Essay on the Role of Women in Victorian England as Reflected in Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  2
Wordcount:  530 Words
Date:  2022-12-16


Victorian England's role for women was heavily influenced by their socio-economic status. This was determined by their class and gender. Women were expected to follow their husbands and fathers and be subservient to them. They also had to take care of domestic chores like housekeeping and childcare. Women were not allowed to pursue higher education or enter the professional world. Instead, they were expected to remain content with their domestic roles. Elizabeth Gaskell's novel Mary Barton depicts the reality of Victorian England's women's lives.

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Mary Barton's Struggle against Gender and Class Constraints

The protagonist of Mary Barton is Mary, the daughter of a former millworker. Mary is a strong and independent woman, yet her gender and class prevent her from achieving her goals. She is unable to find work, as employers expect women to be obedient and compliant. She is also unable to marry the man she loves, as he is of a higher social class. Mary is thus relegated to a life of poverty and drudgery.

The Role of Women as Caregivers and Nurturers

The novel also examines the role of women as caregivers and nurturers. Mary's mother, Mary Barton, is a devoted and loving mother, sacrificing her own health and well-being in order to care for her family. Mary's aunt, Mrs. Wilson, is another example of a woman in the novel who is devoted to her family. She is a widow and devoted mother who works hard to provide for her children.

The novel also examines the power dynamics between men and women. The men in the novel are portrayed as domineering and controlling, while the women are expected to obey and submit. For example, Mary's father is an abusive husband who dominates and controls his wife. Similarly, Mary's employer, Mr. Carson, is a domineering figure who expects Mary to obey his orders without question.

Mary Barton's portrayal of Victorian England women's lives is a good representation of the reality of Victorian England. With limited educational and economic opportunities, women were expected to obey and be subservient. Women were expected to be confined to domestic roles and to provide for their families without complaining. This novel is a reminder about the power dynamics in Victorian England, and how they affected women's lives.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Essay:

How did socio-economic status shape women's roles in Victorian England?

Women in Victorian England were heavily shaped by their socio-economic standing, both class and gender-wise. Expectations placed upon women included following in the footsteps of their husbands or fathers and performing domestic chores and childcare duties submissively.

How does Mary Barton's character challenge societal expectations?

Mary, the protagonist of this novel, is depicted as an independent and strong woman; however, due to gender and class limitations she finds it hard to pursue her goals and reach them. For instance she experiences difficulty finding work and cannot marry the man of her choice due to social class differences.

What is the role of women as caregivers and nurturers in the novel?

Mary's mother and aunt represent women as caregivers and nurturers. Devoted to their families, these women make sacrifices to ensure the welfare of their offspring despite hardships they encounter.

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Essay on the Role of Women in Victorian England as Reflected in Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton. (2022, Dec 16). Retrieved from

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