The Representation of the ‘Other’ (the Poor and Women) in Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South
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So many studies are carried out on the issue of otherness. Some are carried out in terms of skin and color by which we mean racism. Others are brought in terms of human geography and this is what Edward Said calls ‘Orientalism’. By this, he refers to the westerners’ thought that all that is from the East is inferior and that the Orientals need the westerners’ intervention to civilize them and to shed light on their darkness and obscurity. There are also other criteria of otherness like class and gender othering (the poor and women). The following research paper is, therefore, about solely class gender minorities. The otherness of these categories is related to the circumstances of each period of time. Our task is limited to studying the status of the poor and women during the Victorian Era. During that period, there were so many paradoxes and issues in the social life. The bourgeoisie was enjoying life in total wealth and prosperity while the lower class was suffering and starving. This was what led to a big gap between classes at that time. Though they played a great role in enriching the others through hard work, the poor were marginalized and remained in a state of poverty. At the same time, women stayed at home and cared for the family while men dominated all the public affairs. The process of othering of either women or the poor is explained from several perspectives, but the most influential ones are supported by psychoanalytic studies like those of Freud. Julia Kristeva studies the process of othering in different times using Freud’s categories as a basic reference for her theory. For her, before Freud’s findings about the unconscious side of human beings (ego) nobody knows that he is a stranger to himself. After Freud’s “Conscious” and “Unconscious,” people start to understand that strangeness is inside themselves; thus, we are all strangers to ourselves. In the same perspective, this dissertation aims to explain the process of othering in Gaskell’s North and South from the psychological and existential sides. In other words, we aspire to approach Kristeva’s ideas about the Other v as they are developed in her book Étrangers à nous-mêmes to Gaskell’s novel in order to study the issue of otherness. By doing so, we have reached three results. First, the poor are marginalized due to their state of poverty whereas the rich are strangers to themselves due to their peculiar behaviour towards the poor who generally push them by their human side to discover their harshness and savageness. This is the case for the heroine Margaret Hale who helps the protagonist John Thornton to change his mind and to leave out his state of unconsciousness. Second, we realized that men are not the only oppressors of women. In North and South, the poor women are othered by the rich ones due to many reasons like the difference in the social status and blind jealousy. Finally, we deduced that all humans, men or women, poor or rich, are in reality strangers to themselves; thus, they are the oppressors of themselves. Most of all, we realized that the women are oppressed at the domestic level in the same way as the workers are oppressed at the work place.