The language used in The Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti is a clear indication of how women were treated during that time, as well as the overall plot of the work. Within the plot of what happens to Laura and Lizzie, we can clearly see a parallel of the stigma that is palpable in our patriarchal society nowadays. There has been very little change in these times of how men (merchants, goblins) talk to women, as well as how society discusses those discriminations and later, violences. The Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti clearly shows how women were thought of in the Victorian Period in their dependence on men, sexual desires, and social stigma attached to sex. In the literary language and plot of the story, the readers are able to gain insight into what it meant to be a woman during that time period.
Within the reading, there is the clear distinction of what women should and shouldn’t expect and provide and be a part of in the Victorian culture of that time period. The sexualization begins early, when the merchants (goblins) call to Laura and Lizzie, by telling them only in line 30 “‘Sweet to tongue and sound to eye; / Come buy, come buy’” (Rossetti, Line 30). It feels similar to catcalling nowadays, and how women can’t walk down the street without feeling attacked or objectified. In this case, Laura and Lizzie were seen as the characters that the merchants (goblins) wanted something from, which we later find out, is something that is even more sexualized. From the beginning, the merchants (goblins) are discussing these women’s tongues and yelling to them to buy their fruit, and the notions of sexualization are thus brought to light in the very early stages of the story.
As readers we also see the stages of victim blaming and how it is so easy to do so, even in unclear, Victorian literature that is proving the dismissal of sex. As we read on and see Laura interact with the merchants (goblins), and begin to be hurt and become animalistic by their fruits, we also see how the townspeople react to her interacting with these merchants (goblins) and in her buying of the fruits by telling her “‘Laura, Laura, / You should not peep at goblin men’” (Rossetti, Line 48). Out of context, that line could easily be taken and understood as one person just looking out for the next person when in reality, the repetition of Laura’s name is understood to be condescending in nature. This condescending nature is then representative of the victim blaming that begins and is recognizable in literature, as well as in society.
All of these statements are further represented and understood in the connection to the real world and seeing how, if at all, we’ve changed in any way in response to the world in Victorian period. The victim blaming of that time period is not all that different from the victim blaming of this time period. For example, not so long ago, just March 10 of 2017, a judge was accused of victim blaming while sentencing a rape case, justifiably so. In one of her last sentiments as the judge of that case, Judge Kushner stated that “‘[Women] are entitled to do what they like but please be aware there are men out there who gravitate towards a woman who might be more vulnerable than others’” (Rawlinson). Is this sentiment better than telling a woman she has to know better than to look at the merchants (goblins)? How do those two sentiments compare with each other in responses to sexual assault and/or violation of a woman? Frankly, there is no difference. Both the townsperson in the story and the judge from 2017 believe that it is a woman’s duty to not be violated, because they shouldn’t “look the goblins in the eye,” or “be more vulnerable than others,” and that in it of itself is perpetuating rape culture from the 1800s as one in the same with the 2000s, which is discussed more thoroughly in this news outlet as well.
As we read on and the sexualization becomes more and more obvious – and almost uncomfortable – we begin to understand, subconsciously, how the interactions between women and men are meant to be in heterosexual, emphasis on the sexual, relationships. The language that is continually used throughout the reading drives that point home subconsciously within the reader, an example of which is obvious when we are introduced to the action of when Laura is drinking from the fruits, as she “then sucked their fruit globes fair or red: / Sweeter than honey from the rock. / Stronger than man-rejoicing wine,’” and is later described as “she sucked and sucked and sucked the more / Fruits which that unknown orchard bore; / She sucked until her lips were sore; / Then flung the empty rinds away” (Rossetti, Line 128 and line 134).
It’s important to state that as we go through the reading, we go along with Lizzie as she gingerly goes to the merchants (goblins) in order to get more fruits for her sister, and we see a different side of the merchants (goblins) than we had seen before, as they get aggressive and more pushy with her, beginning with “squeez[ing] and carress[ing] her,” and then quickly going to calling her names, pushing her, and physically hurting her (Rossetti, Line 349). It becomes clear that she is disrespected as a woman in her desires – which in this case, is to just take the fruits home and not eat them – and the merchants (goblins) will continually disrespect her, showing her that her desires don’t matter to them. This is the first aggressive interaction with the merchants (goblins), but we begin to see their true side and the true testament to who they are and what the person means to them. In this case, the merchants (goblins) overpowered Lizzie physically, in order to violate her as they “laughed in heart to feel the drip / Of juice that syruped all her face,” and we see the disrespect that was palpable in that story as well as understandably in that time period, due to the mirroring effect of the time period representing the literature (Rossetti, Line 424).
