Being a Housewife, supporting the husband and looking after the children where the main roles of the women in the 19th century. In the stories ‘The Half Brothers’ and ‘Tony Kytes, the Arch Deceiver’, Gaskell and Hardy portray female characters in many ways.
The two stories are both set in the 1800s.’The Half Brothers’ is set in the 1800s. It shows how an exposed young widow had to survive by herself and support her child. Helen, the mother was so needy that her last resort was to marry a prosperous man twice her age who she did not feel any affection for. The reason behind this was simply to look after her child.’Tony Kytes, the Arch Deceiver’ is a similar story that shows women’s roles in the 19th century. The story entails women were naive, incapable and desperate to marry.
This story implies how men can easily mislead women but the women do not be bothered. Tony Kytes is engaged to a girl called Milly. At the same time, he is seeing two other girls. When Milly finds out what Tony has been doing, she still concurs to marry him. Tony has captured the hearts and minds of these women, rendering them helpless in their love for him. ‘well, aren’t you going to be civil enough to ask me to ride home with you?’In ‘The Half Brothers’, the women seem to be susceptible ‘she never spoke of her first husband’ All the girls are desperate to marry.
Helen was ‘scarcely seventeen when she married’. She got married very prematurely in her life.She was tremendously protigion a ‘decent, steady man’. She was having a financial crisis, as a single parent she needed someone to rely on and support her financially. She could no longer ‘earn money’ when her eyesight began to fail. This shows that she was economically unstable. It was necessary for women to marry someone to be more stable – ‘she would never need to do anything’ if she got married.
The benefit system did not exist in the Victorian Times; to assist people. Life was much harder. Nothing was done for Helen or many women just like her who suffered considerably from poverty. There was little they could do to change things. Helen would have been coerced to join a workhouse if her situation aggravated as women were restricted to work elsewhere. In the 1800s women were dependant on fathers until they were old enough to marry. Few women of the time ever knew financial independence.
A lot of responsibilities were on Helens shoulders ‘Single mother, looking after the house and her child’ She could see no way forward she suffered mentally. She was rendered helpless with fright and anxiety because she could not provide for her son. A shortage of money crippled her. It was completely natural for Helen to feel suicidal.
She was ‘A young widow of twenty’, with ‘more pressing debts and no money’.The story shows that Helen was altruistic. She was ‘pinched’ and had ‘not much to eat’ and little with which to feed the baby.
She cared for her child more than she did for herself.Helen had a few choices. Marrying William Preston was only so she could ‘take could charge of her boy’. She could not give the ‘ready love’ Preston demanded so badly. The child came first; she wanted the best for it. Helens husband was unable to support her adequately. Overall marrying William Preston was not all bad, it was a sensible choice as Helen only had a few prospects.
The story shows that there were many lonely women in the 1800s. Aunt Fanny, Helen’s older sister was a spinster. She was stigmatised as such because she had no defined role. Helen was isolated as she was married to a man she did not love. Fanny was isolated because she had no husband of her own.Women were very worried about children. People had more children as contraception was not widely available in the 1800s.
Also, infant mortality rates were lower and thus many babies were expected to die. Therefore, people had more babies to guarantee some babies survived.’The Half Brothers’ also implies women were unloving.
It says Helen ‘did not love him (Preston)’ and she had only ‘gentle words as cold as ice’ for him. This shows women were under appreciative because he ‘had given her so much’.Gaskell portrays women as the weaker sex.
‘Preston had asked her to marry him’. During the Victorian era, men were the dominant sex. Helen could not ask Preston to marry her. It had to be the other way round. This is why Helen suffered a considerable amount. She couldn’t ask anyone to marry her. It was considered women were submissive to men.
Helen is very resilient, does not stop loving her first husband ‘she never spoke about her first husband deliberately’ Helen doesn’t lapse into despair after the loss of her first love. Gaskell Portrays Helen as a strong and determined woman ‘she thought about her son and got on with life”Tony Kytes, the Arch Deceiver’ shows women in the 1800s were also vulnerable. Tony is secretly going out with three women without any of them being aware of each other. They were predisposed and in danger as they could not see how misleading Tony was. In the end, Tony confesses he had ‘asked Hannah to be’ his while Milly thought that she was engaged to Tony.
Due to this, the women in the story are interpreted as imprudent.Obedience is also shown in the story. To be with another girl Tony orders Milly to hide behind the seat of the wagon. Milly does not mind ‘to oblige’. Hardy portrays women as naive and inexperienced. The women show desperation, they were keen on doing anything for men. They were gullible.Lack of pride and dignity is what Hardy shows that women lacked.
Tony is left with his last choice to marry Milly near the end of the story. However, Tony manipulates Milly into believing he was lying to Hannah and Unity. He starts to talk on fatalism – ‘it do seem as if fate had ordained that it should be you and I’. He handles the situation by persuading her to confide in him.Milly being imprudent agrees to marry Tony. This shows that women were portrayed as unwise and lacked in self-respect.
The women in ‘Tony Kytes, the Arch Deceiver’ seem to be jealous of rivals. Milly asks Tony ‘in what way is she better than me (Unity)?’ They had low self-esteem and self-confidence.Milly is demarcated as very supple. Even though she was Tony’s third choice, she still surprisingly decides to marry him.
Overall, women in the 1800s were portrayed as ignorant, naive and subservient. They were submissive in the case of the women in ‘Tony Kytes, the Arch Deceiver’. ‘The Half Brothers’ implies women were not public creatures. They were lonely, dependent and self-sacrificing.