Complete Victorian “Earnesty” Essay

3151 words - 13 pages

Complete Victorian "Earnesty" The Victorian period exploded with new ideologies, reforms, industries and middle class mores. The powerful and emerging middle class of the nineteenth century affected the entire society during the Industrial Revolution when they took the reigns of power away from the high society aristocratic class. Women faced troublesome contradictions in the middle class Victorian world; they were said to be nobler than men yet still were considered inferior, they were expected to be well educated, but were not expected to seek knowledge for any ambitions outside of marital, domestic, or charitable duties, and were to only feel passions for children and husbands, yet somehow remain ethereal and desexualized. During the 19th century women were often put into distinct categories: womanly woman, women in revolt (feminist movement), and the new woman. Certainly it was difficult and confusing to live up to the Victorian gender ideologies cast on women and as a result an entire society of "politically correct" facades were created. Oscar Wilde presents three main female characters, Gwendolyn, Cecily, and Lady Bracknell in his parody "The Importance of Being Earnest", to provide insight on the new emerging woman, mock the plasticity of Victorian high-society institutions and rituals, and bring to light the hilarity associated with the desire to live up to contradictive and meaningless Victorian ideals. Throughout the century, a plethora of feminine conduct books spelled out the rights and duties of the womanly woman (the socially acceptable woman). These books stressed the obligations of womanhood, namely self-repression, patience, charity, and service to one's husband and family (Gissing 1). The Victorian mindset was that women were put on the earth to marry, honor, obey and manage their "master's" household. Women were often forced into marriages by their parents or financial barriers, regardless of desire for companionship or lack of compatibility. The pressure to marry often forced women into unwanted marriages, and the negative social stigma for divorce kept many women wedded in unhappy marriages. Sarah Stickney Ellis's conservative writings on matters involving women were highly respected and followed. Her books, "Women of England", "Daughters of England", "Wives of England", and "Mothers of England" became standard manuals in most households and promoted the dogma of women's inferiority to men. Stickley's central theme was that women should be content with their inferiority to men"”inferior in mental proportion as well as physical strength (Gissing 2). In contrast to the conservative Victorian mindset was a rising feminist movement that preached equal rights quoting the desire for a form of independence as one reason. John Stuart Mill was a strong advocate for women's rights and compared marriage to slavery. He believed that women were compelled into...

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