Through all of these notions of victim blaming, aggression, catcalling, and the language used within the plot line of the story, it becomes prevalent to understand how our world has been shaped by this subconscious, underlying idea that women are not as deserving as men are. The women are nothing but disrespected in this reading, and the only people that do respect them are themselves and each other (which in it of itself is even questionable and arguable). The merchants (goblins) represent the patriarchy as discussed prior, and the women are continually seen through the merchants’ (goblins’) eyes as those that can provide whatever they desire, which is in this case, to make them eat fruit, in a way that will later on hinder them, their lifestyle, and debase them in society and their subconscious mindset of where they stand as women in this world, thus pushing women into subordination.
Catcall Definition.” Mirriam Webster Dictionary, 28 Mar. 2018,
During the Victorian Period, which took place between 1837 through 1901, there were many different attitudes among the people. At the beginning, it started out that the people were very prudeish and would never talk about sex. Because of this, people during this time thought about sex the most just because they had to pretty much keep it a secret. Towards the end of the century, however, there was the beginning of “The New Woman”. This was a woman who was seen to be independent. She worked, had a higher education, wore pants and supported herself. These women also broke the societal norms when it came to marriage and motherhood. Many of them did not get married because they thought it would be hard to find equality and marriage and when it came to having children, some tended to put their careers first. This ideal of “The New Woman” was presented in the play Mrs Warren’s Profession written by George Bernard Shaw. Vivie, in Act 4, presents herself as “The New Woman” when talking with Frank, Mr. Praed and her mother, Mrs. Warren. She does this by smoking, not being interesting in marriage and romance, not following the societal norms for women and by talking about how she wants to be independent.
In the play Mrs Warren’s Profession, Act 4 seems to take an interesting turn. Vivie is visited by Frank at her new workplace. Vivie asks him of he would like to smoke and then Frank replies, “[Pushing the cigar box across.] Nasty womanly habit. Nice men dont do it any longer” (Shaw 1819). This is an interesting quote because of Frank’s wording. He uses “nasty” and “womanly habit”. The word nasty is used to mean gross, but nasty just sounds more harsh. Along with that, implying that it’s a “womanly habit” makes him seem like he is against Vivie with her new woman image and habits. Also, when he says “nice men dont do it any longer”, he is implying that the only people who smoke are women and scummy men. When looking into this, it seems as though Frank is completely against Vivie and the way she is choosing to live her life at the time. He is trying to bring her down by using a word such as nasty and then saying that nice men don’t smoke anymore is intended to be a low blow. The best part is that Vivie smokes in front of him anyway.
Another aspect of “The New Woman” ideal was not wanting to get married because of the fear of not finding equality in a relationship and then marriage could also mean that they would have to give up their work and essentially their independence. Vivie was having a conversation Frank and Mr. Praed and she was getting frustrated with the fact that Frank wanted Vivie to be his wife and Praed wanted Vivie to travel the world with him to enjoy art and the beauty of the world. Vivie says, “…But there are two subjects I want dropped, if you dont mind. One of them [To FRANK] is love’s young dream in any shape or form; the other [To PRAED] is the romance and beauty of life… If we three are to remain friends, I must be treated as a woman of business, permanently single [To FRANK] and permanently unromantic. [To PRAED]” (Shaw 1822). This quote is interesting to look at because Vivie is addressing both Frank and Mr. Praed saying that she doesn’t want what they want for her. When looking at this, it is interesting how she uses “love’s young dream”. Vivie most likely says this because growing up most girls would dream of falling in love and Viv just doesn’t feel that way at all. She also talks about “the romance and beauty of life”. To her, she is talking about art and traveling to different cities. Vivie is so focused on work that she doesn’t want to be in a relationship and she doesn’t want to take time off of work to see other places and to look at art. She also wants to be treats as “a woman of business”. This shows how focused she is on her work and her dedication to work. Vivie also says she will be “permanently single” and “permanently unromantic”. She is sticking with her ways of depending on herself and only herself. This quote supports the New Woman because these women in particular did not want to be married and instead of traveling and seeing the world, they wanted to focus on themselves. Vivie is essentially isolating herself so she can be an independent woman.
