Women’s positions in society are evolving on a daily basis. From conventional positions to new roles that straddle the line between male and women’s equality. Women have risen to prominence by their mobilizing groups and sought a change in their communities’ roles. They are tired of being referred to as “family housekeepers.” Women also tended to demand comparable political, personal, leadership, and occupational positions with men (Lantara2167-0374).
For example, the twenty-first century has seen an increase in the number of women in top executive roles. It has also been on record of having the largest women engaging in administrative areas and fighting for equal roles across the spectrum. Precisely, there has been a shift in paradigm regarding women roles in the society. A massive wave of change in roles has changed from commonly traditional roles to more complex roles that have sought equality of gender virtually in all sectors (Lorber 101-18).
Gender Role Conflict
There has been quite unceasing debt for some time relating to the gender roles. From the 18th century cutting across the 19th and finally the 21st century, gender role disputes have been common across the board. Whether in Asia, Latin America, Europe Africa, whatever the region, gender role conflicts in the society has been a debate that has been running the newsroom current issues debate (Kathleen 21-47).
Female have felt that the society has discriminated them by setting undeserving roles for them and having them to them whether they like or not. Many societies traditionally have low regard for women’s role in the society. They view women as of low esteem in the community and that their roles were basically for love and reproduction and after that, take care of the family. Women’s were not allowed to play counter roles to those role played by men. Many societies had one thing in common that women should remain at home, take care of the family, and that was all for them(Lantara2167-0374).
None of them was to go to work or even try to find a job even if they were to use the income to raise the family. This was a solemn role for men. Politically men were considered to be the best in political office as women could not withstand the duty political game. All leadership positions were reserved for men. It was very hard to find women holding a key office role, most of them were given low jobs with low pay and the top corporate position reserved for men alone Lorber notes the following:
“women are absent from the boards of large corporations and unequally represented in political governing bodies; occupations resegregate when dominant men leave because of worsening work conditions; married women with children at all levels of the workforce have prime responsibility for their family; prostitution pays better than other work for poor women and girls in many countries (101-18).
In addition to above Lantara also contravenes the statements by stating the following:
“Even if the women become the office head or president, what are required by these positions are intelligence and thought as the role holder” (2167-0374).
Contemporary Gender Roles
Recently, there has been a great change in the roles played by both genders in the society. What men could do now women are said to be doing it better. The political arena is now experiencing the largest number of women applicants varying for various positions. Corporate offices are now employing women in many of their topmost offices. Lorber (101-18) affirms that presently there are many women into political leadership of the world. Some have traversed to be the most influential premiers of many countries (Kathleen 21-47).
Also, she finally concurs that women are now holding top corporate positions in many companies opposite to what used to happen in the past. Women have sought equal gender responsibilities and roles which are not limited to the role of parenting the family. Men have now been called upon to assume these roles that were meant for women through many influential groups that are defending women rights (Lantara2167-0374).
The Great Expectation is a classic novel that vividly captures the role of women in most traditional society. The main female charters in the novel are Estella, Miss Havisham, Biddy, Mrs. Joe, Molly, Miss Skiffins. These women are associated with different roles in the novel. Each of them has a specific role to bring out as the charter in the novel.
In the novel, Estella is adopted to Miss Havisham. She is described to be beautiful. Estella is trained to be abusive towards men. However, after getting married, she becomes a changed person. Miss Havisham represents a reclusive person who was swindled by the fiancé on the very day of the wedding. Mrs. Joe is pip’s elder sister. She is abusive towards Pip and Dickens. She essentially raised Pip when he was still young.
Great Expectations has it setting in Victorian England. This was the time when social changes were greatly witnessed across the country. The 19th-century industrialization had brought a new face in the social class. Despite the massive industrial revolution that was witnessed in the country, it did not bridge the gap between the poor and the rich. The people continued to be poor while the rich continued to be rich (Kathleen 21-47).
Thousands including women were forced to migrate to the city in such of work for an income and take care of their family. In those days, men and women in England were supposed to have a deeper classical education, and their behavior was not meant to be compromised at all. In short, women could not do what a man can do and not the otherwise. The industrial revolution was accompanied with defined roles for both genders. The heavy work was given to the men since they were vied to be masculine (Kathleen 21-47).
In contrast, women were viewed as weak, and most of the time they were left at home to take care of their families or do the light work. These were the conditions that were faced by the charters in the novel making them anticipate more day by day and hence the title Great Expectations.
Role of women in Great Expectations
The role of women in great Expectations is diverse one and is discussed below. The main aim is also to evaluate whether the same roles that were performed by women in the 19th century are still being performed or there has been a change in their roles.
Domestic workers. In the Great Expectations women, the main role was that of a domestic worker. Women were supposed to take care of their family and not work for pay. They were considered to be weak, and thus all the work was performed by men only. For instance, in the novel, Mrs. Joe is forced to stay at home and take care of Pip who is a younger brother. She is termed as a woman of the house.
