To What Extent Christina Rossetti Uses Materialism and Status to Cloud the Oppression Women Face Within Marriage
As H.Berten would put it, “for better or for worse, everything seems somehow related to everything else. With regard to the social position of women, and therefore also with regard to the field of female writing. ” Various text published by christina Rossetti such as cousin kate, or sister maude can illustrate this contemporary harsh realities that women faced during the victorian era. As women during this period were vulnerable to the traditional patriarchal role, or a fixed social position.
The comparison Rossetti makes between a family bound such as “cousin” Kate and “sister” Maude can suggest the relevance of women oppression through the titles such as family relationships that readers can acknowledge. Also both text shares doubs and mistakes that Rosetti urges the new generation to stray from. Such as the aberration females tend to see in marriage of a wealthy man. seeing this as a sense of freedom whereas, Rossetti sees this common mistake as a method to blur females restriction through the allurement of materialism and status and reflect it as freedom. However both can be said to share similar function that being a warning, but the poem sister maude is arguably more of a rebellious text. As Rosetti indulges in a sense of taboo writing encouraging females lust.
Throughout cousin kate the readers truly question whether the narrator is actually aware of her circumstance or, is simply in denial of her exploitation. We gain this understanding of the narrator being oblivious of her oppression due to her origins being that of a simple “cottage maiden.” This can inform us of the narrator’s worth being equivalent to working class. As the word choice “ cottage” refers to a typically small residence, with low living standards. This can already suggest how the narrator being rooted from working class means that she would be ill educated compared to those of higher class. Therefore her lack of intellect can lead her to be negligent in her exploitation. This contrast with the lords living quarters being described as a “palace”, giving associations to wealth, and higher class can be used to reflect men and women position in society.
From already knowing the difference in wealth it could also indicate how the narrator was allured by material status and remains in denial of her exploitation to remain connected with it. Alongside this the phrase “maiden” can represent purity as in the victorian era, women who were still virgins was seen as pure and innocent. This innocence can be used to manipulate her without her knowledge of the situation. Evidence of this deceit can be promoted from the lords action as he “he wore me like a silken knot, he changed me like a glove”, dehumanizing females to possession. The repetition of “he wore”, “he changes” in relation to accessories “silken knot” and “glove” insinuates a sense of ownership. The simile in use here encourages this idea of females being nothing more than decoration. this can easily show how they are objectified, used to promote one’s social status. This idea of women being exploited and restricted can be supported by P. Barry who states how the male partner “will decide her ultimate social position and exclusively determine his happiness and fulfilment in life, or her lack of these”. In all suggesting how men have the final say in all decisions even ones that affect the opposite gender.
Conversely, in Sister Maude, Rossetti constructs a traditional folk tale of two sisters feuding over a lover, leading to a destructive downfall of both sisters and their relationship to one another. As from the opening lines, we can get a brief feel of the narrator frustration and anger through her rhetorical question, “who told my mother of my shame, who told my father of my dear?”, as she answers her own question stating “oh who but Maude, my sister Maude who lurked to spy and peer”. Firstly we should understand that when the narrator refers to “shame”, she’s referring to her pregnancy outside of marriage. This offspring, even though being a product of adultery, can be utilised to gain social standing/status within society.
During the Victorian era women fundamental role was associated highly with motherhood. This phrase can insinuate the motif of the sisters’ pregnancy, as Rossetties word choice “shame” confirms the sisters true content of the child, being that of a burden. However, the following line consisting of the phrase “my dear” can act as a juxtaposition. As the word, ‘dear’ can be strongly associated with love and care. suggesting how the narrator feels no regret for her actions or what is labelled as “shame”. As she may see this as an opportunity to gain recognition, through bearing a child leading to a forceful obtainment of status being motherhood. This can be confirmed from the sisters’ boastful claim that the narrator’s lover is “worthy of a queens embrace”. This exaggerated hyperbolic praise of someone deeply in love, maybe with the newly gained status she received. As the implication is that she herself is a queen. Putting herself above her sister, due to her pregnancy, even though her child was created from deceit.
Whilst it is true that much of Rossetti’s characters face oppression through materialism and status, it is in fact suggested that the views of society, particularly the double standards that women face, is the focal point for women oppression.
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