North and South and Hard Times Essay

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North and South and Hard Times In "Industrial" H Sussman states that "one of the most significant shifts created by industrialism" was that of the "separation of the workplace from the home". This "shift" created "new gender roles" with the "husband as breadwinner [and the] wife as childcare giver" and led ultimately to the "19th century ideology of the two separate spheres - the masculine public sphere of work [and] the private female sphere of domesticity". Is, however, this "shift" one which Elizabeth Gaskell in North and South and Charles Dickens in Hard Times not only reflect but one which they endorse? If the public sphere is masculine then the opening chapters of HardTimes immediately confronts…show more content…
The circus suggests freedom from the constraints imposed by the public sphere and the triumph of the private sphere. In R Williams words, however, if the circus is "instinctive" it is also "anarchic". To return to such a system, whether in the public or private realm, is impossible. Dickens other major example of the public sphere is Bounderby, a caricature of the successful factory owner, who contrasts sharply with Gaskell's Thornton. Dickens condemns Bounderby from the start of the novel with his description of him as "A man with a great puffed head and forehead, swelled veins in his temples, and such strained skin to his face that it seemed to hold his eyes open and lift his eyebrows up". Bounderby refuses to help Stephen Blackpool to gain a divorce and responds to the threat of rebellion amongst his workers with the claim that he will transport Slackbridge and his fellow protestors. Bounderby is a totally unsympathetic character who fittingly dies in the gutter, but this is one of the major failings of Hard Times. Bounderby is nothing more than an occasionally amusing, if repulsive, caricature who the reader cannot possible relate to on any real terms. There is the possibility that a character such as Thornton could exist, and this gives Gaskell's portrayal of the public realm (and therefore her message behind it) some sense of reality but there is no such possibility of Bounderby's
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