Barbara Leah Harman

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Barbara Leah Harman is the writer behind an analysis on Gaskell’s work that investigates the portrayal of women’s public life in Victorian England. This concept is analysed as it relates to both the historical record as well as the literary record in accordance with several works including North and South. As Harman writes in the beginning of the abstract of her thesis, “In Victorian England, female publicity seems nearly always to have been bad publicity” (Harman 1). Later on in her thesis, Harman develops this point by writing “[Gaskell] investigates both ends of the public/private spectrum: it explores the significance of female public appearance...”. One can identify that the main point that Harman is trying to prove in her essay is this: Participation in public life compromises the clarity of a woman’s position as neutral or disinterested analyst and observer, someone to whom man can turn when he seeks to be guided by “abstract principles of right and wrong.” In the footnotes, the last bit of the thesis is derived from Sarah Lewis’ Women’s Mission. First, I’d…show more content…
Firstly, it is not always easy to separate private from public meanings in Victorian texts, even when distinctions seem clear on the surface. Furthermore on this concept, Harman also claims that the public realm for women is associated not just with political action, but with self-manifestation and self-display. She later concludes this thought by writing that Gaskell’s solution for balancing the public and private spheres is an unstable and ambiguous one. I will agree with this, but I will disagree that this happens because of the women in the novel. The conclusion of Gaskell’s work in my opinion is more about the ambiguous circumstances surrounding the differences between the working class and leisure class rather than the expectations of women in a public
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