Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

A Safety Poem

Almost all the Victorian authors we have read challenge gender roles. Bram Stoker allowed Dracula to be the most powerful character in his story, but also painted him as one of the most feminine characters, Mary Elizabeth Braddon made her most beautiful character, Lady Audley, the most treacherous one, and finally Christina Rossetti, who in No Thank You John addressed the idea of saying no to a marriage, so that someone may wait for love. While these three authors may have presented new ideas to challenge Victorian social norms, they all reinstall the normal with their endings or a less radical piece. As I mentioned in my former post “Beating the ’95 Bulls Without Michael Jordan” Stoker allowed the finally battle of Dracula to be fought without Count Dracula, Mary Elizabeth Braddon kills Lady Audley, and writes a short chapter reassuring her readers that the story was fictional and apologizing for any fright she may have given them, lastly Christina Rossetti wrote less radical poems too, ones that didn’t seem to challenge any Victorian Norms like “A Triad”.
A Triad expresses 3 different women, who are character types of how women could live their lives and view marriage. Rossetti describes the first women in a lustily manner. With lines like “Crimson, with cheeks and bosom in a glow” here she is described as a whore, the crimson red represents an impurity, similar to the voluptuous red lips, Lucy and the three female vampires had in Stoker’s Dracula. The second woman is the ideal Victorian lady. She is described as singing “soft and smooth as snow” a direct contrast to the first lady, the second is compared to white snow to show how pure and innocent she is. The third singer married but married the wrong person and now lives desolate life. This poem does not give Victorian women many freedoms, if they choose to live a life expressive life of any kind they will end up dead like the first woman. They could strive to be like the perfect second women, but if they choose the wrong husband by they may end up as a lonely spinster. By giving the audience such bleak options Rossetti may be pointing out how unfair women’s choices are, but overall I find this to be a poem to calm the masses. Rossetti presents no radical claims she rather states the truth.

4 Comments

  1. I also wrote my blog post on the changing role of women across all of the Victorian novels we have. like you, I contrasted No, thank you John to a triad because I found it interesting how Rossetti could hold both beliefs. In my opinion, it seemed like she was trying out different thoughts about women throughout her poems. She seemed to use her writing as a way to experiment with gender roles and explore her own thoughts and feelings.

  2. I think that the concept of saying no to a marriage in the Victorian Era is one of the most interesting topics we have talked about. When I picture this I think of lots of people in a courtroom gasping at this lady who proclaims that she does not want to marry. Though my time periods are out of place in this mental depiction, I think it accurately describes the motion to not marry as a woman in the Victorian Era. We’ve talked a lot abut women in the Victorian Era in general throughout the semester. I think that it is one of the most complex and interesting topics we’ve discussed. To say the least, women had it really rough being described as whores and women not marrying.

  3. An additional poem where we see the idea of crimson as promiscuity or impurity is in Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess.” In Browning’s poem, the duchess, also the narrator’s wife, is described as having these very rosy cheeks. This angers her husband as he sees it as a sign of her unfaithfulness and assumes she is having an affair with another man. The duke sees her as unfit for a marriage, especially with someone of her class, so he ends up killing her because of her “impurity” that can be seen in her rosy cheeks.

  4. I responded to another post that argues something similar to this already, but I am intrigued after reading this to think about it in a new way. I am curious by your line “calm the masses”. I wonder if her intention of writing two starkly different poems (“A Triad” and “No Thank You, John”), rather than just being uncertain about how she feels about the slow shift in woman’s societal roles like I argued before, was really to get less grief and public push back for “No Thank You, John”. I wonder if it gave her the ability to be able to calm people down who disliked that particular poem so she could reference “A Triad” and say “no, see I still am following social norms!”.

Leave a Reply

© 2018 Monsters & Madness

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