Being independent was one of the main reasons why “The New Woman” was so important. Women were finally doing things for themselves and didn’t want to be supported by a man or their families. Vivie, when talking to her mother towards the end of the act, decides to give her mother her money back. She says, “Its my month’s allowance. They sent it to me as usual the other day. I simply sent it back to be placed to your credit, and asked them to send you the lodgment receipt. In future I shall support myself” (Shaw 1826). In this quote, Vivie is returning her mother’s money because she doesn’t want to be dependent on her, or her business anymore. It’s interesting how she has an “allowance” seeing she has been through college but her mother still seems to give her money. Viv saying “I shall support myself” really shows how set in her ways of being an independent woman she is. She is working and making money for herself so she doesn’t need anyone else to give money to her. This goes along with the New Woman because she is striving to be independent and she literally cuts ties with her mother and her mother’s money in order to do so.
Lastly, the entire “New Woman” ideal was to stray away from the societal norms of women and what had been expected of them up until this point. Vivie is talking with Frank and Mr. Praed about her mother and her business and why she is doing what she is. Vivie says, “…There is nothing I despise more than the wicked convention that protects these things by forbidding a woman to mention them” (Shaw 1823). The words “wicked convention” really stand out. Using these two words together is interesting because wicked means morally wrong or evil while convention means the way something is usually done. Viv is pretty much saying here that she hated how things that are morally wrong but are usually done are things that women cannot talk about here. Here, she is referring to her mother’s prostitution business. During the Victorian Period, sex and prostitution was not something that was talked about because of their prudish behavior. Because of this, Vivie cannot tell people why she is becoming so independent so quickly, but she also hates the fact that she cannot say what she is feeling. Eventually she writes out what she wants to say but Vivie’s goal throughout this play is to break thought the societal norms for women and create her own path.
Overall, Vivie is exactly how “The New Woman” is suppose to be. She smokes, has a higher education, doesn’t believe in marriage or romantic things, she is striving for independence, and she is going against the societal norms. This mentality was a new way of thinking for all women because before this time, getting married and being a mother was really the only option women had. Now, with high education being available to women, they could go and get an education and get a successful job and support themselves. Being independent from men was a huge step for women but it lead the way to so many successes for women not only then, but now as well. Thank you, Vivie, for inspiring women for so many centuries.
Here’s a video talking about “The New Woman”.
Works Cited Greenblatt, Stephen, and Meyer H. Abrams. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ninth ed., E, Norton, 2012.
Ever just written a poem out of revenge? Lady Mary Wortley Montagu sure has.
That’s the face of a woman who isn’t having any of men’s shit. The Reasons that Induced Dr. S. to write a Poem called The Lady’s Dressing Room was written by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu in 1734, during the Restoration Period. Lady Montagu was a feminist aristocrat whose majority of works were written to challenge the views and attitudes directed toward women. This poem was written as a response to Dr. Jonathon Swift’s poem, The Lady’s Dressing Room, supposedly as a backstory for why he wrote his poem. Dr. Swift’s poem is about a man walking into a lady’s dressing room and shattering the male constructed image of women as ethereal beings, declaring them disgusting. Rather than simply satirical, Lady Montagu felt that Dr. Swift’s poem was misogynistic and shed women in a bad light. Which is how she came to write The Reasons that Induced Dr. S. to write a Poem called “The Lady’s Dressing Room”.
This poem is about Dr. Swift and his experience of meeting with a prostitute and paying for her services for him to ultimately be unable to “perform”. After blaming her for his lack of erection, he demands his money back but she refuses to return the money, in turn blaming his old age instead. He declared getting vengeance for this but the prostitute had the last say, with Lady Montagu referring to his slanderous poem.
