Intersection of Class and Gender


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North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell, explores the differences in society during the Industrial Revolution as classes were redefined based on a new source of wealth, and gender roles were adapted to fit the new economy. The protagonist, Margaret Hale, finds herself confronted with these changes as she sees it from the perspective of the Higgins family, who are lower class factory workers, and the Thornton family, who own a factory. In her novel, Gaskell uses these multiple perspectives to explore gender roles in all parts of society.Gaskell proves the connection of gender roles and class, and how they only function in the upper-classes. Because of this, there is an inherent flexibility in gender roles since the lower classes cannot strictly adhere to them. This erases the argument that they are a result of the limited abilities of one gender, since they can preform those actions in a different context. Gaskell uses this to expand the opportunities available to both genders in her novel in a way that could translate into society. While completely abandoning the traditional roles would be immediately rejected by Victorian society, Gaskell starts by bending the roles. She still shows each gender, especially women, doing things outside of their sphere, but she frames it in such a way that it does not seem radical. She gives freedom to women by using tradition to their benefit.



"North and South", Gaskell, Elizabeth, Class, Gender, Gender roles