Study Guide

Where Angels Fear to Tread Gender

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Where Angels Fear to Tread might start off with a young woman getting ready for a liberating adventure of a lifetime, but a large portion of the novel is actually concerned about the plight that women face in a male-centered society. Lilia thinks that she has left behind the super-stifling societal pressures of Sawston, but she faces a different kind of oppression in Italy. Married life in a country where you're a foreigner is ridiculously difficult when you don't know the rules, and poor Lilia has to learn that the hard way.

Questions About Gender

  1. Women in this novel often feel stifled by the gender pressures placed on them. For example, Lilia is expected to be the dutiful widow, and even after she rebels and marries a foreigner, she still feels the pressure of having to be an obedient wife. Does Forster offer any solutions to the problem of gender inequality?
  2. Do women face negative consequences when they try to break out of gender expectations?
  3. From Gino's point of view, he can't afford to let his neighbors think that his own wife questions his authority. Do you think Forster's portrayal of Gino's treatment of Lilia negative, positive or neutral?

Chew on This

Even though Lilia tries to resist conforming to gender expectations, she finds that she's too cowardly to disobey her husband.

Gino isn't a cruel person and doesn't want to hurt Lilia, but as the head of the household, he expects his authority to be the last word.

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