What is Dickens' attitude toward women as in "A Tale of Two Cities"?

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kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Critics agree that Dickens' attitude toward women reflects that of the Victorian era in which he wrote. Dickens, it is asserted, wrote female characters in conformity with "types," these may be "ideal" types or "comedic" types. Lucie Darnay would represent an ideal type. A major draw back to type characters is that the women then have an aura of unreality that emphasizes sentimentality instead of authentic emotion and is, as the type label suggests, an idealized notion that fits no real flesh-and-blood woman. These types prohibit Dickens from forming authentic psychological pictures of women since he renders his heroines as either angels or social outcasts or one of several other specific types. Dickens is accused of creating women characters who are unable to express themselves as whole persons and who are designed to blossom only in domestic settings under the guidance of men to whom the women provide comfort and benefit.

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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In addition to the very accurate previous post, I would like to add that Charles Dickens may have portrayed women in this manner for two reasonsĀ  1) to expose the shallow nature of what was consiered to be virtue back in Regency/Victorian times, and 2) Because Dickens always had a hard time relating himself to women psychologically at a deeper level.

The reason of the latter was that, according to Dicken's biography, his mother was a very inconsistent person, always giving his father the benefit of the doubt for all the money he squandered from the family.

Dickens had the tendency of idealizing women not only in print, but also in real life. It seems as if his emotional detachment from his mother caused him to distrust all women altogether.

It is ironic to say this, since he married a woman with whom he had anywhere from 9-13 children. Yet, even his biographers confirm that half of his married life he felt psychologically and emotionally detached from his wife as well, and instead created idealized women for his stories, much like he idealized a soulmate for himself in real life.

Hope this helps add to the previous post. Good Luck!

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raminagrobis | (Level 1) eNoter

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Thank you very much for these very useful answers. My own reading of Tale is that, for Dickens, one can expect the best but also the worst from women. Like Lucie, women can be angels who bring comfort, joy and happiness around them and can inspire others - even wretched souls such as Carton - to accomplish noble actions, including self sacrifice. Like Miss Pross, they can also show undaunted courage and fortitude to protect their loved ones. But like Madame Defarge, women can be evil, more evil than men, causing death and destruction in their wake when animated by a vicious vengefulness. In this context, it is interesting to note that Dickens insists heavily on the female gender of La Guillotine. Hence for Dickens, women have great powers for good or evil. Prisoners of their emotions which can drive them to extremes, they need to be protected from the world and from temselves and kept under control for the benefit of society at large.

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