The Changing Role of Women in Fiction of the 19th Century’s History
The novel became the most popular genre in 19th century’s literature to depict the time’s life and social conventions. Authors in that time put often a women’s life in the center of such stories. The following essay is about how the role of these depicted women changed according to selected classic English novels. In order to answer the question I am going to analyze the women in the novels and compare them with each other, starting with the earliest one:
Isabelle Archer of Portrait of a Lady written by Henry James and published in 1881 is intelligent, innocent and charming. As a free-spirited American woman she travels to Europe and inherits a fortune. There, she meets several men who propose to her but having a desire for personal independence she declines them. Nevertheless, she loses her freedom and marries Gilbert Osmond. The marriage is motivated by money rather than by love which is why it becomes unsuccessful, and they barely see each other. Isabelle decides to remain in her miserable marriage to Osmond rather than to violate social conventions by leaving him and searching for a happier life. One could see Isabelle as a lady because she is educated, married and acts according to social values. However, she has an unhappy life which creates the impression that the author thinks that marriage is not the best solution for women like Isabelle back that time.