Last Updated on January 16, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 588
The Hollowness of Male Superiority
Victorian society associated men with authority, strength, and knowledge and women with submission, weakness, and emotion. Husbands were seen as rightful heads of the household, and it was believed that their supposed inherent strength made them the ideal provider for the family. In Candida, Proserpine disagrees with this traditional view and argues with Lexy about it. When she sarcastically expresses her disgust for the idea that women possess “mere emotion,” Lexy responds, quoting Morell, that if women “only had the same clue to Man’s strength as [they] have to his weakness… there would be no Woman Question.” The “Woman Question” that Lexy evokes is a term that was used to describe the social reforms of the late nineteenth century in which women’s traditional roles and rights were reconsidered and debated. Lexy and Morell believe that if women knew the strength that men possess, they would gladly submit to their leadership and not strive to change their roles in marriage or society.
However, Morell himself serves as a contrast to this supposed “strength” of men: he is described by Shaw in the introduction to act 1 as a “great baby.” Candida explains that Morell has been “spoiled” by his family and successful career, and as a result, she has had to “be [his] mother and three sisters and wife and mother to his children all in one” in order to provide for him in his weakness. Morell and Candida’s marriage contradicts Morell’s belief in men’s inherent strength, because his authority depends entirely on Candida’s support. Candida’s provision for Morell thus suggests that men’s inherent strength and superiority are superficial.
The Strength of Subtle Provision
As a husband and father in Victorian society, Morell naturally views himself as the sole provider for his family. While it is true that Morell’s job provides the family with their source of income, it becomes apparent throughout the course of the play that Candida is the true provider for the family—especially for Morell himself.
At the end of the play, Candida reveals that she has been behind all of Morell’s success. Until she informs Morell and Marchbanks of this fact, her power has been...
(The entire section contains 588 words.)
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- Critical Essays