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Elizabeth Gaskell is unfairly biased against men and blindly prejudiced against women in The Half-Brothers and The Manchester Marriage. Do you agree?

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Introduction

Elizabeth Gaskell is unfairly biased against men and blindly prejudiced against women in The Half-Brothers and The Manchester Marriage. Do you agree? The Half-Brothers and The Manchester Marriage were written a long time ago in Elizabeth Gaskell's lifetime - which was in the mid-nineteenth century. Roles of men and women were different to what they are right now - they were (as you can expect) a bit more backwards to roles of men and women today. In order to elaborate whether Gaskell was prejudiced and biased against men and women, we need to see what the stereotypes of males and females were in that era. The Industrial Revolution had just started, so women had started to work (out of the house), but only just. Most women were expected to stay at home, do household chores, look after the children and be dutiful wives. Women of this role were probably stereotyped as being very 'feminine'- in a sense that they were shy, gentle, dutiful and possibly secondary to men. In some cases, they were seen as to being 'owned' by their husbands or fathers, and so were expected to be obedient creatures- at least towards men - and the image of men? Well, men were the 'breadwinners' of the family - house-husbands were unheard of. ...read more.

Middle

This reveals how the men like to handle the situations, even if it is the woman's affair, and even if the woman offers to do it. Men also like to be practical - Mr Openshaw demonstrates this by considering himself "too practical" to even have a wife. Even though he does propose later on in the story, when he does he hides any emotion, proposing in as an "indifferent voice as he could assume." Here, you see a man in the story being unemotional about a sensitive a matter as proposing! William Preston in The Half-Brothers also appears as unemotional - he "always kicked whenever he saw" his stepson's dog, and he would try to get his shepherd "to speak of [his stepson's] faults." Frank, from The Manchester Marriage, also seems to fit this generalization of men. Although he cares for his wife, his love is "violent", which gives the image of being the opposite of loving and gentle. Gaskell seems to be portraying men as unemotional human beings, but is she correct in doing so? Before that question can be answered, more areas of the different characters still need to be explored. Although uptil now in this essay it seems as though man and women in Gaskell's stories fit into categories, there is still another side to the characters... ...read more.

Conclusion

The title of the essay, the end of which reads, 'Do you agree?' leads me to form my own conclusions, which have to consider all the points explored. It seems to me that in some ways, one could say that the men and women have been portrayed according to the author's own opinion, and that the women have been stereotyped. To a certain extent, the title's statement is partly true, but I don't think that they are 'blind' prejudices or 'unfair' opinions. The author grew up in a time when men and women had very distinct roles in life, not as overlapping as they are now, and that some of the differences shown just reflects the view as society in that time perceived it. Women probably were more timid and submissive in those days - they didn't have any rights. As for the men, the same goes to them. They probably were less emotional and more authoritative - and the stories just reflect that. However, the stories also show that men and women are different and that women can have strong personality traits, and men can be gentle, so I think that Gaskell has portrayed them in a fair manner by showing the different characteristics of men and women, but at the same time allowing the readers to see that they are not all as they seem...so I have to say that I disagree with the title's statement. ...read more.

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