"North And South" By Elizabeth Gaskell, "The Bishop Orders His Tomb" And "My Last Duchess," Robert Browning

1696 words - 7 pages

"This idea that individuals can ever be autonomous from society in which they live is nonsense. I wanted to explore just how hard it is for an individual, especially a woman, to determine a sense of self. If you still think there is freedom in my text, it is an illusion by you, not by me."The provided text reveals an imagined composer's thoughts. Evaluate the extent to which the thought is expressed in this elective, and how those ways of thinking are expressed.From what the imagined composer has stated, it is obvious that he (assuming male) did not believe that individuals, especially women can obtain freedom, in the 19th century society. Through studying the texts "North and South," "The Bishop Orders His Tomb" and "My Last Duchess," it is realised that his words have a certain extent of truth. The ways of thinking expressed in those two texts supports the statement, revealing the difficulty encountered by women in determining a sense of self. However, the protagonists in the texts ultimately manage to free themselves from the expectations of society. While the freedom is not complete, it is definitely not an illusion, as the heroines have to undergo great change to achieve the freedom.In North and South, the gender paradigms are explored in depth through the voice of Margaret Hale who challenges the structure of women in society. She is depicted as an unique individual in her society, as she is a middle class women who acquired an liberal education in economics and social sciences. This was demonstrated firstly by her learning the specialised jargon that the traders and workers used like 'clem' and 'knobstick'. After that, Margaret was able participate in the jargon-filled discussions regarding the matter of trade "She knew enough now to understand…even some of the technical words employed by eager mill owners" demonstrating her stepping outside the conventional women's role by actively participating in commercial matters normally outside their domain. She is continually contrasted against the women of her time through their behaviour. At the dinner party "the ladies, for the most part, were silent, employing themselves in taking notes of the dinner and criticizing each other's dresses," while the gentlemen and Margaret were having an "animated conversation" about trade. The juxtaposition of activity differentiates Margaret from the other women, displaying her to be an individual that is different to the paradigms, a result of her acquisition of knowledge. Her individualism is highlighted through her ability to step outside social boundaries such as telling Boucher's widow of his death. Previously, she expressed her hesitations through use of language at viewing Bessy's corpse "I never saw a dead person, No! I would rather not." However when Boucher commits suicide she takes a male responsibility of telling Bouchers widow as the men will not do so. This role reversal is indicative of her newly gained freedom of action, as she takes...

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