English Literature Essays – Masculinity in Great Expectations

September 6, 2017 English Literature

Late Victorian Malenesss are bound up with discourses of development and aesthetics. Analyze this statement in relation to Charles Dickens ‘Great outlooksand Oscar Wilde ‘sThe Picture ofDorian Gray

This essay will seek to measure the cogency of the abovestatement utilizing the texts stated, and besides mentioning to bing unfavorable judgment onthe topic. In replying the inquiry, I shall interrupt the statement into twosections. First, I will discourse maleness inGreat Expectationsinrelation to development, looking at Pip ‘s passage from low beginnings to amore showy being, and how this fits in with Darwin ‘s theory ofevolution. Equally good as this, I will look at how maleness is represented insome of the other characters, and in conclusion to what extent Pip ‘s life narrative cantruly be said to be an development.

Following, I will discourse masculinityinThe Picture of Dorian Grayin relation to aesthetics. This portion ofthe essay will concentrate on how the portraitures of maleness in the fresh tantrum inwith the thought of Art for art ‘s interest, promoted by followings of the aestheticmovement. In peculiar I will analyze the individuality of the eponymic hero, whoembodies much of the aesthetic ideal. There will besides be a consideration of theunderlying subject of homosexualism and how some unfavorable judgment has suggested that theaesthetes used such subjects in order to exemplify their ain thoughts aboutidentity and maleness. I will so see to what extent aesthetics arepart of the representation of maleness in the novel.

Maleness inGreat Expectationsdoescertainly intertwine with the thought of development. Pip is in many ways thearchetypal bildungsroman, come oning from a simple domestic life in ruralKent, to London and luck ( although his stoping does stand for a fluctuation onthis construct ) . His maleness is developed along the manner. In earlier chapters, he is governed mostly by fright, as in the reader ‘s first brush with Mrs.Joe, in which he is informed that he is in problem. At this blue intelligence, Ilooked desolately at the fire. Tickler was a wax-ended piece of cane.

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Contrast this with his behavior subsequently on in the book, after he has begun to do his manner in the universe – Bing on one juncture threatened with legal proceedingsI went so far as to prehend the Avenger by his bluish neckband and agitate him off his pess. By comparings such as this, we can detect a correlativity between the sort of personal development, common to the Victorian novel, undergone by Pip, and an addition in sensed masculine traits, such as laterality and physical aggression.

However, underneath this, there is possibly amore scientific signifier of development under treatment. No fresh exists in avacuum, and being published in 1861,Great ExpectationsDarwin’sgroundbreakingBeginning of Speciessby merely two old ages. Darwin references theStruggle for Existence, in which all life strives to be successful, identifies some cardinal factors in this success. I should premise that I use theterm battle for being in a big and metaphorical sense, includingdependence of one being on another, and including, which is more of import, notonly the life of the person but the success in go forthing offspring.

Pip ‘s battle is clearly dependent on others, for illustration Magwitch, his helper, and it is finally Joe who helps him in his clip of demand. Interestingly, nevertheless, he does non hold an inheritor. Indeed, in the original stoping, Pip notes in an unmistakably gloomy tone Estella ‘s reaction to Little Pip, She supposed the kid, I think, to be my kid.In this sense, Pip ‘s development can be seen to be uncomplete. But what does this mean with respect to maleness?

It is interesting to observe that maleness inGreatExpectationsis non limited to the male characters. One illustration of this isMrs. Joe, who, as one critic notes, wore the bloomerss in the family, while Joeserves as an effete and effeminate kid like figure.Since Joe’ssimple character evolves less than Pip, this might be seen as adjustment in withDarwin, but, as has already been mentioned, Joe achieves the ultimate inevolution – go forthing progeny – while Pip does non. Similarly, Mrs Havisham isgiven a slightly masculine-tinted description – her voice had dropped, so thatshe spoke low,– and yet she is arguably the most inactive characterin the book, being unable to travel beyond the injury of her yesteryear. In the lightof this, it seems dubious that Dickens intended a strictly evolutionary image.

Although there is a nexus in the novel between maleness and development, the two do non travel wholly manus in manus. Dickens uses the bildungsroman theoretical account, but Pip ‘s development is one of credence of his function in life instead than the straight-out victory evolutionary theory suggests. However, I do non believe that Dickens set out to review Darwin either. The novel ‘s treatment of maleness sometimes coincides with development, and sometimes does non. I think it would be just to state that Dickens was influenced by the consequence of development on maleness, but his characters ‘ successes and failures do non suit in with any definite theory.

InThe Picture of Dorian Gray, maleness is linked less to evolution and more to aesthetics. This is largelya consequence of Wilde ‘s attachment to the rules of the aesthetic motion, peculiarly that of Art for Art ‘s interest. This consists of the thought, outlinedin the novel ‘s foreword, that Art is an entity in itself and that its ownbeauty, and non its significance or intent, is what gives it the right to be -All art is rather useless.This thought permeates the chief character, Dorian Gray, in tonss of ways, non least in the individuality of his masculinity.This can be seen in Lord Henry ‘s description of him in the first chapter -this immature Adonis, who looks as if he was made out of tusk and rose leaves.Whyhe is a Narcissus.With its classical mentions and concentrate onphysical properties instead than personality features, this represents aquite different masculine ideal from that which the evolutionists favoured.Masculinity here is possibly closer to the Platonic ideal, and there is noparticular accent on such traits as physical strength and bravery, eitherphysical or moral, with which the bildungsroman might be associated.

