The Victorian Era and Religion

Throughout history, religion has played a majour role. It was through religion that people determined their place in society, gender roles, home and work ethics, and much more. It is not suprising that religion played an important role during the Victorian Era. According to Claudia Nelson, authour of Family Ties in Victorian England written in 2007, “Moreover, assumptions about family dynamics and roles were influenced by social class, religious beliefs, opinions on woman’s place, and many other social factors” (Claudia Nelson, 10). Religion played an important role in the Victorian Era by influencing society to believe in a perfect society influenced by the Bible. According to James W. Tuttleton, authour of The Hudson Review, “We [men] were taught to work jolly hard. We were taught to work jolly hard.

We were taught to prove yourself; we were taught self-reliance; we were taught to live within our income. You were taught that cleanliness is next to godliness. You were taught self-respect. You were taught always to give a hand to your neighbour. You were taught tremendous pride in your country. All of there things are Victorian values”(Tuttleton, Vol. 48 No. 3, 390). These values are based on the teachings in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Religion and society’s beliefs based on religion influenced both men and women in countless ways and formed and shaped who they were as human beings. Throughout A Doll’s House, a play written by Henrik Ibsen in 1879, the main character’s life, ideals, and roots are based on the Bible teaching and religion. It is through the life of Nora Torvald, her interactions with her husband and those around her, that the women’s role according to the beliefs based on the Bible in the 1800s is questioned.

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In the Victorian Era, as in many other tome periods, men have been seen as the dominant sex. This has many reason from the supposed strength of a man compared to that of a woman or the fact that the Bible states in Genesis 2:18-24 that “And the LORD God said, It is not good that a man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him… And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Ad’-am and he slept: and he took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God has taken away from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man, And Ad’-am said, This is now bones of my bones, and flesh of my flesh, she should be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh”( Thomas Nelson, 1). This is a quote often used to show that a man is the beginning of life, the first and the dominant of sexes. A woman, coming from the rib of a man, is subservient and therefore belongs to her husband.

Helmer shows readers that the people in Norway follow society’s teachings of the Bible. This is evidenced by the way Torvald treats Nora. One example of this is that Nora is not allowed to check the mail. Torvald carries the key and is in control of who and when the mail is picked up. This may seem insignificant, but it points to the level of independence a woman and the power a man had during this period of time. Another example would be in the beginning of A Doll’s House, Helmer Torvald says HELMER. Is that my little lark twittering out there? (Act 1.1.1979) In Helmer’s first line, he already defines their marriage as a common Victorian marriage, a discriminating and oppressed marriage.

He treats Nora like his toy or like a little child by calling her “lark” or “squirrel” and by making her rely on him for everything, rather than letting her make individual choices (Ibsen, 1979). Many people during the Victorian Era believes that the Bible teaches a woman to be submissive to her husband, as seen in Genesis 3:16, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (T. Nelson, 2). This was Torvald’s idea for women in his life. Torvald rules over Nora by treating her like a child and not respecting her as a woman or individual. Whenever he calls Nora a woman, he says it in a discriminating and derogatory way. As was noted earlier, the Bible suggests a woman as a helper to a man and the man is is the dominant and ruler in the family. Torvald seems to believe this, and treats his wife in this way. “Woman outnumbered men in Victorian England”, according to Claudia Nelson, authour of “Family Ties in Victorian England” (C. Nelson, 15).

However according to the Bible, Timothy 2:12 “But I suffer not a woman to teach, not to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (T. Nelson, 569). Although there were more women than men, men had power and authority over women. Women in the Victorian society had one main role in life, which was to get married, have children and take part in their husbands’ interests. According to Maria Nicolaou, authour of Divorced, Beheaded, Sold :Ending an English Marriage 1500-1847 written in 2014, “Today, most people assume that divorce is a relativley modern invention. This is what the Bible has to say about divorce QUOTE In the story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a short story written as series of diary entries from the perspective of a woman who is suffering from post-partum depression, the woman in the wallpaper and the narrator have something in common. The woman in the wallpaper is trapped in an ugly yellow pattern that resembles a jail cell; “At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candlelight, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be”(Perkins,681).

But the narrator is trapped in an uglier and more horrific pattern: the pattern of being a married woman in the 19th Century, or the Victorian Era. According to Ephesians 5:22-33, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body”(T. Nelson, 561). In “The Yellow Wallpaper” the narrator comments this about her husband, John. “If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency—what is one to do?”( Perkins, 673). As her husband and as her physician , John makes all of the narrator’s decisions for her, which really irritates her. According to Maria Nicolaou, authour of Divorced, Beheaded, Sold :Ending an English Marriage 1500-1847 written in 2014, “.. marriage deprived a woman of many legal rights that were available to to both widows and single women”(Maria Nicolaou, 50). How is the narrator suppossed to get the proper health care when her husband won’t listen to her. Women, even independent or widowed women, knew their place in society. Genesis 3:16, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (T. Nelson, 2).

They followed what was expected in society, usually. Only in a few instances, such as a desperate need, would they digress from what was expected. Women knew how to play the game, stand out or rebell against the standard of the time. The narrator obeys everything her husband commands her of and finally she is sick of it. In the end the narrator tells John, her husband, she has finally escaped and that he cannot put her back. James W. Tuttleton, authour of The Hudson Review, states, “‘anything that loosened the bonds of marriage and family meant the ‘immeasurable degradation of woman’”(Tuttleton, Vol. 48 No. 3, 393). After the narrator steps over her husband’s body, the story ends. However, society’s beliefs that a woman couldn’t do anything without her husband’s consent and approval will put shame on the narrator. Women were not allowed freedom except when their husband consented their freedom, yet the narrator is walking away from her husband’s limp body without anyone telling her she could. She ripped up the wallpaper secretly because she felt the need to and nobody could stop her and tell her to stop. The narrator might have lost her family and life, yet she can now search for her place in society and search for her true self.

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The Victorian Era and Religion. (2021, Mar 27). Retrieved from