Education of the 18th and 19th century connects closely to the gender association of this period. Men from wealthy families were the only persons provided the opportunity to be educated at the university level. Just as many men use golf to prove their status and superiority today, these gentlemen pursued cricket and rugby. Another similarity with society today involves the importance of personal connections to further your education possibilities and business opportunities.
Social standing was extremely important during this time. “Manners, money, birth, occupation and leisure time were crucial indicators of social standing, determining not only one’s place in society but one’s freedom to act, speak, learn, and earn” (Longman p. 1886). Some interesting factors that determined this status, which I personally would love to see more of today, are loyalty, duty and public service. Instead of the elite being chosen by birth, ability and learning became the criteria for administration of society.
Frances Cobbe described the boarding school that she attended as a young girl. The tuition cost was 25 times what Charlotte Bronte earned in 1841 (Longman p.1888). Cobbe describes the importance of women from well to do families at this time to be beautiful, and occupied with knitting and gossiping. Intelligence and accomplishments were not pursuits allowed to women.
Charlotte Bronte described one of the few occupations permitted women at this time in her book Jane Eyre. As stated previously the income received for such grueling work was one twenty fifth the tuition of Cobbe’s tuition for boarding school.
Gender in Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance
Gender in Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance
The Blithedale Romance, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a story of a twisted utopia. This perfect world is twisted in that the roles of gender have a traditional utopian representation, only with a more contemporary take. Of course, this is interesting because this book was written and published in the 19th century when such ideas were beginning to establish a form for the genre of writing. Hawthorne combines fantasy, philosophy, mystery, gothic, and even [what would be called today] science fiction. This novel illustrates the early break from even fresh ideas. The writing style allows for the “genderizing degenderizing” affect as well as nature of the self.
Within most utopias, gender becomes androgynous in that the sexes are neither feminine nor masculine. Tasks and habits are usually equal for the two sexes and both are able to love freely. However, only half of these traditions hold true for this particular novel. Hawthorne’s characters can love whomever they want to, but are still held in the constraints of traditional roles. Though they try claiming that this will only be a temporary necessity to their community (“I am afraid we shall find some difficulty in adopting the Paradisiacal system, for at least a month to come” (17)), change never seems to occur within the community. The women, though they tend to migrate to the field, still tend to do the domestic work such as knitting and cooking. Throughout the novel, the women hold the positions within the house.
Another aspect of the gender in this novel is the physical, mental, emotional, and moral representation that the two sexes are distinguished by. Interestingly, Hawthorne never directly spec…
… middle of paper …
…racteristics of the other characters. Most women’s writings, especially of the 19th century tended to concentrate more on sentiment. Female writers were more concerned with abstract ideas that were not completely visible or obvious. Males, while still giving the same impact of writing, tended to try to make a concrete point via concrete evidence.
The Blithedale Romance, overall, presented a variety of writing styles and genres while approaching two of the main ideas of literature, both in the 19th century and even today. Gender may have been manipulated, but it still maintained a few ideas of utopia. Nature may have been discussed, but it was ambiguous. The complete style may have been traditional for Hawthorne’s own sex, but it still maintained enough variation to allow the reader to lead themselves to their own interpretations.