Date of Award
University Scholars Director
Dr. Jeff Keuss
Dr. Christine Chaney
Dr. Susan VanZanten
Victorian England, English literature, Mary Barton, North and South, Ruth, Wives and Daughters
Elizabeth Gaskell takes advantage of the aura of change and ascribes a new vocabulary to Victorian womanhood, one that allows women to be active members of society as well as mothers. The topsy-turvy nature of Victorian society allowed for such changes to be instituted, and Gaskell challenges the female stereotypes of the day. Gaskell’s heroines must struggle with their preconceived, powerless notions of womanhood and the expectations placed upon them by society. This struggle often begins when patriarchal structures fail them and they are left to their own devices. Unlike in other Victorian novels, when women do become powerful, they are not satirized or demonized, but instead, they are praised for creating new roles for themselves. A primary way in which the women in Gaskell’s novels exert their power is through family settings. They remain relatable, even while conveying some discreetly radical ideas.
Tobias, Charis, "Giving Power to the Powerless: Elizabeth Gaskell's Presentation of Women in an Age of Change" (2014). Honors Projects. 9.