Northanger Abbey

Character Development and the Victorian Woman

In the Victorian era, appropriate etiquette and manners were predetermined for both men and women. The society in which they lived maintained stereotypical gender roles more rigidly defined than at the present. The coming of age was difficult for any young person; therefore, the ability to distinguish among good and poor examples of etiquette was essential to attaining proper and respectful womanhood or manhood. The stereotypical Victorian woman was considered to be meek, weak, have few opinions, be generally helpless, and have little chance of gaining social status. For the most part, these women were said to have two main roles: courtship followed by marriage. Even from a young age, girls dreamed of a successful marriage in that this was their only hope of rising in society (Petrie, 199-206). In fact, one writer said “that it is not easy to comprehend the possibility of raising them to a higher plane than that to which they had been lifted, because of their natural incapacity for other than the domestic and social functions which they so gracefully fulfilled” (James, 215).

These women were also considered intellectually inferior. Women were only expected to learn French, drawing, and music (Petrie, 200). Subjects such as art,...

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