Most of her duties included taking care of Pip, cook food for the family and ensure that the house remains clean thought while her husband Mr. Jose goes to work. Women were not allowed to work to take care of the family. This role purely belonged to men alone. To ace this role, in the novel after Dickens had separated with his wife he is bitter and complaint that the wife could not even care for him and even the children in a letter to Catherine, Dickens exclaimed the following shortly before their divorce was finalized and Slater note the below statement according to Eccles:
“‘She does not — and never did — care for the children, and the children do not — and they never did — (135-172)
Women were viewed as feminists. Throughout the Great Expectations, women have been seen as feminists. They are seen to be protesting against issues affecting women in the society and the need to bring change forth. Women could go to streets to protest against the harassment they faced. This includes them to engage in hunger strikes for their grievances to be heard.
It was said that Mrs. Joe was described to be more masculine.In addition to this, women have been considered to be abusive. Severally, women were reported to bit their wives and demand control over them. The society did not allow a woman to command her husband. A major figure in novel known as is Mrs. Joe frequently humiliated her husband by flogging him. She even asked for dominance over him as she wanted to assume the roles of a man in the society. Consequently Lantara explains :
“time is changing where men and women can cooperate in various areas of life.” (2167-0374).
To amplify this abusive role played by women connection with feminism, despite Mrs. Joe acting cruelly towards Dickens and Pip all the time long, she sees no reason to be apologetic to them. Those women who were found to be biting their husbands were publicly humiliated because the society provided provisions for marital disputes but not to that extent where a woman could fight the husband or ask control over him to assume man’s role in the family.
Women played a role of a mother. Just picking directly from domestic workers, women have been considered to play a role on mothers while at home. They were to act and behave like mothers. They were to wash children, feed them, and even dress them.
Mrs. Joe is left at home to take care of Pip. She washes him, feeds him, and all the necessary a mother can do to a child or family at large. Conversely, as a mother, Mrs. Joe had strong emotions against her family. She kept a distance from them which were symbolized by the apron she used to wear. Mrs. Joe is described by Dickens as not showing concern as a mother should be towards her family.
In fact, they describe her as having a special way of cutting their bread to the extent that the apron could be left on it. Her non-matronly is excitedly the pins on the apron that she puts on. She presents a rare way by which a mother can take care of her family. Another source of contradictory involving the role of a woman as mother is that there rose a point of suspense when Mrs. Joe who is supposed to be taking care of Pip, turns around and become hostile toward him. She harshly treats Pip while bathing him.
Additionally, feminist’s role continues to be rampant throughout the novel as women the novel, female females that their roles have been limited to family matters. In this way, they show no concern towards men in the novel as some of them like Mrs. Joe are Describe to be masculine to just send a message to many that she is not ready to fall in their arms and time had come for women to fight for their rights, even in their homes which involved men sustaining biting frequently. This is one of the fights propitiating gender equality in the novels. Likewise according Lober:
“I argue that it is this gendering that needs to be challenged by feminists, with the long-term goal of doing away with binary gender divisions altogether. To this end, I call for a feminist degendering movement” (101-18).
In addition, Thompson remarks:
“Regarding Parenthood, we consider the images of motherhood and fatherhood, activities and experiences of mothering and fathering, and the gender differentiation that accompanies parenting. We offer recommendations for further research and encourage family scholars to conceptualize gender as relational or interactional rather than as an individual property or role” (845-871).
Revolutionists. Women have also been depicted as being the revolutionist in the Great Expectations. They have pioneered major changes in the novel. They have changed the mind of many, and their influence has been great. Estella is swayed completely by her mother’s commands in whatever actions she undertakes. This shows that women have great influence and ability to influence one’s life.
In summary, the aim of this essay was to examine the various roles played by women the novel Great Expectations. Gender roles in modern society have drawn many debates which never end. Social courts are full of cases relating to gender equality in roles played or need for more roles which were initially meant for me. The essay has revisited some of the roles in the novel played by various women.
The main roles that were of concern are, feminists, domestic workers, transformation role, and gender right protectionists, among many other. Throughout the literature, there seems to be a great change in manner in which modern society has been confronted with the growing concern over the need to give women more roles.
Nevertheless, Great Expectations by Dickens has faced many critics by many scholars. The critics argue that Dickens never understood women well and used the retrogressive society norms and perception towards women to characterized women in the novel. Many of them think that Dickens defines women in the novel and their characters too were substandard.
Dickens portrayed women as full of revenge throughout of the novel. She makes every character in the novel to avenge any person who had wronged them. Furthermore, Dickens is accused of presenting women to be heartless, people with no mercy or sympathy and ready to do what they wish to do. This is contrary to some of the characters in the novel having remained to kind throughout the novel. It is therefore wrong to come with a generalization that women are unkind.
Analytically it can be argued that Dickens characterized women in the novel based on the setting of the novel and the time frame of events which defined the roles of women. However, the novel has formed the threshold for assessing the changes in gender roles especially those roles relating to women. From the time the novel was written, women’s roles in the society have changed greatly through lobby groups. Many have become global leaders while others were holding key government offices. Also, women have now been well represented in corporate governance of many companies representing their achievements.
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Thompson, Linda, and Alexis J. Walker. “Gender in families: Women and men in marriage,
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