A Favorable Portrayal Of Women In Dickens' Novels

1185 words - 5 pages

A Favorable Portrayal of Women in Dickens' Novels
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A Favorable Portrayal of Women in Dickens' Novels

In many books and movies, women take a backseat when it comes to being characters of strength or impact. They are most always presented as the weaker of sexes, and can usually be found in a vulnerable position waiting to be rescued by the stronger, more appealing male hero. To find a woman of strength in a book written before the women’s rights movements of the 20th century, it would take a bit of scouring and detective work. Yet Charles Dickens provides multiple unnatural female characters in A Tale of Two Cities that prove this ...view middle of the document...

Rarely does Ms. Pross call attention to herself, and never does she put her needs above those of the greater good, fitting her perfectly into the role most women played in novels of the time. However, at the end of the story, Ms. Pross becomes a larger contributor to the plot when she takes on the role of defending good versus the evil of Madame Defarge. In their skirmish that may have well determined the fate of the Manette family, Ms. Pross “seized her round the waist…with the vigorous tenacity of love, always so much stronger than hate” (360). This undying, sacrificial love is a trait that Dickens obviously admires, as she shares it with Lucie Manette, another character of strength. Dickens refuses to embellish Ms. Pross the way he does with Lucie however, describing her as rather ordinary looking, and stubborn to no end. She does not seem to be an admirable woman on the whole so much as one that presents singular admirable traits. In spite of her flaws, Ms. Pross presents one example of Dickens views on the strength and determination of women.

A second character that shares the common trait of force and determination is the wickedly evil Madame Defarge. Dickens never tries to downplay the appalling immorality of Defarge, but still seems to elevate her among her peers for her unwavering consistency and calmness, for instance when the Vengeance speaks of her “as an angel!” (333). As the central figure of the peasantry leading their revolt against the tyrannical nobility, Madame Defarge commands respect and authority like few women in history have ever done. She completely overpowers her husband on her vengeful path of terror, yet he and many others share the view that she “is a great woman, strong woman, a grand woman, a frightfully grand woman!” (187). Madame Defarge in clearly represents an unnatural character, male or female, due in part to her bloodlust and unrelenting search to destroy the Evrèmonde family. Not surprisingly, she also not portrayed as an admirable character in any way, as she carries her strength too far and transforms it into the form of evil on many occasions, such as her skirmish with Ms. Pross. However, it is impossible to discount the importance of Defarge’s role as a woman for future literature, as she represents the most vicious and formidable enemy of the novel; uncommon in novels of hers or any time period.

The third female character whom Dickens portrays contrary to standard beliefs of the time is Lucie...

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