What was meant to be a satirical take on men’s expectations of women turned into a literary war between two writers. Rather than focus on the topic of hygiene of women, Lady Montagu attacks Dr. Swift’s capabilities in sex resulting in why he must have written the poem.
This poem has great examples of sexism because of how Dr. Swift addresses the prostitute, Betty. The main theme that Lady Montagu intends to address throughout this poem is the misogyny from men and the rise of feminism.
Lady Montagu describes Dr. Swift’s arrival and encounter with Betty as a man with high expectations. She begins his journey to Betty with words and phrases of confidence and allure to describe Dr. Swift. At his arrival she wrote, “The destined offering now he brought,/And in a paradise of thought,/With a low bow approached the dame,/Who smiling heard him preach his flame.” (lines 21-24). With the words “paradise of thought”, Dr. Swift is imagining their approaching “union”. The use of velvety words such as “destined”, “paradise”, “dame”, “smiling”, and “flame” allow for him to be looking at the situation with the male constructed view of women. Similarly, in a quote right after, “And then, returend with blushing grace,/Expects the doctor’s warm embrace.” (lines 29-30), soft and velvety phrases like “blushing grace” and “warm embrace” portrays a graceful woman who can have no faults. The clear dichotomy is that men are driven and confident while women are passive and sexual beings.
After a long digression talking about the authority of different standings, making an allusion to the ranks between men and women, Lady Montagu continues with the tale.
Dr. Swift is ready to do the deed with Betty, except he realizes that he can’t get it up, if you catch my drift. This is really emphasized in the lines, “The reverend lover with surprise/Peeps in her bubbies, and her eyes,/And kisses both, and tries—and tries.” (lines 63-65). The use of punctuation and repetition surrounding the word “tries” brings that idea forward. He then blames this lack of pleasure on the prostitute, “He swore, “The fault is not in me./Your damned close stool so near my nose,/Your dirty smock, and stinking toes/Would make a Hercules as tame/As any beau that you can name.”” (lines 69-73). This is where Lady Montagu brings the center of his poem to light in her poem. He blames her lack of private femininity, or publicly displaying her “damned close stool”, “dirty smock”, and “stinking toes”, for his incapability of getting it up. Her argument is that Dr. Swift’s shortcomings stem from his sexual frustrations. With Dr. Swift’s character using Hercules as a comparison, he shows arrogance as he is giving him that high value of a God. The lines basically state that her disgusting habits would make even a God tame, just as another other man. Even though he isn’t calling himself a God or even putting himself on a similar level as God, his usage sounds like “God would be disgusted and as am I” which indirectly puts Dr. Swift with some superiority. This coincides with the idea of men having dominance over women.
The first line of the next stanza, “The nymph grown furious roared” (73), is interesting because the literal translation of the word “nymph” is “a beautiful, young woman”. But immediately after she uses the words “furious” and “roared” which aren’t very nymph-like. At least, roaring isn’t. Just as Dr. Swift’s expectation of women being beautiful 24/7 vs the true reality of women behind the scenes, the quality of the term “nymph” (simply being beautiful) is contrasted with the quality of the phrase “furious roared” (showing real emotions and reactions).
Lady Montagu continues the poem with, “By God/The blame lies all in sixty odd,”/And scornful pointing to the door/Cried, “Fumbler, see my face no more.”/”With all my heart I’ll go away,/But nothing done, I’ll nothing pay./Give back the money.” “How,” cried she,/”Would you palm such a cheat on me!/For poor four pound to roar and bellow–/Why sure you want some new Prunella?”/”I’ll be revenged, you saucy quean”/(Replies the disappointed Dean)/”I’ll so describe your dressing room/The very Irish shall not come.”/She answered short, “I’m glad you’ll write./You’ll furnish paper when I shite.”” (lines 73-89). The prostitute blames Dr. Swift for his lack of pleasure, saying that it’s no wonder as he’s sixty years old. She is adamant that she shouldn’t have to return the money. As punishment for refusing to return the money, the Dr. Swift character threatens to announce the disastrous state of her dressing room, tying it back to his actual poem, The Lady’s Dressing Room, addressing her filthy and unhygienic dressing room. She comes back with a great response, saying she’ll wipe her shit with whatever he writes. This is an especially great comeback due to his written disbelief that women are nasty enough to poop. So not only did she insult his writing and give him no satisfaction in revealing her filthy habits (that are only natural) to the world, but she addressed his original poem that spoke about all the nasty habits he doesn’t believe women actually have. But I digress.
