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During the reign of Queen Victoria, emerged a new idea for the perfect woman. Women were deemed as the inferior of men. A true Victorian woman was to be an “Angel of the House.” This “Angel” was expected to be knowledgeable about the arts, as well as possess elegance, grace, and perfect femininity. Women were not supposed to show any sort of sexual interest in men, but instead, show an interest in marriage and raising children. Women were taught that if they attempted to surpass men in any type of “intellectual pursuit,” they would take away from man’s natural superiority, and ultimately end up infertile (Hughes 6,7). During the nineteenth century, males and females were considered to be on “separate spheres.” The term “separate spheres” was commonly used to describe the belief that women were, “physically weaker yet morally superior to men” (Hughes 1). Men were expected to handle labor outside of the home, while women were expected to handle raising the children and providing moral guidance for the family (Hughes 1). As an advocate for women and their role in marriage, Queen Victoria believed that women should be educated and strongly promoted the establishment of a women’s college in 1847; however, she did not support the idea of women’s suffrage. She believed women were happiest when they were devoted solely to their marriage (Greenblatt 1581). Women of the higher classes did not have the same responsibilities as those of the lower classes. Upper and middle class Victorian women often sat around doing nothing because their household duties were taken care of by the lower class women who worked as servants and maids. Most women were encouraged not to work or commit themselves to any form of studying or art. Suffering from boredom was considered a luxury, for women were only expected to work during times of financial instability (Greenblatt 1582). Growing up during this time, Emily Bronte wrote Wuthering Heights in opposition of nineteenth century values on social class, women, and marriage. Much of Emily Bronte and her siblings’ literary work was influenced by their upbringing. Around the time Bronte wrote Wuthering Heights, Great Britain’s class system was being disrupted by the emergence of the middle class. Literary critic, Q.D. Leavis, claims the reason Emily Bronte chose to begin the novel at the time of the Industrial Revolution was “to fix its happenings at a time when the old rough farming culture, based on a naturally patriarchal family life, was to be challenged, tamed and routed by social and cultural changes; these changes produced Victorian class consciousness and ‘unnatural’ ideal of gentility” (Leavis qtd. in “Wuthering Heights as Socio-Economic Novel” 1). In this quote, Leavis discusses how in Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte sets the novel during a time at which many changes were made socially
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