The Lady of Shalott by Alfred, Lord Tennyson seems to be about the limitations Victorian woman have, but is really about their power to break free.
The Lady of Shalott appears to resemble the confinement of Victorian women. She is trapped in the tower of Camelot, and is restricted to the outside world. The only thing she has is her duties, “There she weaves by night and day” (Tennyson, 2). She doesn’t even have a real window to see the outside world, only a mirror, “That hangs before her all the year, Shadows of the world appear” (Tennyson, 2). The mirror is ultimately an emblem of the confinement, and limited opportunities of Victorian women, because it was a constant reminder to the Lady of Shalott that she could only see the “shadows,” not the light. The mirror reflected the outside world, which implies that Victorian women needed to be protected or shielded from the real world because it was too dangerous to expose them to. This made me wonder, is the purpose of confining beautiful women and hiding them from the outside world to keep their sense of innocence and purity, or to protect the outside world from their power to unlock and become wild?
However, The Lady of Shalott is really about the power Victorian women have inside of them in order to break free from their duties. The mirror, which served to confine Lady Shalott, is the object that cracked and actually exposed the Lady of Shalott to the so desired outside world where the attractive Sir Lancelot was- “The mirror crack’d from side to side” (Tennyson, 4). When the Lady of Shalott was motivated to leave the castle because “Of bold Sir Lancelot” (Tennyson, 3), an internal power was unlocked inside of her – she had the power to break the curse. If women have an internal power to escape, and break free why is it only unlocked when an attractive man motivates them? Does this mean that men are woman’s true powers? Without the sight of a man the Lady of Shalott would not have been able to escape. It is also because of Sir Lancelot that the Lady of Shalott broke the curse and died.
What I am trying to say here is that The Lady of Shalott is really about a women’s internal power that can only be unlocked by the presence of an attractive man. However, a women’s internal power to escape is only useful in the presence of a man, therefore men determine women’s fates by mere exposure. Men are then considered, when it comes to women’s powers, not worth it because the Lady of Shalott died in response. Ultimately, the purpose of confining women is to protect them from the outside world and to keep their sense of innocence and purity.