Separate Spheres Essay

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Why could any challenge to the concepts of 'separate spheres' and 'angel in the house' be seen as a challenge to the structure of society as a whole? Explain your answer using the sources and information from this unit. The concepts of separate spheres and angel in the house were both ideas which emerged during the Victorian era, at a time where patriarchy was very evident within society. Although many (especially women) kept their views and opinions quiet about this strikingly unequal balance between men and women in 19th century Britain, others expressed their judgements in the form of narrative paintings, allegorical poems, newspapers and books. These began to surely challenge the concepts of angel in the house and separate spheres and perhaps depict and criticise them as being something unrealistic and futile. Firstly, the angel in the house concept essentially refers to the belief that a woman's role within society should always be domestic. From the poem 'angel in the house' by Coventry Patmore published in 1854, the concept effectively suggests that women should create a loving home for their husbands and children, please their husbands endlessly and bring peace to everyone, all without even considering their own wants and needs. This idea is demonstrated well in Source A, which is a narrative painting that shows a woman comforting her distressed husband while clearly having already attended to her housekeeping duties. Moreover, it is clear that not only is she a good wife to her husband but she is a good companion of his too: she works to please him. Although this may just be one representation from one artist, the popularity of the painting may suggest it is an accurate portrayal of the reality, therefore, this source clearly agrees and justifies the angel in the house concept. The separate spheres concept explains that men and women occupy
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