Presenter Information

David M. RunnellsFollow

Content Category

Literary Criticism

Abstract/Description

Abstract: In my paper Mary Wollstonecraft’s Principles Mirrored in Dickens’s Great Expectations, I describe how Mary Wollstonecraft’s feminist principles from A Vindication of the Rights of Women are evident in Charles Dickens’s novel Great Expectations. Despite being published almost seventy years after Vindication, Great Expectations is filled with examples of how issues brought up in Wollstonecraft’s treatise were still relevant in the mid-Victorian period. Described as the “quintessential Victorian novelist” Dickens published Great Expectations during a time when feminist issues were gaining traction, and the novel is especially well placed to reflect the attitudes and issues of the time. In my paper, I explore feminist issues in education, economic activity, and marriage relationships as reflected in the female characters of Great Expectations. I particularly focus on how the characters of Miss Havisham, Estella, and Mrs. Gargery show the consequences of maintaining traditional female stereotypes and standards. In contrast, the character of Biddy portrays the positive effects of improved female education. These depictions of women in Dickens’s novel illustrate that Wollstonecraft’s principles and theories had been incorporated in British culture and reflect their relevance in Victorian times.

Faculty Involvement

Kristine Hansen

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Mary Wollstonecraft’s Principles Mirrored in Dickens’s Great Expectations

Abstract: In my paper Mary Wollstonecraft’s Principles Mirrored in Dickens’s Great Expectations, I describe how Mary Wollstonecraft’s feminist principles from A Vindication of the Rights of Women are evident in Charles Dickens’s novel Great Expectations. Despite being published almost seventy years after Vindication, Great Expectations is filled with examples of how issues brought up in Wollstonecraft’s treatise were still relevant in the mid-Victorian period. Described as the “quintessential Victorian novelist” Dickens published Great Expectations during a time when feminist issues were gaining traction, and the novel is especially well placed to reflect the attitudes and issues of the time. In my paper, I explore feminist issues in education, economic activity, and marriage relationships as reflected in the female characters of Great Expectations. I particularly focus on how the characters of Miss Havisham, Estella, and Mrs. Gargery show the consequences of maintaining traditional female stereotypes and standards. In contrast, the character of Biddy portrays the positive effects of improved female education. These depictions of women in Dickens’s novel illustrate that Wollstonecraft’s principles and theories had been incorporated in British culture and reflect their relevance in Victorian times.