Resilient Heroines of Victorian Literature

As I reflect on all of the texts that we explored this semester, it is safe to say that my initial admiration for Victorian literature stands strong as ever. Throughout the course of the semester, I was particularly drawn to the abundance of connections that existed between George Eliot’s essay on “Women in the Nineteenth Century,” Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Charles Dickens Great Expectations, and Amy Levy’s Reuben Sachs. While I was specifically interested in learning more about the various criticisms of gender roles that existed during the Victorian period, I think the weekly research assignments really enabled our class to unpack the various texts that we read and offered a multitude of perspectives that inevitably influenced and challenged my overall reading experience. It was in these research assignments that I learned more about Emily Bronte’s religious upbringing, Victorian conventions for women in the domestic sphere, the bleak consequences of industrialisation, and anti-semitic values that were present in Britian in the nineteenth century.

While I will admit that I enjoyed reading Wuthering Heights the most, I was surprised and oftentimes intrigued by the parallels between Bronte’s Catherine Earnshaw and Dickens’ Estella. I quickly realised that reading these novels side by side, further developed my understanding of the limited space and agency women were afforded in patriarchal societies.  At certain points in our discussions on the domestic spheres, I even found myself thinking of Jane Austen and her social criticisms in the eighteenth century, which was evidently relevant in the texts that we looked at in class. Overall, I suppose it’s safe to say that the most interesting thing I learned this semester was that the women in Victorian fiction, in my opinion, continue to be among the most resilient and calculating heroines I have encountered in literature thus far. While this may be due to their sheer defiance of Victorian conventions and passionate dispositions, I thoroughly and wholeheartedly enjoyed reading and learning about the experiences of women in the nineteenth century. 

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