Gender Roles At Odds

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Gender Roles at Odds Throughout the course of history, women have been subjected to impersonal gender stereotypes that set them apart, if not isolated them, from men. Elizabeth Gaskell, in her Victorian novel North and South, exemplifies how these roles often place unfair restrictions on women, through her strong heroine, Margaret, a very strong and resilient character regardless of her gender. Margaret works through the pains of relocation, death, and humiliation in the novel, ultimately displaying her inner strength and perseverance. In her novel North and South and also in her life, Elizabeth Gaskell challenges the validity of Victorian societal gender expectations by highlighting the conflict between how men and women are expected to behave…show more content…
Erin Wells supports this concept of female strength in times of hardship in her article, “Strength in Times of Sorrow.” Margaret, throughout the deaths of her mother, her friend, her father, and her family friend, consistently tries to maintain a brave face. When her father discovers how hopeless his wife’s illness is, he “began to cry and wail like a child. It was so different to all Margaret had hoped and expected, that she turned sick with disappointment and was silent for a minute. Then she spoke again-very differently-not so exultantly, far more tenderly and carefully” (Gaskell 240). Margaret is the one who stays strong throughout her mother’s illness and the fear regarding her brother Frederick’s safety. She has to withhold information from her father to protect him, and acts as the confidant to both her parents, meanwhile feeling the fear of losing her mother to illness and the pressure of secrets and responsibility on her shoulders. In this instance, her father breaks down, and Margaret feels that she must be the adult. This shows a contrast in the traditional roles of father and daughter, but also between males and female. As the woman, Margaret is typically the one thought to first break down, while he, as the male figure, is supposed to protect and comfort her while remaining emotionally strong. However, when her mother dies, Margaret remains the strong pillar of comfort while her father and brother fall into depression, “Margaret always fought against her weaknesses…she tried to hide them from others…(she) declared that she would contain her sorrow and accompany her father to the funeral even though that was against the custom” (Wells). She bears much of the responsibility as daughter, child, and adult, even though she is a considered a “lady.” When she learns from the doctor that her mother is fatally ill, he walks

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