victorian women. Engles, who, as a communist, was quite concerned about oppressors and oppressed - the “master and slave” or “bourgeois and proletariat” saw a parallel in the lives of Victorian women, with regards to their relationship with their husbands. In Engles' view, the women had the same status as that of a slave, and, in the context of the Victorian relationship, the man was the oppressive bourgeois, and the woman was the oppressed proletariat. Engles also saw that the relationship was based upon this hierarchical view of authority, not love. Hence, Engles advocated for a relationship that was more egalitarian and based upon mutual love and respect, as opposed to a relationship based upon oppressing and oppressed (Boos & Boos, 1990). Also, as in the relationships between actual slaves and slaveowners, the relationships of the Victorian women and their husbands were often marked by violence, mostly alcohol-related, and neglect – women often starved when supplies ran low, while the men remained well-fed (Boos & Boos, 1990). This violence which the man perpetrated on the woman was one which was condoned both by society and the law, in the era directly preceding the Victorian era, which was the latter part of the 18th Century. As Wiener (1998) notes, bodily harm, as marked by assault, manslaughter and rape, were punished only lightly during this period – ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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