To What Extent Is The Angel In The House A Reality

Submitted By Monique-Whitfield-Ad
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Pages: 5

To what extent was the Angel in the house a reality?
The Victorian image of the idealistic wife was known as the “Angel in the house” this concept was based around the idea of poem written by Coventry Patmore. The idea of the angel in the house was that the wife of the household was to be devoted and submissive to her husband. The Angel herself was passive and powerless, graceful and beautiful (but not to beautiful that she would be desired by another man). A word that sums up how the wife was supposed to be was “altruistic” which means that she was an unselfish and giving human being.
However although there was the idea of the Angel in the house, the reality for some women wasn’t all that altruistic. In the 19th century we tend to refer to the "Private" and "Public" sphere, the private sphere being your household-where the woman would normally be- and the public sphere where the men went to work as MPs and other professions. Although women tended to stay in the private sphere, it can only be said of some of the middle class women and most definitely all of the upper class women.
If we take into consideration working class women, they didn’t have the privilege to be an Angel in the house. This was because they were at the lower end of the social hierarchy, so it meant that women, along with their husbands had to go and work to provide for their family. Here in source L of the "Colliery lasses of Wigan" it is a picture of the working class women who are working, digging for coal. Now as previously mentioned the whole idea of the Angel In the house was for the women to look pretty for when their husbands arrived home, the women were supposed to be elegant looking and have a form of delicacy about them. However as we can see in source L this isn't actually the case for all women living in the Victorian era in fact these women who are in source L look the complete opposite to how The Angel In the House is portrayed. Some middle class women worked also, however for a middle class woman her profession would be different, she would most likely end up working as a governess which would still be considered as the Angel in the house, because she would be the house with children teaching them and nurturing them. But again as we can see from source L that wasn't the case for the working class women of the time.
Women such as queen Victoria agreed with the idea of the Angel in the house, a powerful figure such as the queen of Britain would have influences over other women in Britain, to also share the same views as she did about women remaining in Angel in the house. It was felt by many upper class women at the time that the ideology of the Angel in the house was the correct way for a woman to behave, to be a warm heart for her husband and to be there for when things went wrong so the blame could be passed onto them. To some upper class women being an "Angel in the house" was the best thing that could happen. However as we can see from the tone of Source H not all women felt that being an Angel in the house was that great. Source H is from the diary of Margaretta Greg, at first glance her diary entry seems to agree that women belong in the private sphere and nothing else, however from little phrases such as "mere lady" it can be gathered that the tone of this diary entry is rather sad. To Margaretta women are just a "mere lady" which would suggest that there is nothing more to lady, just her gender. In source H it talks about how women shouldn't go out to work, unless she wants to end up following the rules of a working class woman. From this it can be gathered that work is only for those who are a part of the working class society and Margarette uses this to show that this is who the upper class women are compared to if they partake in "any occupation that money can command".