Friendzone in the 19th century

Christina Rossetti’s poem “No, Thank You, John” indeed stands as a remarkable piece that can be seen as ahead of its time, particularly in its nuanced exploration of romantic rejection and the concept of the “friendzone.” Although written in the Victorian era, the poem transcends its time by addressing the complexities of relationships and the importance of clear communication.

The poem’s rejection is beautifully put, as Rossetti delicately navigates the delicate balance between asserting her independence and expressing gratitude for the friendship offered by John. The lines “Let us strike hands as hearty friends; /No more, no less: and friendship’s good: /Only don’t keep in view ulterior ends, /And points not understood” epitomize this sentiment. In these lines, Rossetti articulates the desire for a genuine and uncomplicated friendship without the burden of unspoken expectations or hidden motives. This foresight is particularly striking when considering the contemporary discourse around the “friendzone,” a term that gained prominence in the 21st century to describe a situation where one person desires a romantic relationship while the other only seeks friendship. Rossetti’s emphasis on friendship as a valuable and self-contained relationship, “and friendship’s good,” challenges the societal norms of her time, where romantic entanglements were often prioritized over platonic connections. Her insistence on not keeping “in view ulterior ends” aligns with the modern understanding that relationships should be built on mutual respect and transparency.

In this way, “No, Thank You, John” anticipates the evolving discussions around relationships, consent, and the importance of clear communication. Rossetti’s rejection is not just a dismissal but a call for mutual understanding and a rejection of societal expectations that may force individuals into roles they are not comfortable with. The poem’s enduring relevance lies in its timeless portrayal of the complexities of human connections, making it a work that transcends its Victorian origins and resonates with contemporary discussions on relationships and boundaries.

One thought on “Friendzone in the 19th century”

  1. I found Christina Rossetti’s poem No Thank You John very entertaining in the ways of rejection in Victorian society. Out of all of Rossetti’s poems we have read, I found No Thank You John to be the most relevant in modern times. I liked how you brought up what is known as the “friend zone” because it indicates how women are guilted for not wanting romantic relationships. I also appreciated how explained Rosetti’s careful navigation of rejection. The poem reads in a way where she wants to be friends with John on the one hand, but on the other, she has to reiterate her point because he just won’t take no for an answer. Reading this poem brought up more ideas about Rosetti’s sexuality. I thought back to Goblin Market and the very sexual nature of the two sisters. As we discussed in class, this could have indicated why she never married and the nature of her poems having themes of homosexuality in them.

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