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The Victorian ideal of womanhood is The Angel in the house. How does Dickens(TM) handle his female characters in Great Expectations and how do they relate to this ideal?

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Introduction

The Victorian ideal of womanhood is "The Angel in the house". How does Dickens' handle his female characters in Great Expectations and how do they relate to this ideal? Ben A 11wd In Great Expectations, there are a wide variety of curious and eccentric characters, but it seems that overall, there are significantly more "curious" female characters (Estella, Miss Havisham, Mrs Joe) than there are male characters (e.g. Mr Pumblechook). It is possible that the reason for the high number of strange women characters might be down to one or more personal experiences in Dickens' life. Mrs Joe Gargery, for instance, was directly influenced by Dickens' mother, Elizabeth Dickens, who sent Charles, at the age of twelve, to work in a shoe polish factory in order to support the family, who at the time were locked in prison due to the tremendous amount of debt Dickens' father was in. Mrs Joe is an exaggerated caricature of Elizabeth, and the antithesis of "the angel in the house". The phrase "The Angel In The House" has its roots in a poem written by the British lyricist Coventry Patmore. He believed that his wife Emily was the perfect incarnation of womanhood; i.e. she was beautiful, obedient, polite, a good cook etc, and it was from her influence that the 211 page volume was written in 1854, and from that poem sprung the expression used to describe a proper housewife doing her duties. ...read more.

Middle

They all come from different backgrounds, and yet one deals out physical abuse to her husband and brother, one treats the main character with neglect and pretends to loathe him out of spite simply because he's madly in love with her, and the other murdered her newborn baby, of which examples can give us quite a good idea of Dickens' attitudes to class as it shows that there is no difference in how nice a person is just because of their status in society. Dickens is trying to suggest that the idea that it was the social class that you were brought up in that defined your personality and character in later life was pure speculation and had no basis in truth whatsoever. It is therefore an opinion voicing not only Dickens' personal and more subtly hidden opinions on women, but also another expression of his more widely-known opinions on the Social Class system of England in the Victorian era. Dickens had a "sense of social justice" in that he was a firm believer that the poor of the country were being treated horribly by the people further up the class system, and although he was no radical or revolutionist, he did believe that it was wrong and so voiced his opinions quite openly in his books concerning this issue. ...read more.

Conclusion

Dickens has a tendency to base the characters in his books on real people in his life, primarily the female ones. He speaks through his characters and so they become an advocate for his own point of view, feelings, and opinions. However, it should not be assumed that each and every character is a carbon copy of the women in his life. The women in Great Expectations clearly reflect the traditional Victorian ideals of his time. This is usually seen through the negative treatment of women who did not conform to his ideals. However, it still seems that all the women who have ever given him grief in his life are depicted as the most nasty, uncaring people on the planet with little resemblance to the woman depicted in Coventry Patmore's poem, and yet the single women who ever shows the mildest bit of compassion in his book, i.e. Biddy, is based on the woman who, even though she may have been not the right women for Dickens as she was unexciting and dull, he still has compassion for her, and so depicted her as the perfect example of womanhood, as "the angel of the house", which may actually mean he supported this particular view of women in the household after all. ...read more.

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