In a traditional Victorian society which was patriarchal, it was expected that women remained subservient and complaint at all times, obediently yielding to the inclinations of both men and the community around them. The women in Christina Rosetti’s poems, however, were defiant and daring, innovating beyond the conventional standards of women, and rarely allowing anything to repress them. From “Jesse Cameron’s” adamant refusal to marry to “Maude-Claire’s” determined endeavor to break a marriage. A variety of instances in numerous poems by Rosetti portray women whom incessantly break traditional social norms, subliminally implementing that women merit more rights and liberties. Conversely, on some occasions, it seems that despite attempting to shatter conventions, the women are repressed, either way, not truly succeeding to make themselves independent.
An example of a defiant woman is the narrator in “Cousin Kate”, someone who had a sexual relationship with a “lord”, without being married. The poem is essentially directed at her “Cousin Kate” whom supposedly “grew fairer” than the narrator which then lead the “lord” to choose her, and “cast” the narrator aside. Instantaneously, noticeable references to a sexual relationship are made, for example; “Plaything”, and “his love”. The narrator additionally states that “he changed me like a glove” meaning she has clearly experienced some sort of catharsis, where the liberation leads her to become a changed woman. The tenor in the poem is extremely vengeful, and the narrator is clearly spiteful, this elucidates her defiance as women were expected to be forgiving in the past. However, in this case; she expresses bitterness, planning to retrieve her payment for their betrayal, and clearly illustrating her rebelliousness. Nevertheless, there are signs that the narrator has submitted to conventions, meaning that there are signs that the narrator has forgiven the “lord”, as women were supposed to. The narrator only addresses; herself, and her cousin throughout the poem, sometimes beginning stanzas with “O Lady Kate”, and “O cousin Kate”. In addition, even the poem’s title is “Cousin Kate”, which clearly displays that her anger is directed to her. This could indicate that the narrator wasn’t truly defiant as she did succumb to the conventions of their society.
“Maude Claire” follows the story where the protagonist, which “Maude Claire” herself, attempts to gain the upper hand over a married couple, amidst their wedding ceremony. She is clearly a defiant character as she has had a sexual relationship with the groom in the past, and isn’t willing to let him go, despite the fact that such acts were frowned upon, and unforgivable during the Victorian period. In addition, “Maude Claire” in fact begins to taunt the “bride” and groom, uttering that she has “bought” a “gift” to “bless the marriage bed”. Although her words don’t come across as particularly derisive; as she continues to talk, she clues at the intimacy that she and “Thomas” used to have, presenting her “half of the golden chain”. Her intention here was clear; she wanted to unnerve “Nell” whom was the “bride”, and ensure that “Thomas” submitted to her, meaning that she was entirely in control of the situation and able to acquire what she desires from it. “Maude Claire” is somewhat successful as she leaves “Thomas” “faltered in his place”, and hiding “his face”, displaying that she is a dominant character. As she addresses “Nell”, the reader learns that “Nell” isn’t as passive or docile as she has been behaving during the majority of the poem as she takes control here, becoming dominant over both “Thomas”, and “Maude Claire”. She states that she’ll “love him till he loves [her] best”, as “Thomas” seemed to be enamored by “Maude Claire”, although he had married “Nell”. There seems to be some role reversal present in the poem as “Thomas” is more submissive, however, the two main females are more assertive.
Nevertheless, as defiant as both “Maude Claire”, and “Nell” attempt to be, they still seem to be at a disadvantage here, with “Thomas” getting the most out of the situation anyway. It appears that at the end of this, “Thomas” will have a woman loving him, and he wouldn’t be alone unless the women decide to team up, and go their own way. Nonetheless, this is extremely unlikely to occur due to the way in which they have been raised; in a Victorian patriarchal society. For example; “Maude Claire” has been used, and cast aside, however she cannot do anything about it but taunt as the society doesn’t allow her too. In addition, “Nell” seems to love him unconditionally as she doesn’t appear perturbed that her husband has had another lover. However, her unresponsive behavior may be due to her being repressed, leading her to be denied the right to protest, similarly to “Maude Claire”. Although Thomas is clearly caught between two women, the situation is actually in his favor because they seem to be fighting over him (despite “Maude Claire’s” dismissive actions), and this subliminally reinforces traditional patriarchal values, leading women to be further oppressed. As defiant as they may seem, all things considered, they are brawling a man who played with their hearts, and are, therefore, still getting played by him because they fail to realize that they are only raising his status and placing him on a higher threshold.
Ultimately, Rosetti’s women are clearly defiant and rebellious as they attempt to override the traditional patriarchal values that the Victorian society uphold. Nevertheless, in some cases, they have to conform to the convention in order to spare themselves getting shunned by the society, which could then lead to repression. However, Rosetti has presented them as defiant, showing that she believed women deserved more rights.
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In a traditional Victorian society which was patriarchal, it was expected that women remained subservient and complaint at all times, obediently yielding to the inclinations of both men and the […]