Test Essay Plan

3000 word essay plan addressing social class in The Woman in White and North and South

Introduction (200-300 words)

Provide context on the social class system in Victorian England and how it was typically reinforced through rigid hierarchies. Explain the question and scope of the essay – how social class boundaries are depicted in each novel. Thesis: While social class boundaries are largely reinforced through most characters adhering to expectations in their class, both novels also depict ways these boundaries are subverted or modified to varying degrees through certain characters' actions and relationships.

The Woman in White (1500 words)

Point 1 (500 words)

Through Walter Hartright's characterization of Marian and Laura as respectable yet mysterious middle-class ladies at the start of the plot, Collins initially reinforces expectations of women's place within the social hierarchy. However, as the conspiracy is revealed and Marian is shown to have cunning and intelligence on par with men, she subtly modifies the boundaries of what was acceptable for women of her station.

Point 2 (500 words)

Sir Percival Glyde acts solely to maintain and reinforce his social standing and inheritance through his planned marriage to Laura. However, his wicked actions are eventually exposed, showing that some would resort to crime to retain their class privilege, ultimately casting doubt on the integrity of some upholding the boundaries.

Point 3 (500 words)

Through Laura's mental breakdown resulting from her mistreatment yet perseverance to reclaim her identity, Collins draws attention to the psychological toll the rigid social strictures could take on women. This challenges readers to reconsider how sustainable such boundaries were.

North and South (1500 words)

Point 1 (500 words)

The novel initially depicts a clear separation between the working-class mill workers and their masters to reinforce expectations of each social stratum. However, Margaret's interactions with the workers, especially Bessy and Nicholas Higgins, begin to blur these lines as she comes to understand their hardships.

Point 2 (500 words)

Thornton, as a self-made man, mostly conforms to expectations as a mill owner yet is shown to subvert boundaries somewhat in his desire to rise above his origins. His growing relationship with Margaret, originating in clashes over class, subtly reshapes perspectives on crossing such lines.

Point 3 (500 words)

The workers' strike challenges the existing power dynamics and boundaries by collective action, albeit eventually dying down. Nonetheless, Gaskell presents it as an early manifestation of unrest that would increasingly threaten the integrity of such rigid stratification.

Conclusion (200-300 words)

Reiterate the thesis while also suggesting this comparison invites readers to reconsider the sustainability and humanity of such rigid social stratification during the Victorian period. Conclude by referencing other novels that similarly depicted tensions within the class system.