Furthermore, some of the most cardinal aspectsof maleness are challenged. Wilde was, of class, a homosexual, and thistheme is implicitly covered inThe Picture of Dorian Gray. For case, although all of the chief characters have heterosexual relationships, such asDorian ‘s love for Sybil Vane, there is a suggestion of homosexualism as well.The work forces are surely homosocial, and there are deductions in therelationship between Lord Henry and Dorian. The former negotiations really dotingly tohis prot & A ; Atilde ; ©g & A ; Atilde ; © , right up to the terminal of the book, My beloved male child, You are much toodelightful, and so forth, and possibly more significantly, it isDorian ‘s good expressions that first pull him. This affects the manner maleness isdealt with in the novel in the regard that it removes the component of seeking towin the female love involvement that we see inGreat Expectations. DespiteDorian ‘s brief arrested development with Sybil, adult females seem mostly incidental to the livesof the chief male characters. This is arguably because they are onlyrequired when they are of aesthetic value, non for their emotional input.Dorian does non finally allow Sybil ‘s self-destruction interfere with thepseudo-homosexual, and more aesthetic, relationship he has with Lord Henry.

Critics have suggested that thisis portion of a motion in society in which Wilde and others brought forwardidentity political relations, the construct that persons can see themselves in thelight of their divergences from the norms of society, frequently basking facets ofthemselves that some might see unnatural or even immoral. As Audrey Jaffenotes, the contrast between beautiful and ugly images of Dorian Grayreproduces the aesthetics of modern-day individuality political relations, in which identitytakes form as the difference between negative and positive culturalprojections.This is possibly the biggest contrast withGreatExpectations.

Whereas Pip ‘s manhood is seen as complete when he has learned to accept his topographic point in the universe, Dorian ‘s maleness is defined by his involuntariness to conform. It is his aesthetic make-up that makes him a adult male. The implied homosexualism is portion of that, since it involves interrupting the tabu of society. Harmonizing to Jaffe, we may catch the early strains of an individuality political relations whose anthem will finally go loud adequate to do itself heard even on St Patrick ‘s Day.In this regard, aesthetics are cardinal to the novel ‘s portraiture of maleness, although characters like James Vane do stand for a more traditional point of view, demoing such traits as confrontation, household trueness and defense mechanism of one ‘s honor.

In decision, the representationof maleness inGreat Expectationsdoes nod to a discourse onevolution. Dickens uses the bildungsroman theoretical account, and there is a echt senseof patterned advance, and with it, the rise of maleness. In some respects, Darwinian theory is supported, as in Pip ‘s dependance on others in thestruggle for being. However, his failure to beget progeny and hissomewhat humbled stoping struggle with theories of development. Equally good as this, there is the consideration that masculine features are frequently given tocharacters that do non germinate, such as Miss Havisham, while the hen-pecked Joeachieves the ultimate evolutionary success in reproducing. This would look tolead to the decision that Dickens was cognizant of development, and to some extentinfluenced by it, but did non utilize it as the exclusive footing for portrayingmasculinity.

By contrast,The Picture ofDorian Grayshows a direct nexus to the rules of the aestheticmovement. With his expressions and his animal attack to life, Dorian embodies muchof the motion ‘s ethos, and his maleness is defined in footings of his charmand ocular entreaty. The undertone of homosexualism in the book reinforcesthis. By neglecting to conform to the ideals of Victorian society, Dorian isrepresentative of a signifier of maleness that relates to identity politics.Rather than taking the moralistic path to manhood, he celebrates the beauty ofhis aberrance. In this regard, his maleness is wholly aesthetic, as it isdefined by his single beauty, and the contrast between positive andnegative positions of him. However, Wild does portray other, more traditional formsof maleness, albeit marginally, in the character of James Vane.

Development and aesthetics, hence, do play a major portion in late Victorian maleness. Thebildungsroman is an evolutionary figure, while aesthetic portraitures of work forces werebeginning to come to the bow in this period. However, it is of import toremember that these thoughts do non regulate maleness wholly, chiefly becausewriters are creative persons and non simply theoreticians. Although Wilde does adhere to aprincipal more closely than Dickens, both writers show a willingness to breakaway from theory when it is necessary for artistic intents.


Charles Dickens,Great Expectations,Wordsworth, 2003, ( Ch. 2, pg. 7 )

Charles Dickens,Great Expectations, Wordsworth, 2003, ( Ch. 34, pg. 223 )

Charles Darwin,Beginning of Speciess, 1859, ( Ch 3 – The Struggle for Existence )

Charles Dickens,Great Expectations, Wordsworth, 2003, ( original stoping )

Wayne Huang, Problems of autobiography and fictional life inGreat Expectations, www.victorianweb.org/authors/dickens/ge/huangcd.html ( 1997 )

Charles Dickens,Great Expectations, Wordsworth, 2003, ( Ch. 8, pg. 50 )

Oscar Wilde,The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Complete Illustrated Works of Oscar Wilde, Chancellor Press, 1991, ( Preface, pg. 4 )

Oscar Wilde,The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Complete Illustrated Works of Oscar Wilde, Chancellor Press, 1991, ( Ch. 1, pg 5 )

Oscar Wilde,The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Complete Illustrated Works of Oscar Wilde, Chancellor Press, 1991, ( Ch. 19, pg. 147 )

Audrey Jaffe, The Aestheticss of Cultural Identity: Embodying Culture, www.victorianweb.org/authors/wilde/jaffe2.html ( No day of the month )

Audrey Jaffe,Sympathy and the Embodiment of Culture in Wilde ‘s Portrait of Dorian Gray, Cornell University Press, 2000 ( pg. 167 )


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