Feminism in Great Expectations Essay

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Feminism in Great Expectations Biddy as the Anti-Feminist Feminine Ideal

Charles Dickens’ portrayal of the female gender in the novel Great Expectations is generally one of disdain. Pip typically encounters women who are mean-spirited, self-centered, and unsympathetic. Throughout the novel Pip is in conflict with women who treat him poorly. He is the subject of Mrs. Joe’s tyrant-like upbringing “by hand.” He is the tool of Ms. Havisham’s warped education of Estella. Most of all, Pip must endure the total disregard of his strongest emotions by his great love, the cold Estella. For the most part, Dickens does not intend the reader to have much sympathy for these characters when a tragedy has befallen them. At their roots, they are
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She never really becomes angry at Pip for the mean comments he makes about her or how he forgets about her and Joe. She is always happy for Pip and seems to care for him unconditionally. She embodies the antithesis of everything that makes Mrs. Joe, Ms. Havisham, and Estella so deplorable.

Dickens’ representation of Biddy as the ideal woman is not a very flattering perspective on women. The fact that she does have all these great qualities and an almost flawless character yet is happy with her small role in life can be paralleled with the ideal housewife of the 1950’s. Growing up in that time, a girl was expected to be sweet, obedient, and well mannered. After she graduated from school, a girl would eventually fall in love and marry. At this point she would be considered a woman and ready to start a family of her own. She would maintain the demeanor of a woman that has it all together. She was expected to keep up her appearance along with the appearance of her entire family. The next big step would be to watch her children marry and have kids of their own. There was no thought of a college degree or a high salary. If the family needed money, the housewife could become a teacher, or nurse, or any other position typically designated for a woman. This was the submissive role of the majority of women during the middle of the 20th century.

Biddy, as the ideal woman of the 1800’s, would fit this

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