Limitations in Victorian Society

As I was reading Reuben Sachs, one passage about Judith really stood out to me. The narrator describes that Judith’s outlook on life “was of the narrowest; of the world, of London, of society beyond her own set” (Levy 38). The narrator informs here that Judith had no optimistic outlook on her future and perhaps ties this back to what was said about Judith earlier: “[Judith] with her beauty, her intelligence, her power of feeling, saw herself merely as one of a vast crowd of girls awaiting their promotion by marriage” (Levy 35). As indicated here, Judith, despite her many good qualities (beauty, intelligence, empathy), views herself as an individual that could only rise in society through means of marriage. Judith is very likely limited economically by the fact that she’s a woman, for she specifies that she considers herself one of “a vast crowd of girls.” We see something similar in Wuthering Heights with Catherine I. When justifying her decision to marry Linton to Nelly, Catherine asks: “Did it never strike you that if Heathcliff and I married, we should be beggars? whereas, if I marry Linton I can aid Heathcliff to rise, and place him out of my brother’s power” (Bronte chapter 9 paragraph 87). Much like Judith, Catherine views marriage as the only way she and Heathcliff could economically and socially rise out of Hindley’s influence. We see two similar, connected themes here. The first is marriage being used as a tool for social mobility; the second is the economic limitation of women. As shown by the description of Judith and Catherine’s words, women typically had to result to climbing the social ladder through the institution of marriage because there were very few (if any) alternate, plausible options.

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