The Odd Women

Desire vs. Expectation in George Gissing's The Odd Women

The Odd Women, by George Gissing, is a story that centers upon the decisions that people make in life and the outside factors that influence these decisions. Gissing looks at the situations of five different women and utilizes their lives to make observations about both the women themselves and the Victorian society in which they must live. Gissing’s decision to focus upon the lives and decisions of five women without husbands and his portrayal of their characters in a fully developed manner, indicates that he was certainly well ahead of his time in regards to feminine depictions in the period. The author incorporates some very unusual characters such as Mary Barfoot and Rhoda Nunn, who dedicate their lives to training young women in learning skills to support themselves. Their stated goal is to help free both sexes from whatever constraints they may find, including even institutions such as marriage. This is a radical departure from the typical subject matter and character portrayal in the period.

The following excerpt from The Odd Women is a very good example of the ways that Gissing’s female characters reflect the realities of life within the structures and confines of Victorian era society:

Her own future was more hopeful...

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