Final paper

Final paper - How Radical Were the Changes in Gender...

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How Radical Were the Changes in Gender Relationships in this Period? The Victorian era of Great Britain is considered the height of the British industrial revolution and the apex of the British Empire. The period is ostensibly characterized by peace and economic, colonial, and industrial consolidation (Wilson 93). Behind this glossy facade however, lurked a sinister flaw. The Victorian era was also noted for the
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vision of the "ideal women," which was the common perception shared by most in the society. In short, women were expected to embody all that is good and not expect any reward or recognition. Essentially, women were property in the eyes of the law. The desire of society to opress women during this time leads one to question why? The belief of women as manipulators by utilizing their sexual poweress servd as a large factor in the answer to this question. To gain a better insight on the belief that women should use their sexuality as a way to gain power is conveyed in works of the Victorian era. Given that women who expressed their sexuality were considered unrespectable by mainstream Victorian society, writers evoked thought on why this was wrong by presenting ideas such as the image of the “New Woman” (Ardis 10) The last two decades of the 19th century saw the birth of the new Victorian woman; she was the “New Woman.” This label applied to many types of power-seeking females, ranging from women who wanted their own careers to women who desired sexual liberation. Writers such as Kate Chopin and Charlotte Perkins Gilman greatly contributed to the creation of this new figure through their works, The Awakening and The Yellow Wallpaper, respectively. However, it would be a great mistake to characterize these writers as conventional feminists. Both writers rejected the generic feminist label and distanced themselves from their feminist contemporaries by pushing the boundaries of “conventional morality.” The impact of these works is significant in British history because they helped shape the attitudes of feminists and suffragists who came to follow in the 20th century (Ardis 167). The aim of these works was to make acceptable the desires of women to express their need to find fulfillment through work, motherhood, sex, and love. This 2
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analysis will show the relationship between Kate Chopin and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s treatment of sexuality and the desire for expression and equality. In order to achieve this objective, a detailed literary analysis of The Awakening and The Yellow Wallpaper , will be focused on how the power-through-sex concept is successfully, or perhaps unsuccessfully, exploited by the female characters. Both writers succeed in capturing two women’s struggle to communicate their wants and desires within a highly structured society that acts to suppress such expressions. Edna Potellier from The Awakening, and Gilman’s nameless woman, imprisoned by social structures they despise, abandon the expectations and duties
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This note was uploaded on 08/03/2010 for the course HIST 204 at Cornell.

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Final paper - How Radical Were the Changes in Gender...

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