Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Project

University Scholars Director

Dr. Jeff Keuss

First Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Christine Chaney

Second Advisor/Committee Member

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.


A project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the University Scholars Program.

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