Lady Montagu’s response to The Lady’s Dressing Room is superior than the original pem by Dr. Swift. His poem is misogynistic because it discusses the seemingly disturbing things that women do to get ready. He observes it to be disgusting and basically gives the idea that women should be elegant and polished 24/7 which is absolutely ridiculous. Lady Montagu’s response to the poem in The Reasons that Induced Dr. S. to write a Poem called The Lady’s Dressing Room was a feminist response. Rather than only addressing the hygiene issue that Dr. Swift brought up, Lady Montagu shed light on his sexual inadequacy being the reason he is so critical and pessimistic. But she also turned it around to tie in the woman hygiene issue.
Lady Montagu used her writing to direct a movement of realizing women’s true values by writing the satire The Reasons that Induced Dr. S. to write a Poem called The Lady’s Dressing Room.
Spencer Beck. “THE MISOGYNY OF JONATHAN SWIFT & THE FEMINIST RESPONSE OF LADY MARY MONTAGU”. WordPress.com. 25 Feb, 2014. britlitsurvey2.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/the-misogyny-of-jonathan-swift-the-feminist-response-of-lady-mary-montagu/
At first glance, “The Rights of Woman” seems to be a cry for female equality. Written in 1792 by
Anna Barbauld, the bulk of the poem beckons women to assert themselves in male dominated, Romantic Period England. Barbauld rips into the patriarchy of the era, calling man “treacherous”, and referring to them as women’s “imperial foe” (Barbauld, 18-19). “The Rights of Woman”’s initial stanzas aim to invokes a feeling of power and rebellion, urging women to take back the authority to rule over man.
Despite these strong words, the poem closes with an ominous message, one that turns the previous feminist reading on its head. Barbauld’s final stanzas explain that cultivating love and trust between sexes will diminish a woman’s yearning for power. According to Barbauld, a woman’s appetite for vigorous action will fade with the warmth of a husband. If you slice away the last two stanzas of the poem, it can be viewed as a feminist text. However, with the final stanzas included, the poem takes on a strange, anti-feminist vibe.
The Dissection: Close Readings of Important Passages
Stanza I, Lines 1-4
Yes, injured Woman! rise, assert thy right!
Woman! too long degraded, scorned, opprest;
O born to rule in partial Law’s despite,
Resume thy native empire o’er the breast!
This opening stanza sets the stage for the poem. Barbauld addresses the “injured woman”, or the women who have been “degraded, scorned, opprest”. This speaks to the women of the Romantic Era, who were unable to receive the respect and authority that was organically given to men. Barbauld says that women are “born to rule in partial Law’s despite”, meaning that they are capable of wielding power, placing them above man. The final line of the stanza, however, tells women to “resume thy native empire o’er the breast”. “Thy native empire” refers to the place where women naturally belong, and “o’er” the breast refers to the heart. This means that, while women have the power to rule, they rule predominately over their hearts. This is different than what one would expect a ruler to rule over; kings and queens are often associated with power kingdoms and countries, not power over emotions.
Stanza IV, Lines 13-16
Thy rights are empire: urge no meaner claim,—
Felt, not defined, and if debated, lost;
Like sacred mysteries, which withheld from fame,
Shunning discussion, are revered the most.
This passage solidifies the importance of women’s rights. It says that “thy rights are empire”, meaning they are of great importance. The language used here is also important, because it brings a focus toward what women should be striving toward: an empire. Barbauld tells women to “urge no meaner claim”, meaning that this goal is the meanest, or greatest thing they can ask of their oppressors. These rights are “felt” by women, but not defined. This means that women instinctually know that there is a need for equality, but the lines have never been drawn to create this equality.
