Male Perspectives on the New Woman in works of Bernard Shaw, Grant Allen and George Gissing.

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The New Woman was a late nineteenth century product of the proto-feminists who tried to raise awareness and make political and social changes in Victorian society. The stereotypical New Woman was well-educated, anti-marriage, anti-motherhood and possessed unfeminine traits like cigar smoking or bicycle riding. Both men and women supported and critiqued this phenomenon in public debate but also in literature, art and theatre. Researchers have mainly researched New Women literature written by female authors or a combination of female and male authors. In this thesis, I examine exclusively New Women works by male authors, namely Bernard Shaw’s play Mrs Warren’s Profession, Grant Allen’s novel The Woman Who Did and George Gissing’s novel The Odd Women, and focus on the aspects of marriage and profession. Shaw was an ardent supporter of the woman’s cause, which is evident in the play. Yet, it also shows Shaw biggest concern, namely her attitude towards romance and rigid emotions. Allen’s novel is an ode to free love unions and written in favour of New Woman who still saw motherhood as their natural duty. However, the tragic fate of the New Woman and the ambiguous ending of the novel has caused a lot of critique by feminists. Gissing also openly supported the woman’s cause, and his novel shows the reader a realistic image of the contemporary hardships of women. According to him, a marriage for love or becoming financially independent through training were women’s best options.
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