School Papers

The and social interactions. The feminist movements began

The “Woman Question” refers
to the concept that arose in the 19th century which centered around the
debate relating to issues of sexual inequality in politics, economic life,
education and social interactions. The feminist movements began to grow with
the right for women to vote being petitioned in parliament in the 1840’s, yet
many of the women who fought for their rights in the earlier period were regarded
as having “disgraced themselves and their sex” (Stanton 11). Whilst
the vote was not granted until 1918, there was a growing “awakening of the
democratic spirit, the rebellion against authority, the proclamation of the
rights of man, were almost necessarily accompanied by the growth of a new ideal
concerning the position of women, by the recognition, more or less defined and
conscious, of the rights of women” (Stanton 2). Despite this seeming
growth of the awareness of female rights and the questioning of women’s place
in society, the 19th century also saw an increasing identification
within the rigid domestic sphere. Coventry Patmore’s poem “The Angel in the
House” (1854) helped to consolidate this ideal of the domestic angel, the
idea of the perfect woman as submissive to her husband, meek, powerless, and
deeply spiritual. Having now laid the foundation for the ‘woman question’ it is
prudent to examine the way in which the characters interact with the strict
societal barriers of Victorian England, and the way in which they are perceived
as a threat through their transgressions. In both “Lady Audley’s Secret” and “Woman
in White” we will examine whether the authors constrain or free their
characters, and how the female characters in the novel interact with soceietal
expectations and the reactionary nature of the patriarchy informed by a wider
fear of women as a threat to the nation.