Consider how the portrayal of the female characters in "Hobson's Choice" relates to the social, historical and cultural context of the play.
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Consider how the Portrayal of the Female Characters in "Hobson's Choice" Relates to the Social, Historical and Cultural Context of the Play In this assignment I am going to discuss the portrayal of the female characters in "Hobson's Choice". I will explore the role of women in society, both at the time the play was set (between 1870 and 1880) and the time it was written (1916). I will then go on to consider how far Harold Brighouse's characters fit in with the social, historical and cultural context of the play. The play was set in 1870. At this time, in Britain, men and women were treated very differently. Women had no rights. They were considered by men just to be baby makers and home planners. There were three main types of woman in 1870's Britain. These were: high-class women, middle class and lower/working class women. With the different classes of woman came different lifestyles. A woman of the upper class did not work. Instead, she was a homemaker. She would not do any of the manual work, but would plan who did which jobs on which days. A high-class lady would have had a lot of leisure time. This time would not be used to pursue sports, but to practice something cultural such as playing a musical instrument, painting, hosting parties etc. A high-class woman would have servants for almost, if not, all housework. This included raising the children, of which she would have one or two. They would be raised and taught by a servant called a governess. A high-class woman would have the chance at a good education. They would probably have been able to read, write and maybe do simple maths. The core of an upper class girl's education would have been learning the etiquette of the upper classes. This would be done at a finishing school. A woman of the middle class would probably work in a shop or office. Her job would not entail much manual work.
She moves back and starts dusting furiously.) Maggie's relationship with Willie starts off as a purely business relationship. Their marriage was not one of love but a business partnership. In the beginning, Maggie treats Willie a lot like a child. He is extremely dependant on her and she does not leave him to make his own decisions. She even writes his wedding speech for him. Furthermore, she engineers situations to make it seem, outwardly, like a traditional marriage, where the male is dominant: Maggie (rising and going towards the door): Then I'll leave you with my husband to talk it over. As the play goes on, Maggie and Willie's relationship grows stronger and more loving. By the end of the play, the relationship has developed into a loving one. Maggie is friendly with Mrs. Hepworth. When she comes into Hobson's she isn't pushy, as she is with Albert Prosser, but polite: Maggie: Can I take your order for another pair of boots, Mrs. Hepworth? Mrs. Hepworth: Not yet, young woman. But I shall send my daughters here. And, mind you, that man's to make the boots. Maggie: certainly, Mrs. Hepworth. This is because Mrs. Hepworth has a higher social status than Maggie. When Maggie meets Ada Figgins, she is very rude to her. This is not just because she is Willie's Fiancée, but also because she is of lower class than Maggie herself. If Ada had been middle class Maggie would not have been quite so rude and if Ada were high class and the same situation arose, Maggie would not come out on top, due to her inferior class. Maggie's marriage to Willie is not at all extravagant. Everything is kept simple and cheap. She has a brass ring, normal clothes are worn, only her sisters and their husbands-to-be are invited and the "reception" consists of a few sandwiches, tea, and cake. This shows Maggie's non-conformist attitude, as it is not at all a traditional style wedding.
Hepworth. She was born into a lower class family, lives as a working class woman, and will probably die as a working class woman. She lives with her mum, who controls her life almost completely. Her mother even had a hand in setting her up with Willie. Ada: Wait while I get you to home, my lad. I'll set my mother on to you. Maggie: Oh, so it's her mother that made this match? Willie: She had above a bit to do with it. Ada has no prospects for the future. She has nothing to aim for and says that Willie should sort her life out when he marries her. Ada shows fear of the upper classes when she comes up against Maggie. Because Maggie is of a higher class that Ada herself, she backs down from her. This also shows that she is timid. In conclusion, Harold Brighouse wanted to show the difference in class between women in 1880 and how they have changed from then to 1916. He accomplishes this very well, by portraying a stereotype of each class through characters in "Hobson's Choice". He then has a non-conformist, who goes against the ideas of the time, and, through her, shows how the women have changed. Maggie is the 1880's non-conformist. She is more like a woman from 1916. This is shown in the way she pioneers and also makes use of things other people look on as rubbish. Alice and Vickey are stereotypes of the 1880's middle class woman. This is shown in their attitude towards life, such as their belief that the husband should be the sole provider in a family or their dislike to work. Mrs. Hepworth is the stereotypical 1880's high-class woman. This is shown through her dress sense, her attitude towards Mr. Hobson, and her wealth. Ada Figgins represents the 1880's lower/working class. This is shown by the facts that she does not have any money, lives in a small, one or two room house with her family, has rags for clothes, and fears the upper classes. Ashley Doherty
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