Women play an important role in literature. This role has changed over the centuries. In 19th century literature, the Victorian age, the role of women was inferior to the role of men in society. Women were shown as Weak, passive, illogical and dependent people; but men were shown powerful, active, logical and independent.You can see these characteristics in almost every Victorian book. One of the famous writers of Victorian time is Charles Dickens. Many people think that Dickens female characterisation followed the Victorian society of that time, so they were not strong and they were too weak. I disagree with their claim about Dickens’s female Characters.
When I was reading David Copperfield I noticed that they are different kinds of women with different characteristics in the book. There are some that are so weak that they destroy their own lives as well as others, and then there are the ones who are somehow stronger but not strong enough and finally, there is the strongest of them all. Dickens makes us compare this 3 group of woman and get to the point where we understand which kind is worth loving and respecting.
David’s mother is a good example of typical Victorian women. She’s like a little girl that doesn’t know how to be a mother or a wife. She always likes to hear compliments and she thinks that she is always right. She is so foolish that she falls in love with someone who clearly wants to take advantage of her. The submissive nature of her is one of the Victorian concepts and that is what destroys her and her family. Dora is another good example of a weak and spoiled person. She is no different from David’s mother. She’s not a good wife and not a clever one for that matter. She is as Dickens writes “thing of light and airiness and joy”.She too dies from weakness. this features of Dora and David’s mother are what makes Davids life harder and harder. so they are no help to themselves nor to others.
Peggotty and Agnes are good examples of a somewhat strong woman. They are not dependent on anyone. They are clever and strong. they take car of others and they are highly respected.they both make Davids life easier and make other people feel calm. they don’t need anyone’s complement to get through life. in the end we see that Agnes opens a school. a working woman was not something so common.It’s true that Agnes makes sacrifices to take care of her father but that is not something that just a typical Victorian girl would do that’s something that a lot of modern women will do for their father after all blood comes first.
The strongest woman in this novel is David’s aunt, Betsy Trotwood. She is definitely an independent person. In the 19th century divorce was not an easy thing to do but when she saw that she can’t tolerate her marital situation she got a divorce and made a really good life after the divorce. She took in people and took care of herself and the others. Even when she lost her land and her money she stayed strong. Betsey Trotwood did things that were not common to do for a woman in that time.
The fact that Dickens makes a life for Emily and Betsy Trotwood after what happens to them in their relationships shows that his putting some distance between himself and the Victorian concepts of that time. he shows the reader that if your love life doesn’t go the way that you wanted is not the end of the world and you have to keep going just like they went on with their lives.
so when you put all of this together you can see that his characterisation was not in line with the Victorian concept of that time. All of his female characters are not weak and he has some really strong characters.
Shmoop Editorial Team. “Miss Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield.” Shmoop. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 19 Jun. 2017.