The Dominance and Empowerment of Women in "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens

Published: 2021-06-30 10:30:05
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In the novel, it is quite the opposite of the real history of women in the Victorian Age. Women in the novel are the more dominant gender whereas in real life, it tended to be men. However, his tactics are not to be mistaken for feminist efforts. When women are painted in a non-domestic light, Dickens creates a brutal nature around them. In contrast, when women are submissive to men, they are seen as compassionate and nurturing.
For example, Mrs. Joe Gargery, Pip’s sister and legal guardian. She holds it over Pips head that he was put under her care and often reminds him that he would be nothing without her. “I had known, from the time when I could speak, that my sister, in her capricious and violent coercion, was unjust to me” (61). Charles Dickens also uses many negative stereotypes of women from the Victorian age which still stand today. For example, Mrs. Havisham is portrayed as a wealthy woman who is desirable to be around by Mr. and Mrs. Joe and many others. They are elated that Pip has the opportunity to spend time with her in hopes that she will adopt him. However, Pip sees Mrs. Havisham as “waxwork and [a] skeleton that seemed to have dark eyes”. She wears white satin, something to signify purity, comfort, etc., but Pip sees them as old, discolored, and withered. This shows the deceptive nature that Dickens puts on women in his writing. Another example is when Pip, Mrs. Joe, and Joe are in the kitchen and she has prepared bread and butter, the same way she always did- aggressively- and it is far less than amazing. Pip hides his bread and butter because it is less than pleasant but cannot refuse to eat it with her knowing. Joe, on the other hand, eats the bread even though it is extremely unpleasant. While they are both frightened by her potential reaction, Joe is clearly more scared of the dominance Mrs. Joe asserts on the boys.Pip refers to themselves as “fellow sufferers” and it is evident that pleasing women is above all other things. Additionally, Estella is extremely manipulating. This is the stereotypical idea that women are always trying to get something from men. On Pip’s journey of self- betterment, Estella already seems to be a giant roadblock. The dominance and empowerment of women are seen as only negative in this novel.

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