George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss: The Construction of Gender Roles

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Introduction
George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) is renowned for her revolutionary views on gender issues. She herself experienced gender biases in her life, no wonder; she had to write under male pseudonym. She is considered to be far ahead of her times as she always supported higher education and work rights for women. Her writing made it explicit that she never wanted women to be forced into marriage and to be dependent on men. She struggled constantly for equal rights for women. She believed that rigid class and racial divisions were unfair although she knew it very well that during her lifetime, it cannot be changed. Nevertheless she made an effort to push these boundaries a little bit by writing novels whereby she could exemplify her views on life. As a result we have characters like Maggie, Tom, Philip, Stephen, Hetty, Dorothea and Gwendolen who represent gender inequalities in society. Her aim seemed to make her readers aware of the situation of women so that they can bring change in society and create a much better and brighter future for generations to come.
Eliot’s ability to portray life-like characters explains why there is so much fascination for her works among the readers. She has depicted Maggie and Tom’s character in such a manner that people mistook it for her autobiographical work. By delving deeply into the lives of these characters we can examine the impact of social conditioning upon the lives of human beings. The ideas provided in The Second Sex regarding the cultural conditioning of children could be easily seen at work in the character portrayal of Tom and Maggie.
The Second Sex (1949) was published much later than The Mill on the Floss (1860). This fact explains Eliot’s intense concern and awareness of her g...

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...rk about Tom rightly sums up this argument:
[He] obstinately upholds accepted principles congeal morality in formal rules; but Maggie tries to put the breath of life into them, she upsets them, she goes to the limit of her solitude and emerges as a genuine free being, beyond the sclerosed universe of males. (Beauvoir 385)

Works Cited

de Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. Trans. & Ed. H. M. Parshley. London: Penguin, 1972. Print.
Eliot, George. The Mill on the Floss. London: Penguin, 1860. Print.
Jones, R.T. George Eliot. London: Cambridge UP, 1970. 19-30. Print.
Newton, Judith Lowder. Women, Power and Subversion: Social Strategies in British Fiction 1778-1860. NY: U Georgia P, 1981. Google Book Search. Web. 25 Oct. 2012.
Purkis, John. A Preface to George Eliot. London: Longman, 1985. 72. Print.
Tidd, Urusula. Simone de Beauvoir. London: Routledge, 2007. Print.

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