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 not good people and deserve what they get. It seems as though Dickens generalizes the entire female population as being corrupt and impure at the core. There is only one major exception to this trend of evil women. She is Pip’s friend and teacher, Biddy.
In the novel, Dickens displays Biddy as the feminine ideal. Biddy is the right girl for Pip. The reader can sense this early in the novel but Pip only realizes it until the very end. She is kind, sympathetic, and nurturing towards Pip and Joe. She is helpful, intelligent, and rather innocent. She is the only woman that is pure and genuine. Dickens gives Biddy understanding and a strong intuition. She is also the only woman that can provide for herself and think of others at the same time. Yet, with all these virtues, Biddy is seen as a plain, ordinary girl. Pip thinks of her before he left for London, “She was not beautiful – she was common and could not be like Estella – but she was pleasant and wholesome and sweet-tempered”. She lives a hum...
... middle of paper ...
...ndicates that people don’t have to be rich and proper to be happy. These two are better people than most of the wealthy and “superior” people in the novel. The only reason why Joe does not present the male ideal is because there are other admirable male characters of all different societal stature. Examples of these men would be Wemmick, Herbert, and Magwitch.
Dickens may not have had the malicious intentions of disparaging all women. Furthermore, his mindset can be considered a product of the time he had written in. There is though, an overall attitude of resentment towards women. Dickens was most likely using his personal experiences as a model for the women in Great Expectations and wasn’t very conscious of the sexist point that the novel appears to make.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Boston: Bedford Books, 1996.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Feminism in John Steinbeck’s The Chrysanthemums At first glance John Steinbeck’s "The Chrysanthemums" seems to be a story about a woman whose niche is in the garden. Upon deeper inspection the story has strong notes of feminism in the central character Elisa Allen. Elisa’s actions and feelings reflect her struggle as a woman trying and failing to emasculate herself in a male dominated society. Elisa is at her strongest and most proud in the garden and becomes weak when placed in feminine positions such as going out to dinner with her husband.... [tags: Feminism Feminist Women Criticism]
824 words (2.4 pages)
- A Feminist Criticism of Dickens' "Great Expectations" Of all the modern theories that are embraced under the umbrella-term of `critical Theory', feminist criticism is undoubtedly the most agreeable to apply. Drawing on notions and theories from psychoanalytical criticism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, and Marxist criticism, it seeks to bring to light the inequality between the sexes in literature, and how our entire social ideology is in fact structured according to `the male gaze'.... [tags: Comparative Literature]
1496 words (4.3 pages)
- Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941), a prominent English writer and feminist, was considered one of the twentieth-century’s most remarkable modernist novelists. The well-known works of Virginia Woolf are often closely related to the development of feminist reproach. With that being said, she was a rather distinguished writer in relation to the modernist movement as well. Virginia Woolf certainly restructured the novel, experimenting with her flow of thoughts and imageries. Although, not always appearing to be the work of clear organization or even solid structure for that matter.... [tags: english writer, modernism, biography]
916 words (2.6 pages)
- The Victorian Era began in 1837 and ended at 1901. This era is often described as the era where important, rapid change and development in medical, and scientific knowledge occurred. Victorian Literature was also important because its major theme was the injustice taking place during this time. This was when people started to voice out their opinions and thoughts that pestered them. In addition, Victorian literature influenced the priority of importance in modern literature. By comparing the ways in which young love in literature is achieved, received, and stereotyped between the Victorian era and present day, thus the Victorian era saw love as much more of a reward for hard work an persever... [tags: the victorian era, great expectations]
935 words (2.7 pages)
- The Screwball comedy is a film genre that found its way onto the screens in the early 1930s and lasted till the early 1940s. They were a consequence of the newly adapted censorship law in 1934 that restricted addressing adult content on screen. They therefore incorporated more comedic and creative ways of symbolizing topics such as sex and homosexuality. Screwball comedies were mainly based on plots that had conflict between social classes as their many premise and always had a happy ending which was almost always marriage.... [tags: Feminism Essays]
1816 words (5.2 pages)
- Feminist Criticism of The Great Gatsby The pervasive male bias in American literature leads the reader to equate the experience of being American with the experience of being male. In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, the background for the experience of disillusionment and betrayal revealed in the novel is the discovery of America. Daisy's failure of Gatsby is symbolic of the failure of America to live up to the expectations in the imagination of the men who "discovered" it. America is female; to be American is male; and the quintessential American experience is betrayal by woman.... [tags: Feminism Feminist Women Criticism]
808 words (2.3 pages)
- Previously, women have existed in a society ruled by man and have been put under the expectation to be at home raising the children and taking care of the home, while men were expected to go to work and provide for the family. Since the beginning of civilization, women have been victims to prejudice that eventually “compelled women at last to throw off the political, economic, intellectual and social shackles that bound them” (Joshi 13). The complexity of women’s hardship during the nineteenth century, in the fight for equality, resulted in many women getting arrested and looked down upon from their communities.... [tags: Women's Rights]
1676 words (4.8 pages)
- Margery Kempe did something that many people (especially women) would not dare to do- she broke away from the identity that her society had molded for her. The Book of Margery Kempe is one of the most astonishing documents found of the late medieval era and is the first autobiography to have been discovered. Margery Kempe does not shy away from telling the story of the personal and intricate details about her adventurous life. It is hard to say what influenced Kempe to go through such lengths to have her book written.... [tags: Margery Kempe, feminism, travel, ]
1299 words (3.7 pages)
- Pip's Excpectations in Jane Austen's Great Expectations In the novel 'Great Expectations', the central character Pip has many expectations thrust upon him by others, as well as himself, from a very early age. What do we discover about these expectations and the characters who 'demand' great things of Pip and does he live up to the expectations of himself and others. In the novel 'Great Expectations', many characters have expectations in Pip.... [tags: Great Expectations Essays]
768 words (2.2 pages)
- A Feminist Perspective of Paulina in The Winter's Tale Feminist criticism explores gender themes in literature, assesses the worth of female characters, promotes unknown women writers, and interprets the canon from a politically-charged perspective. Shakespeare has proven more difficult to categorize than other white male masters of the written word, precisely because of the humanity of his female characters. Critic Kathleen McLuskie urges feminists to "assert the power of resistance, subverting rather than co-opting the domination of the patriarchal Bard" (McLuskie 106).... [tags: Feminism Feminist Women Criticism]
694 words (2 pages)