One of the ideas repeatedly emphasized in Wuthering Heights was the opposing settings of Thrusscross Grange manor and Wuthering Heights manor. One is quiet, reserved, pleasant and sickly, while the other chaotic, abrasive and barbaric. I notice a similar dichotomy in the settings introduced during the opening chapters of Great Expectations. Like Thrusscross Grange, Pip’s house is a sort of safe haven. Joe Gargary is a strong, wholesome and honest man who seems to be a positive influence on Pip. Pip’s sister, although she is harsh on Pip, she seems to provide slapstick comic relief, ie. threatening Pip and Joe with her cane, “Tickler” or with “the tar water.” The overall atmosphere created by these characters is comfortable and safe, which stands in stark contrast to the other setting, the marsh. Like Wuthering Heights manor, the marsh is a mysterious and dangerous place filled with desperate and terrifying men. In the same way that the stormy weather of Wuthering Heights contrasted with Thrusscross Grange’s peaceful meadows, the weather in Great Expectations is also telling in regards to the setting and plot. Notably, the mist of the marshes seem to evoke the unknown and the unfamiliar.
George Eliot, in his writing “Margaret Fuller and Mary Wollstonecraft,” poses a quandary that was debated in his time: “On one side we hear that woman’s position can never be improved until women themselves are better; and, on the other, that women can never become better until their position is improved.” Advocates against women’s rights claimed that women had not showcased enough worth to be given a more influential position in society. Women’s rights advocates claimed that this potential could hardly be reached within the current structure of society, which shoved women into narrow, often dismissed roles. Martineau calls this construct imposed upon women “the sphere of a woman” and states that in its current understanding and implementation into society, it is a set of rules created by men to bind women into what they deem as “proper.” Ideally, Martineau thinks that “the sphere of a woman” should be redefined to be not a distinction of man, but one of God. According to him, men should not decide the potential of any human being; that is the domain of God and thus cannot be restricted by any cultural or political constraint. That said, Martineau would likely agree with Eliot that women should be given the same rights as men, in order that they can fulfill their potential to the greatest extent.
Like many others taking the class, I am not very familiar with Victorian literature. I’ve found the Victorian texts that I have read to be very dense, so I am looking forward to challenging myself and further developing my literary analytical skills. In addition, I want to gain a deeper insight into the culture of the time period. I find it a very interesting exercise to compare and contrast the schools of thought and ways of living of different cultures and time periods, and by the end of the year, I would love to know to what extent people have changed from the Victorian time period to today.