The Halot, Elizabeth-Jane and Their Gender Roles Essay

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Dont be the girl who fell. Be the girl who got back up.-Jeanette Stanley. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy introduces the readers to Elizabeth-Jane and Lucetta, two girls of both different means personalities. The comparison by Thomas Hardy of Elizabeth-Jane and Lucetta reveals two different sides of the gender barriers that faced young women in the 1800s. This comparison shows that Hardy is an early feminist. This is shown through examining each girls respective personality, their friendship, how each handles it, and the gender role side that each are portraying. Elizabeth-Jane is the books heroine. She is the daughter of Susan and Henchard. Elizabeth- Jane is quiet and shy. Elizabeth-Jane also cares a large amount about doing whats proper. She worries about her friend Lucettas reputation, and how to fix it. Elizabeth- Jane is an all-out good person. She seeks to better herself by studying, Knowledge-the result of great natural incite- she did not lack; learning, accomplishments-those, alas, she had not (Hardy 82).

Elizabeth-Jane has this passion to learn more that the reader does come to admire about her. She is not too concerned about finding a man to marry. Elizabeth- Jane seems content to just learn and be alone. However, when it comes to Elizabeth-Jane and men, the reader see an entirely new side of her. When Lucetta effectively replaces her in Farfraes mind, she just lets it go and goes on with her life. Yes shes miffed for about five seconds but in the end she just leaves and moves on. It is this fact that makes it hard to root for Elizabeth-Jane in the end. On the entirely other side the reader encounters Lucetta. Lucetta is Elizabeth-Janes only friend in the world. She is vain and petty. Lucetta is Henchards former lover. She was young and naive. She blabbed her mouth everywhere and with the help of Michael Henchard ruined her reputation.

This left her in ruin and she wrote a ton of love notes to him. All of this happens because he promises to marry her. The most important thing to know about Lucetta is that she is a manipulator. She will cry in order to get what she wants from men. In this regard she is brilliant and the reader looks upon her with both disgust and admiration. The reader sees Lucetta for one of her more human qualities as follows, Bring me a looking glass. How do I appear to people? She asks languidly. Well- a little worn, answered Elizabeth-Jane (161). Lucetta is well aware that once her beauty is gone, she will never be able to find another man to marry her. She also knows that she has two choices if she wants to remain proper, she can stay single because she has been ruined or she can marry again and hope that her past never comes back to haunt her. This then leads the reader to the realization that she will not only do anything to get a man but she also will do anything to keep her scandal in the past. This includes stepping on her friend in order to accomplish this. This form of her personality is not surprising, given the time period.

Now theres the friendship between Elizabeth-Jane and Lucetta. This unlikely friendship starts out in a grave yard, specifically at Elizabeth-Janes mothers grave. Both of these young women are there for very different reasons; Elizabeth-Jane is having a pity party because Henchard was mean to her, and Lucetta is finding out if Susan is really dead because she is still after Henchard at this point in the book. From this meeting Elizabeth-Jane gets both a friend and a new place to live. As this friendship grows, it becomes clear how differently both of these young women approach friendship. Elizabeth-Jane listens to Lucetta vent about her affair, This person- a lady- once admired a man much- very much, she said tentatively. Ah, said Elizabeth-Jane (160).

Elizabeth-Jane doesnt judge her; she listens to her and tries to help Lucetta. On the other hand, Lucetta doesnt act like a good friend, at least not by the readers parameters. She does try however, My husband is downstairs. He will live here till a more suitable house is ready for us; and I have told him that I want you to stay with me just as before (200). Lucetta is so wrapped up in herself, and the fact that she found a way to remain respectable that she doesnt realize just how terrible that statement really is in regards to Elizabeth-Jane. She figures that all she had to do to remain a good friend to Elizabeth-Jane is make sure she still has somewhere to live. That by the readers definition is not a good friend. This leads the readers to the gender role sides each; Elizabeth-Jane and Lucetta are on.

