Victorian Women Term Paper

Total Length: 1080 words ( 4 double-spaced pages)

Total Sources: -3

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Jude the Obscure," by Thomas Hardy, "The Awakening," by Kate Chopin, and "The Odd Women" by George Gissing. Specifically, it will show the Victorian women's struggle for emancipation, even if it meant dying for it. Victorian women had to live under many societal constraints which kept them subservient and shackled to their relationships. When women struck out for independence and vitality, they were crushed by an unbending Victorian society whose mores did not encourage personal growth and transformation for women.


Each of these novels portray a different facet of Victorian women, however, ultimately the females in these three works all suffer from the constraints of Victorian society, and each one struggles for emancipation and equality in her own way. Each woman lives outside the "norm" of Victorian society and works to become self-actualized long before it was a recognized or accepted concept.

In "Jude the Obscure," Arabella typifies what Victorian women were supposed to desire from their lives - a well-heeled man to take care of their every need and whim.

Arabella, however, felt that all these makeshifts were temporary: she had gained a husband; that was the thing -- a husband with a lot of earning power in him for buying her frocks and hats when he should begin to get frightened a bit, and stick to his trade, and throw aside those stupid books for practical undertakings (Hardy 57).

However, Sue does not abide by these beliefs, and so lives outside the norm with Jude out of wedlock, a shocking situation during Victorian times, when morals were high, and loose women were sinful.
She tells Richard, " For a man and woman to live on intimate terms when one feels as I do is adultery, in any circumstances, however legal. There -- I've said it! (Hardy 234). Sue struggles with the mores of Victorian times, and ultimately it kills her spirit and her drive for independence, and she returns to Richard, a broken and bitter woman who lives with a man she feels revulsion for. Sue embodies the Victorian woman who has struck out on her own, and has not been able to survive the rigors of going against the grain of society.

In "The Awakening," Edna is quite a different story. She too rebels against the constraints of Victorian society, and actually becomes a better woman for it, but she too cannot ultimately win the struggle. She becomes aware of her own body, and her sexual needs. "A feeling of exultation overtook her, as if some power of significant import had been given her to control the working of her body and her soul. She grew daring and reckless, overestimating her strength" (Chopin 31). She recognizes she does not need a man to survive, and that she is a vibrant and interesting woman. "In short, Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her" (Chopin 16). Edna has found herself, and has "awakened," but ultimately she discovers she cannot live the way she chooses in restrictive Victorian society, and death is preferable to going back to her old.....

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