Angel in the House imagery in “Professions for Women”

In “Professions for Women,” Virginia Woolf carries the image of the Angel in the House from the beginning to the end. The Angel is the phantom that represses her and attempts to force out imagination and creativity. Woolf describes the Angel as being pure, selfless, and sympathetic, but is ultimately forced to kill her in order to preserve her writing career. This passage seems to imply that being like the Angel and being a professional writer are mutually exclusive. I understand that Woolf might have meant that in order to progress forward, we must cast off the shackles of the past but ‘killing’ is a very drastic word. This behavior, that is generally frowned upon by society, is rewarded with rooms of [one’s] own “in the house hitherto exclusively owned by men,” but in order to do so, does a woman have to sacrifice the feminine part of her? Is Woolf saying that in order to succeed as a professional woman, traits such as selflessness and sympathy must be completely surprised in order to truly be free? Are women who care for families and more inclined to be maternal forced to live under the tyrannical shadow of their Angel, never to be free? Could Woolf be implying that the male-dominated society has forced women into roles where they must be entirely professional or entirely ‘angelic’?

The More Things Change…

Vanity Fair appears to be a novel that comes full circle: Amelia is again at home and in love, the only change now is that she’s been graced by children. Dobbin is still shining in his ‘nice guy’ role and Becky continues to torment man-about-town Jos. What’s so particularly striking about the end is that the large majority of these characters appear to be none the wiser after their adventures in the world. Becky has risen and fallen from grace, with very few noble actions in between. In what might be an act of true friendship, she told Amelia the truth about George, leaving her free to love another. Amelia is still the girl-next-door whose only lot in life appears to be a wife and mother. The narrator has made her a bit more complex and a little less sentimental now. When Becky informs Amelia about George, she does indeed cry but “who shall analyze those tears, and say whether they were sweet or bitter?” (682). This is a far cry from the Amelia introduced at the beginning of the novel, who lacked the ability to do anything with a bitter edge. Becky is still the same: wrapping men around her finger and using them for financial gain. Does the fact that she’s such a static character make her less complex that show development? Jos is still entirely clueless and the only hope for the Vanity Fair, seems to imply the narrator, are the children. The children, whether they be Georgy and Rawdon, or children never mentioned in the story, are granted the ability of standing outside of the Fair with the narrator. They are observers rather than participants. Or are they even manipulators, at such a young age, which the narrator seems to imply by referring to the “play” as “ours” (689)?

The Narrator and Hypocrisy in Vanity Fair

Throughout the novel, the narrator breaks the linear telling of the story to provide snarky comments and interesting side-notes. In Chapter 38, he remarks that he knows no “sort of lying . . . more frequent in Vanity Fair than” how hypocritical people are- pretending to be virtuous when really all they do is successfully deceive the world as to their true character but does the narrator mean this in a praising way? Or is he meant to be neutral or even critical of this type of behavior?

The quote comes from a passage regarding Mrs. Bute, who it seems that the narrator dislikes. She’s mean to her children, horrible to her husband and still manages to keep up outward appearances. However, Becky isn’t winning the world’s greatest mother award any time soon and she, too, takes advantage of her kind husband all for the sake of rising in society, and yet, the narrator seems to elevate her above Mrs. Bute. But why? Is it because Becky’s the underdog? Is it even still fair to say that Becky’s doing it because she has the task of making a life for herself while Mrs. Bute, a born wealthy woman, is just rude? Or does the narrator have absolutely no preference for anyone and merely chose this instance to highlight hypocrisy in the Vanity Fair? And the ever-lingering question: can we trust this narrator or is he as much a hypocrite as those on which he passes judgment?

A Chimney Sweep’s Lot- Victorian England’s Stratified Society

In Henry Mayhew’s “Boy Crossing-Sweepers and Tumblers,” we see an interesting relationship between the young, “remarkably intelligent” chimney sweep and the rest of society. This lad has developed code names for when different people walk by with the tiniest hope that perhaps they’ll give him money. How is it that people in that society are so desensitized to seeing a poor child begging on the street? Even the couples with children appear to stroll past the chimney sweep without a second glance. However, and most alarming, is the relationship between the chimney sweeps and the police officers. “If there’s a police coming, [they] musn’t ask for money” and one of the officers is even “up” to them. Are the police so removed from society that they are opposed to the innocent, those who need them most? Do the police represent authority, so distant and detached, and the children represent the innocence of society, neglected and abused? It seems to me that those who are supposed to be protectors are only working to protect one type of person and one type of life- the upper class. The rest, like the young chimney sweep, are left to fend for themselves and fight against the existing system. And, on another note, why is this child able to speak of his abuse and sorrows in such an eloquent, rational way? It seems that the lot of the poor comes as no surprise to them. Through the chimney sweep, Mayhew presents a severely stratified society in which one class is either ignorant or bothered by another and where people are of less value than money.