Elizabeth-Jane is the modern women according to Hardy. She wants to learn and become more intelligent. Elizabeth-Jane also by the end of the book becomes independent and able to take care of herself and Henchard. The readers see this independence when she says, Father-I will not leave you alone like this! She cried. May I live with you, and tend upon you as I used to do? I do not mind your being poor. I would have agreed to come this morning, nut you did not ask me (278).

Elizabeth-Jane doesnt ask her father if she can come with him, she tells him that shes coming with him. Over the book she has gained enough gumption that she no longer cares what Henchard wants, Elizabeth-Jane only cares about what he needs. It is for this fact that the readers can classify Hardy as an early day Feminist. He portrays Elizabeth-Jane as the only character with any redeemable characteristics. She grows over the course of the books, when the person that she is compared with dies a very stereotypical death for a woman in the 1800s.

Lucetta is a complicated individual. The reader has a love hate relationship with her when it comes to the side shes on for gender roles. Lucetta does embody the perfect 18th century women. She understands that she has to fix the scandal that rocked her life. Lucetta also understands that she needs to get a man to marry her and keep him with her no matter what. One of the ways she guarantees this is, He knew his wife was with child¦ (266). Lucetta gets pregnant. The thinking behind this is that Farfrae cant leave her pregnant and still keep his business and reputation intact. This is a classical move for her, which fits within the gender role that has been set up for her.

Lucetta also uses varying forms of manipulation on people throughout the book. The first of such is, youre probably aware of my arrangement with your daughter, and have doubtless laughed at the-what shall I call it- practical joke¦ (139). with this simple statement Lucetta is doing her best to lure Henchard over to her house. She knows that things are bad between him and Elizabeth-Jane, and saw an opportunity to make a move to right her ruined reputation. Lucetta is quite good at making people do what she wants. This fact is more telling than any of the other things she does in the entire book of how this young girl was raised.

The other part of Lucetta proving that she is the perfect 18th century young women is what she does when she thinks her secret is getting out. She does as follows, She stood motionless for one second”then fell heavily to the floor (260). Instead of dealing with the fact that her scandal had come back to haunt her, Lucetta simply falls to the floor. This is a normal reaction to things like this for young women in the=is time period. It was expected of them. The men had decided that women were so fragile that they couldnt really handle much. In the end Lucetta dies from a severe miscarriage. This could have been helped if Lucetta had just faced her scandal and lived with the consequences. Hardy used Lucetta to show the readers just where lying, manipulation and running away from things get them. Lucetta is a well-used character when it comes to understanding the complex gender roles of the 18000s.

In conclusion the reader can learn a lot about gender barriers from reading Hardys novel. It is the comparison of Elizabeth-Jane and Lucetta that gives the reader a clear look into exactly what they faced in regards to gender barriers. It is this specific comparison that opens the readers eyes to the fact that hardy is an early day feminist. The reader can see this the clearest when reading about Elizabeth-Jane. She is shy and simple in the beginning of the book, by the end however she is strong and independent. Elizabeth-Jane does go through a transformation into the bright young women that Hardy is trying to demonstrate. Then the reader has Lucetta, she is petty and simple minded. Lucetta is also the perfect 18th century young women. She has been raised to use the gender barriers to her advantage.

Lucetta faints when things dont go her way, she manipulates men into doing what she wants till she doesnt want them anymore, and she keeps secrets and lies no matter what. In the end she gets what she deserves, Lucetta dies having a miscarriage. She faints and panics when it looks like her scandal is going to be revealed to her husband and the entire town. Once she faints, she starts to miscarry and ends up dying because of it. This fact is Hardy telling the readers that if you lie and manipulate people than you will lose in the end. The comparison of these two young women makes it clear how hardy felt toward women.

He thought that women were worth a second look; they could learn and be smart. They didnt have to just be a piece of arm candy for men to parade around whenever they wanted to. To embody this he portrays Elizabeth-Jane as the modern young women and Lucetta as the stereotypical 18th century young women. Throughout the book the readers root for both Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane. By the end of this book however they are rooting for Elizabeth-Jane to come out on top and are secretly glad that Lucetta has died. The good news is that in the end Elizabeth-Jane is the girl who fell by she is also the girl who got back up and became something better than before.

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