While some Victorian and Classical stories depict men as victims of the love they have for women, Christina Rosetti reverses these somewhat misogynistic ideas, instead claiming that men are in fact the wrong doers more often than not in their relationships, and the idea of a femme fatale is false more often than it is true.
While women are sometimes portrayed as the ones that make men suffer in order to gain love, Rosetti instead says that, while some women may enjoy this, others simply feel harassed by men that chase them. The poem begins with the narrator saying “I never said I loved you, John”, demonstrating that from the very start she does not want any attention from John. John represents a man, or men in general, that believe they must force themselves for women to like them, and then when they are not successful, they blame women for teasing them and edging them on, when in reality the fault is none but their own.
Rosetti, as the narrator, denies “John”, saying she wants to live a life defined by her own actions and accomplishments, not by her marriage. Not only can this be an example to women in Victorian society, but it represents Rosetti specifically, as this idea was cleverly included because Rosetti was not the one in charge of publishing her poems, but that was left to her brother, because it was not within women’s rights to publish things. Therefore, John can also be a representation of her brother constantly wanting to change her stories, because as a man he wants to be the one in charge and wants to publish stories that encourage male-centered stories.
Throughout the poem Rosetti’s idea of being okay with not having a husband also conflicts with Victorian society, spreading a feminist ideal that encourages women to be defined by their own actions, not by those of their husband. These ideas, on top of the other ones from the poem, create a feminist message that encourages women of Victorian times to have the courage to say no to their partners and stand up for what they want.