In addition, she mentions that if these rights are debated, they will be lost. This can support the need for revolution seen in the first lines of the poem, which urge women to rise and take action rather than negotiate. In the last two lines, the tone changes a bit, becoming more abstract. Barbault relates women’s rights to “sacred mysteries”, as though they are something vital, but undiscovered. She notes that while they are not often talked about, they are revered, or greatly desired. In these ending lines, Barbauld may be pointing out that the discussion, or movement, toward the power and rights of women needs to be put at center-stage.
Stanza VII, Lines 25-28
But hope not, courted idol of mankind,
On this proud eminence secure to stay;
Subduing and subdued, thou soon shalt find
Thy coldness soften, and thy pride give way.
At this point, the poem begins to shift. Barbauld notes that the “courted idol of mankind”, meaning women, will find “thy coldness soften, and thy pride give away”. The tone of the poem goes from one filled with vigor and ambition into one of vulnerability and defeat. The hoo-rah attitude in the beginning of the poem fades away. Even though women are “subduing”, they will eventually be “subdued”. Successfully rebelling against patriarchy is useless, their will to conquer cannot last.
Stanza VIII, Lines 29-32
Then, then, abandon each ambitious thought,
Conquest or rule thy heart shall feebly move,
In Nature’s school, by her soft maxims taught,
That separate rights are lost in mutual love.
This stanza follows the theme of the previous stanza, retracting the battlecry for Romantic women to take up arms. It is replaced with a request: that women “abandon each ambitious thought”, deconstructing the obelisk of rebellious desire, which is exactly what the previous stanzas built in their hearts. So what is causing this sudden change?
Men, of course.
In lines 31-32, Barbauld explains that due to mutual love, women will lose their lust for power in a male dominated society. Barbauld is basically saying that while women can be swayed away from revolution by the love of a man. All the ambition found in the previous stanzas goes to waste under the gaze of a tender man. This, she says, it part of “nature’s school”, which basically means that it is natural for females to lose their social aspirations when in love.
Barbauld has created a literary roller coaster with “The Rights of Woman”. Initially, we have a call to action for women to rise up against patriarchy. By the middle of the poem, the action rises. Barbauld pushes her ambitions for women even further, saying that women should not only be equals, but should also rule over their male counterparts. This attitude is then demolished by the final two stanzas, that basically say that a women’s natural role is to be a lover of man, not a lover of power. Once a woman saddles up and finds herself a husband, she naturally defaults into the housewife role, and her ambition to rule is swept away.
So where is all this coming from? This poem came shortly after Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. By the title alone, one can see that “The Rights of Woman” is reactionary to Wollstonecraft’s novel. Wollstonecraft’s Vindication was known for its outspoken demand for equal education opportunities for women. With this in mind, it is easy to see how Barbauld’s poem conflict’s with that notion; in “The Rights of Woman”, she states that these dreams of equality become unimportant once a woman feels the love of a man. In her mind, it’s pointless to fill a woman with an impassioned, rebellious attitude when it will dissipate under the influence of romance.
Ryan Jace French is an English student, blogger, and
fishing enthusiast attending Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH. He can often be found weeping over his student debt while cooking Ramen noodles in the Belknap communal kitchen. Follow him on Twitter today: @RJaceFrench
The Rape of Lock by Alexander Pope, is a mock-heroic narrative poem based on a character named Belinda during the Restoration period. During this poem Belinda has to overcome the struggles of being a woman in this society. But just because she is the main character does not mean she is the only focus of the story. What about the character Clarissa? Clarissa was the character made out to be the the evil mastermind behind the cutting of Belinda’s hair. Clairissa was immediately frowned upon because of her jealous actions. She has then been labeled “a bully” or “the mean girl” throughout the entire poem. But her famous “speech” speaks truth and somewhat redeems her in the end. Clarissa, has evil flaws that sometimes get the best of her. But Clarissa is real, when it comes to how women should be viewed in society. Clarissa is right, when it comes to her claim that women should be valued on their personalities and intelligence rather than their beauty.
