Elizabeth Gaskell 's Construction Of The Ideal Man

2331 Words Apr 6th, 2016 10 Pages
In Victorian Britain, monumental changes were occurring in regards to class structure and gender ideals due to social and economic changes sparked by the Industrial Revolution. These changes caused a new image of masculinity to emerge. The concept of masculinity came to embody a new ideal, self-made man, measured by advances based on personal success rather than birthright(M19). It was expected that men were to exude manly toughness and independent spirit while providing the financial support and leadership for the household(m19). Beyond these basic characteristics, Elizabeth Gaskell’s construction of the ideal man incorporates a fusion of gender traits as strengths of masculinity, notably her emphasis on “manly nurturance” and “tenderness” as seen in her novel Mary Barton(wcm334). While the evolving social structure of 19th century Britain was a cause for the increasing emphasis on manliness, it was also the source of challenges faced by working class men as they struggled to achieve and maintain this new sense of masculinity. By analyzing Gaskell’s Mary Barton and additional texts from the period, supplemented by contemporary analysis of the concept of masculinity, this paper provides insight into the constructions of masculinity in working class men of Victorian society and discusses the struggles workers faced as they strove to achieve manhood amidst the changing social climate.
In order to understand the difficulty working class men encountered trying to maintain a…
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