North and South Gender Issues

Topics: Victorian era, Woman, Family Pages: 2 (567 words) Published: August 20, 2013
In the novel “North and South”, Elizabeth Gaskell challenges the role of women in Victorian society through her portrayal of Margaret as a powerful and independent woman. During the reign of Queen Victoria, a woman’s place was in the home, as domesticity and motherhood were considered to be sufficient emotional fulfilment for females. Women did not have suffrage rights, the right to own property, and rarely had any control over their own lives. Gaskell develops the character of Margaret to break such social expectations. From the beginning of the novel, Margaret plays the authoritative role in her family, presumably in order to prevent her parents from suffering the hardships of life. As her parents’ only child living at home, Margaret takes charge of most of the practical aspects of her family and becomes the backbone of her parents as she strives to keep them content. She demonstrates these qualities many times, especially when her father decides to leave the Church. For fear of her mother’s reaction and in anticipation of the grief she will likely feel, Margaret responds with a “bright strong look on her face”. Here, she attempts to shield her grief and put on a strong front in order to aid her father. Agreeing to speak to her mother highlights her ability to take responsibility for such harsh actions - a trait rarely found in women of the Victorian era. Although “Margaret did dislike it did shrink from it more than anything she had to do in her life before”, she responds to her father nobly, expressing that “it was a painful thing, but it must be done, and will do it as well as ever can”. This further proves her devotion to her parents and her eagerness to keep her family stable. According to Victorian conventions, the responsibility of ensuring happiness and stability is the job of a man, while “the career for women was marriage and the home was a place of comfort for her husband and family from the stresses of Industrial Britain”. However, Margaret does not...
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