George Eliot’s The Mill On The Floss: The Construction Of Gender Roles

3446 words - 14 pages

George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) is renowned for her revolutionary views on gender issues. She herself experienced gender biases in her life, no wonder; she had to write under male pseudonym. She is considered to be far ahead of her times as she always supported higher education and work rights for women. Her writing made it explicit that she never wanted women to be forced into marriage and to be dependent on men. She struggled constantly for equal rights for women. She believed that rigid class and racial divisions were unfair although she knew it very well that during her lifetime, it cannot be changed. Nevertheless she made an effort to push these boundaries a little bit by writing novels whereby she could exemplify her views on life. As a result we have characters like Maggie, Tom, Philip, Stephen, Hetty, Dorothea and Gwendolen who represent gender inequalities in society. Her aim seemed to make her readers aware of the situation of women so that they can bring change in society and create a much better and brighter future for generations to come.
Eliot’s ability to portray life-like characters explains why there is so much fascination for her works among the readers. She has depicted Maggie and Tom’s character in such a manner that people mistook it for her autobiographical work. By delving deeply into the lives of these characters we can examine the impact of social conditioning upon the lives of human beings. The ideas provided in The Second Sex regarding the cultural conditioning of children could be easily seen at work in the character portrayal of Tom and Maggie.
The Second Sex (1949) was published much later than The Mill on the Floss (1860). This fact explains Eliot’s intense concern and awareness of her gender based society. But de Beauvoir did a wonderful job by providing a theoretical account of the gender discrimination in the society. In The Second Sex, she takes up this issue and discusses that the gender is not a biological but a cultural construct; it is something which is created by rapid conditioning of children and not just a matter of chance or result of something that happened in the history of human beings. She has also discussed the problems women have to face as a result of it. She delineates number of ways in which a woman can define herself as a free individual being; and rejecting the given identity, making her own choices and getting occupation i.e. economic security are some of them. Maggie seems to be defining herself as an individual when she tries to make choices of her own rather than blindly following her brother or father like rest of the women in the novel do.
By means of compliments and scolding, through images and words, she learns the meaning of pretty and plain, she soon learns that in order to be pleasing she must be 'pretty as a picture'....she compares herself with princess and fairies.
(de Beauvoir 306)
This statement depicts the significant role played by society in the mental...

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