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What are your impressions of the relationships between men and women in the novel Great Expectations.

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Introduction

Gisselle Hull ENGLISH COURSEWORK GREAT EXPECTATIONS What are your impressions of the relationships between men and women in the novel? My first impression of relationships between men and women within the novel is that men and women had separate lives. They lived in different social spheres and they played very different roles in life in this era, the Victorian era. Husband and wife led very different lives. Women maintained the household, looked after the house and did the cleaning, sewing and cooking. The men earned the money to buy goods the household needed. With the exception of Estella who travels from Satis House to London, all of Dickens female characters are contained within the home. Men, on the other hand constantly move around. Pip for example moves from the private space of home to the public space of London. Men deal with the busy chaotic world of politics outside the house, and come home to a peaceful, family home which the wife looks after. However, it seems that very few of the relationships in the novel actually fit this ideal. What I mainly notice about the relationships is that very few of them are actually equal. The power is not shared out equally in most relationships, and this results in one partner being more dominant than the other. I would classify a 'normal' relationship, if there is such a thing, as one which is based upon equality. Both partners have the same amount of control over each other, and no one partner is dominant, one which is based upon love and trust. Surprisingly, there aren't actually that many relationships in the novel that actually match up to this classification of a 'normal' relationship. In fact, in more cases the one, it seems to be that the women partners are more dominant over the men. It seems that the female characters are very strong, powerful women that live upon their control and independence. ...read more.

Middle

It is more likely that Mrs Joe forced Joe into marrying her by power, by using her aggressiveness as Pip says, 'I supposed that Joe Gargery and I were both brought up by hand. She was not a good-looking woman, my sister; and I had a general impression that she must have made Joe Gargery marry her by hand.' Pip is trying to tell us that he thought that the only reason why Joe married his sister is because she made him, she forced him into it, because there isn't any other reason why he would have married her really because he says she isn't good-looking and she hasn't exactly got a fun, kind, loving nature to her, or a loving character either. Moving on, Pips first real relationship with the opposite sex apart from his sister is with him and Biddy. At the beginning of the novel, the relationship seemed to be based solely on friendship as Biddy taught Pip, as she was very wise, and he learned many things from there. She was sweet natured and fit the Victorians womanly ideal of 'the angel of the house'. Despite this, Pip did not love Biddy, even though Biddy did love Pip. The girl Pip loved was the cruel, heartless Estella. The characters that habitually surround Pip, (Joe and Mrs Joe) women are characterized by their masculinity and men with their femininity. The consequence of this reversal in gender roles is that he falls in love with the ice-cold, heartless Estella rather than the warm compassionate and loving Biddy. I believe this is so because he got so used to the beatings from his sister that he starts to identify female love with violence and pain. So Pip chooses Estella over Biddy for his sexual partner, but Estella breaks his heart, makes him feel unwanted and inferior but he still loves her. Pip remembers, "The air of inaccessibility which her beauty and her manner gave her, tormented me in the midst of my delight, and at the height of the assurance I felt that our patroness had chosen us for one another..." ...read more.

Conclusion

For example, Bentley Drummle has power over Estella, and he treats her terribly, even beats her. Jaggers has power over Molly and he uses her for sex. These examples make Victorian society seem like it was a society that enabled the abuse of women, as they were seen as second class citizens. Dickens questioned this as he portrayed this practice of the abuse of women in a very negative way. These two female characters seemed to be submissive in these relationships because this is what society set up for them; they're stereotypical roles in life. This is probably why these female characters were so easy to have power over, because they were submissive to the will of men. So they're male partners saw this as a weakness and decided to take advantage of this. I think that what Dickens was trying to get over to the audience was that the stereotypes in Victorian times were not necessarily correct and maybe women should be given more respect and not regarded as inferior or second class. Women were denied an active participation in society because it was assumed that their proper place was in the home bearing children, 'Denying women the vote served to perpetuate the status quo' Women weren't given any responsibilities, all laws were in favour of men, the laws suited men and women were left out. E.g. As far as married couples were concerned, the father had total control over his children and was permitted by law to deny his wife access even to her newly born baby if he desired so. This was true in the case of Magwitch and Molly, because he gave her child, Estella to Miss Havisham to look after. Great Expectations, Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice were all novels that challenged gender roles. This era might have created a society in Britain where women were regarded as inferior but it also amended it by writers and feminists challenging the idea. If it wasn't for them, then the role of women wouldn't have developed into what it is today. ...read more.

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