So lets break this down, Clarissa who is set up from the beginning to look like the bully, all because her jealousy and personal views. Her envious emotions cause her to give the scissors away and cut Belinda’s hair. But us as women should be able to somewhat understand this. Belinda is that girl that cares all about her looks and is not really a nice person, yet all the boys want her. We all know a girl like this, and we all ask why? Yes, we may do it in our heads and never go out of our way to chop their hair off but we can not lie, we have thought about something along those lines before. It is human nature to be envious, and to form ones own opinions about things and others. In the beginning of her speech Clairssa states “the pitying Audience melt in Tears,But Fate and Jove had stopp’d the Baron’s Ears.In vain Thalestris with Reproach assails, For who can move when fair Belinda fails?” (Pope 86). Which is her acknowledging that the entire crowed was upset when Belinda’s hair was cut. The fact that a cutting of hair can cause such alarm to an entire party says a lot about society, because of how much beauty was valued at this time. Now what if a woman tripped and fell in the party, one who was not as pretty and not as pursued as Belinda. Would the crowd still have been shocked or concerned as much as they were about Belinda’s hair? Most likely not. Clarissa is calling into question why is beauty valued so high and why is personality and intellgence not.
This speech not only is it relevant for back then but it is also relevant for now in the year 2017. In her speech she is saying that looks fade, the make up will only cover up so much for so long. Hair will turn grey and stop growing as much. The wrinkles will start to find their way all over the body and one’s perfect figure will not be an hour glass shape forever. But personality, soul and good sense of humor does last. Which is what she means when she says: “But since, alas! frail Beauty must decay,Curl’d or uncurl’d, since Locks will turn to grey”.(86) When someone only relies on their looks and their figure than what else will they be able to fall back on when they get older? She also explains that a woman who has brains and good social skills will go farther and succeed more than one whose only focus is on beauty. Which is what she means when she says “And trust me, Dear! good Humour can prevail,When Airs, and Flights, and Screams, and Scolding fail.”() Because once people get married, and become older the beauty will start to disappear and if one does not have a good personality or soul what will make the husband or wife love them and stick around. When she says “screams and scolding fail”(86). it is Clarissa’s way of saying that by fighting to try and keep a significant other around because looks have faded will not work. If a person is beautiful on the inside they will never have to worry about anyone leaving or lose interest in them.
This entire section of the poem connects to the body shamming problem we are facing today. It seems that even during the Restoration period, women have been taught to think all that matters is how beautiful and attractive one is. This is quoted in Clarissa’s speech when she asks “Say, why are Beauties prais’d and honour’d most,The wise Man’s Passion, and the vain Man’s Toast?”(86). This quote is asking why does beauty image matter so much. Is it because it is what the men can “toast to” or what the “men value”. Because of this absurd idea of beauty women have been hating on themselves since the beginning. Now a days it is not about how high or curly your hair is, it is more about the unrealistic requirements of what ones figure should look like. It is like its been programmed in girls minds dated all the way back to our great great great grandmothers that us as women should always doubt what we look like. But Clarissa in this story is saying that women should not be judged upon their looks. She is saying that women should be measured on their intelligence, or their sense of humor or their soul.
Now this is not justifying what Clarissa did to Belinda’s hair, because Clarissa did let her jealousy take over her. Because of her action against Belinda it seems that it may contradict what Clarissa says at the end in her speech because it was not “lady like”. But Clarissa is not a monster or the one who should be disliked the most. She was real. So to completely exclude Clarissa and categorize her as “bad” means that every person who does so is hypocritical. We have all felt the way Clarissa has, where we do not feel good enough and wonder what that other person has that we do not. We look at celebrities on magazines and then look in the mirror, and we frown or cry or say hurtful things to what we see. If anything we should be praising Clarissa. Because Clarissa is supporting all the women who have not been the most beautiful or the most popular. She explains this in the last sentence of her speech when she says “Beauties in vain their pretty Eyes may roll;Charms strike the Sight, but Merit wins the Soul.”(86) This quote means that though someone who is considered attractive may catch the eyes of others. Only someones good personality can catch peoples hearts.
This part of the poem seems to raise awareness of how women should be viewed. Clarissa gives this speech that seems so raw and truthful, yet she is looked at as rotten and a women who does not deserve applause. It seems that during this time women were not valued for being smart or having a good sense of humor and the same can be said for today. This part of the poem said by Clarissa, brings up very controversial issues about women shaming, and how beauty should not define a person.