In what light are women represented throughout Therese Raquin?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the overwhelming impressions of women in this novel is the way that they are restricted and trapped in cages that are not of their own making, but are the creation of society and made for them by others. This is shown through the way in which Therese as a character grows up in a world where her freedom is cruelly curtailed. She is forced into agreeing to marry somebody who she does not feel any affection for, and she finds the social norms and conventions of her life restrictive and stifling. When she does discover true love in the form of Laurent, she is forced to hide her feelings because of the lack of opportunity the lovers have to be together by themselves.

This situation forces the lovers to conclude the only way they can be happy is to conspire to kill Camille. However, even after this has been achieved, they need to hide their passion from the public gaze until a suitable period of mourning has elapsed. Therese, again and again, is shown to be a character who is unable to achieve what she wants and desires because society stands in her way. This gives the sense of women occupying curioiusly restricted and roles where the characterising quality of their lives is the sense in which they are entrapped and curtailed.

sedbhr | Student

The novel points out the dilemma that women of the time are drifted into. The rise of middle class brought forth the idea of emancipation in many senses. However beneath the superficial change neither society nor women were ready for such a change. The society incapable of being totally open to the requirements of the period imprisoned women into the walls of hypocrisy. Women having just realized the intrigue of their personal desire found themselves in a paradox. 

Therese as a woman in the middle of social constraints and her own desires leads a life in which no matter what she does she will never be fully satisfied due to the suffocating sense of lack of liberty.