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Vivie Warren Essay

2221 words - 9 pages

The Victorian era was remarkable for its rigid gender roles, which defined societal interactions. The prototypical Victorian woman existed in the domestic sphere, where she acted as a moral compass to guide her husband and children toward traditional morality. This vision was mostly limited to the middle and upper classes, but if her family’s circumstances were good, the Victorian woman might have spread her domestic, moralizing influence outside of her home to help the less fortunate. The Victorian man, on the other hand, occupied the public sphere, where he dealt with business and politics, and the more complex moral codes of the two. His home was a retreat, where he could take comfort in ...view middle of the document...

” (Act 1, 1786). Praed believed that women have an inherent love of and need for art, and cannot comprehend that Vivie would simply reject it – instead, he frames her dismissal of art as ignorance. As this exchange immediately follows a discussion of Vivie’s prodigious academic achievements, Praed should know better than to assume she is ignorant, but instead he defaults to his own opinions of what a woman should want, imposing these opinions on Vivie and even other (arguably “New”) women like Vivie’s mother. “I am afraid you mother will be a little disappointed . . . you are so different from her ideal.” He remarks, despite the fact that Vivie’s self-composure and practicality closely resemble her mother’s disposition (act 1, 1787). Praed dismisses the two women’s similarities in favor of his own estimation of femininity, and its connection to beauty and art. In his reactions, Praed illustrates the challenge men faced in interacting with women who broke the mold. As an educated man of similar social standing, Praed should have little trouble communicating with Vivie, however, her dissociation from the Victorian ideal makes it almost impossible for him to understand her immensely practical stance.
The New Woman’s condescending attitude towards socially-equal men does not help to bridge the communication gap. Much as Mrs. Warren patronizes Praed (repeatedly calling him “Praddy” and ordering him about like a lapdog), her daughter takes a condescending tone with her contemporary, Frank Gardner. While the typical Victorian woman would be content to be wooed by Frank, Vivie takes a much more dominant stance on his actions – one that Frank doesn’t seem to understand. While she may let him call her “Vivuums”, Vivie ultimately calls the shots in their relationship, announcing “Vivuums is not in a humor for petting her little boy this evening.” (Act 2, 1799). Vivie runs the relationship, but her authoritativeness isn’t something that Frank easily understands. He’ll baby-talk her, but is clearly interested in her for the money he feels she’ll bring. However, Frank seems unable to realize that perhaps Vivie isn’t involved with him for purely romantic reasons, either. Vivie’s constant patronization doesn’t make the issue clear to him. By playing along with Frank’s childish charade of a relationship, Vivie reaps the benefits of his company without any commitment to hinder her, however, her indulgence often leads Frank to believe their relationship is real. This lack of understanding presents a challenge – as long as Vivie continues stringing Frank along, she has no chance at a real connection with him not just as a lover, but as a friend or even (possibly) a sibling. While she may not be interested in him, Vivie’s independence is unexpected enough to isolate her from potentially rewarding relationships.
Another of Vivie’s relationships that is squandered by the end of the book is the one she has with her mother, who, with her independence and business...

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