Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

“No Thank You, John” -> “Thank U, Next”

Something about the poem by Christina Rossetti called “No Thank You, John” reminded me of Ariana Grande’s new song, “Thank U, Next”. The poem and the song are closely related in their meaning and empowering language for woman towards men. But the thing that really stood out to me is the possible differences in the reaction of today’s society to Ariana Grande’s lyrics and the reaction that someone may have had to Christina Rossetti’s poem. Both the poem and the song center around woman empowerment and women’s courage to push against what society expects of them. In many articles and blogs that have come out following Ariana Grande’s song, they praise her for having the courage to move on, to break an engagement even when it is expected of her by millions of fans to follow through onĀ  it. In a post by Erica Hawkins, she says, “It takes courage to control your own narrative, particularly as a woman… everyone… wants a hand in writing (or re-writing) your story” (https://hellogiggles.com/reviews-coverage/music/ariana-grande-thank-u-next-breakup-empowering/). Both of these woman took charge in telling their own story, just written in two different time periods. In todays society, in the 21st century, if people are still saying how courageous it was for Ariana to say no to a man, focus on friends, and love herself, then Christina Rossetti must have really received push back against her poem written in the Victorian era when she writes about doing something similar. In this poem, she isn’t talking about her breaking an engagement like Ariana but she is saying “I’d rather answer “No” to fifty Johns, than answer “Yes” to you” (Rossetti). Rossetti is being courageous, pushing against the Victorian era’s societal norms that said you needed a man, for economic purposes and because you were expected as a woman to marry and uphold the domestic/motherly space.

2 Comments

  1. I think this is a great connection that I would have never thought of myself! You point out how people still had some backlash against Ariana’s song even in the 21st century, which goes to show how much backlash Rossetti would have received. In addition, I think it shows that although our world has changed a lot and become much more understanding, we are still far from perfect. Women in some areas are still pressured to choose marriage with a well-off man and often neglect their friends. Women are prepared for the interview question, “how will you manage a family and a job?” Men have families but are never asked that question. Ariana’s song is a modern day version of No, thank you John and maybe one day in the future people will listen to her song and analyze woman’s roles of the 21st century!

  2. This is a really interesting connection. It’s strange to think of the ways that perceptions around telling men ‘no’ have changed (or not changed) in that although Grande’s song has been successful, the reality of our time period is that for many women who don’t have her wealth, social status, and security (physically and financially), saying ‘no’ or leaving toxic relationships is still incredibly difficult. Rosetti, coming from a wealthy, famous family, would have had some of the same privileges Grande does (in financial security particularly) that allow her to decline a relationship(s) and write a poem like No Thank You, John.

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