Grey Woman Paper - 18th Century vs 21st Century Gender...

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18 th Century vs 21 st Century Gender Roles Throughout Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Grey Woman , it is clear that women’s gender roles were much more defined in the 18 th century than they are in present day. In 18 th century Europe, women seem to have had many expectations and restrictions that simply do not exist in our contemporary culture. Anna provides the majority of examples as she portrays a submissive young woman who is challenged by these gender roles throughout the story. We are first introduced to Anna as her father is trying to persuade her into marrying Karl, who happens to be her father’s favorite apprentice at the mill. She goes on describing how Karl is too much of a “real man” for her to marry. She knows that Karl is not the kind of man she wants, but also seems to recognize the gender role that marriage is part of what it means to be a woman. Anna feels not only intimidated by Karl’s demeanor but also by the idea of rushing into a marriage itself (He was good in the main, but I had no notion of being married, and could not bear anyone who talked to me about it 32). In today’s society, women generally do not feel this need for marriage, as it is not terribly uncommon for a woman to be single well into her life. Anna is pressured strongly by her father to marry Karl because he wants Karl to be part of his family, and he strongly approves of him. In Anna’s other ear, Madame Rupprecht was busy manipulating her to marry Monsieur de la Tourelle, so that she could regain social status (…I learned from Madame Rupprecht that she had written to my father to announce the splendid conquest I had made, and to request his presence at my betrothal. I stared with astonishment. I had not 1
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realized that affairs had gone so far as this 34). Madame Rupprecht’s social status was left in serious jeopardy when her husband passed away.
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