Study Guide

A Great and Terrible Beauty Women and Femininity

By Libba Bray

Women and Femininity

If there is anything we hate more than having to wear shoes in a restaurant, it's cinching up a corset so tight you pass out on your way to the car. The roles and appearances of women in the 19th century—especially young, wealthy ladies—take center stage in A Great and Terrible Beauty,and are one major reason the foursome in this story thirsts for power and freedom. Every moment of their lives is public and game for judgment, and they all desperately want a break from social expectations.

Questions About Women and Femininity

  1. Why are the different young women in this book sent to finishing school? Do they want or need to go?
  2. What do we learn about the reality of what girls want and need? Does it fit in with what society says they should want?
  3. What rules do we put on women today? Have they changed from 1895 or are there similarities? Are there unwritten rules about how to be accepted? How to be attractive?

Chew on This

Young women are treated like property in this book because they are given no power over their own lives and are presumed to be incapable of independence.

Life is easy for wealthy English ladies in the 19th century because they have very little to be responsible for besides looking pretty and being quiet.