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The role of women in society is very different today compared to the role of women in Victorian society, in the 19th Century. Discuss this statement with reference to Maggie Tulliver in ‘Mill On The Floss’

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Introduction

The role of women in society is very different today compared to the role of women in Victorian society, in the 19th Century. Discuss this statement with reference to Maggie Tulliver in 'Mill On The Floss' Since the book 'Mill on The Floss' was written nearly two hundred years ago, it is no surprise that society has changed, especially for women. The fact that Mary Anne Evans had to use a pen name of 'George Eliot' as she was a woman and her works would not have been published otherwise, shows alone what the attitudes towards women were. That of sheer insignificance in the country and in the social circle. In Britain today women stand side by side with men, in the struggle for Independence, and are also playing a key role in the search for a lasting peace and consolidated democracy for the country. Dramatic changes came mainly with women appearing in parliament, receiving the right to vote that is equal to that of a man. Women had scored some social victories as well, particularly the Law on Maternity, which provides for family planning, the recognition of consensual union as equivalent to marriage, equality of children whether born to a wedded or unwedded couple, and a cabinet office to promote women's development. ...read more.

Middle

Today at the discovery of intellect and knowledge, it would want to be perused and developed rather than ignored, as seen unimportant for a woman to have these qualities, which was a view of the past. In 'Mill on The Floss' Maggie's family environment is central to her problematic sense of identity as a woman, for instance, although her father praises Maggie's intelligence and quickness, he also maintains the socially conventional view that 'an over cute woman's no better nor a long tailed sheep.' Similarly, his reasons for choosing Bessy for a wife re-enforce this sexist prejudice. Her mother and her aunts constantly bemoan Maggie's lack of femininity, comparing her unfavourably with the epitome of the feminine ideal, Lucy Deane. In her constant favouring of Tom, Mrs Tulliver repeatedly asserts Maggie's inferior status. Tom asserts his superiority as a male and although they have had a similar view of the future (with Maggie as housekeeper to Tom) his assumption of the role of protector with the power to 'punish her when she did wrong' differs wildly from hers, where she will assume a conventionally male role as a source of wisdom. Maggie rejects the conventional definition of femininity in many ways, but her experience repeatedly defeats her striving for equality. Maggie clashes with the world of St. ...read more.

Conclusion

For her desire such an education is seen as an aberration and a defiance of her femininity. Victorian medical science considered women to be unsuited to extensive intellectual activity since their loss of menstrual blood meant vital loss of mental energy too. Maggie's desire for 'masculine' knowledge is related using images drawn from the biblical story of Eve's sinful acquisition of the forbidden fruit. Eve-like, Maggie 'began to nibble at this thick- rinded fruit of the tree of knowledge.' This image conveys the extent of Maggie's affront to social convention and the rebellious and sinful implications such as desire carries. In doing this 'she rebelled against her lot' and feared 'it was not difficult for her to become a demon.' Later, her hunger for pleasure, and for intellectual and sensual stimulation is channelled through her equally sinful sexual desire for Stephen. The formal education that Maggie does not receive is glossed over, possible suggesting the triviality of the education considered appropriate to young ladies. Maggie's social education is seen in all its painful detail. The warring with her mother over her hair and her dress, being hurt by Mr. Stelling's sexist views of clever women, and her father's collusion with dominant social conventions all educate Maggie into accepting her inferior status as a woman in a patriarchal society. This 'training' inhibits her development as an individual and leads to self-destruction and internal conflict. By Katie Matthews Mill On The Floss Dunottar School ...read more.

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