No Means No

Christina Rossetti’s poem, No Thank You, John, is a recurring theme of how men can’t take no for an answer. Rossetti spends eight stanzas trying to reject a man named John, and he will not take no for an answer. The poem’s speaker is a woman who is assumed to be Rossetti. Thank You No John is a very blunt poem. Aside from the title, Rossetti’s forward language can be found throughout the poem. With her, “I never said I loved you John” appears twice, and “I’d rather answer no to 50 Johns Than answer yes to you.” I found that quote to be fascinating because it is so ridiculous. The fact that the woman in this poem used such intense language to get rid of this man and still had to repeat herself is baffling. In this way, I felt I could relate the poem to modern times because of the theme of men not taking no for an answer. There is a distinct parallel between the need to be friendly and polite and not hurt men’s feelings and not being taken seriously in rejection. Despite this, Rossetti makes sure to use hard language: “Who can’t perform that task” I noted that she said can’t, not won’t. It comes off as something she cannot do rather than something she just doesn’t want. He has the nerve to call her heartless in response to her rejection. In response to being called heartless, she stands her ground and concedes that perhaps she doesn’t have one and uses that against him, that he is crazy to take offense to her when she has no heat. I loved this poem so much because it feels badass and feminine and still relevant today.     

4 thoughts on “No Means No”

  1. Good insight. I felt that the poem’s blunt and direct language underscores the urgency of the speaker’s desire to be unequivocal in her rejection. Rossetti’s use of strong phrases like “I’d rather answer no to 50 Johns” and “Who can’t perform that task” emphasizes the absurdity of the man’s persistence and the speaker’s determination to not be swayed. The poem effectively conveys the theme of men’s reluctance to accept rejection and the societal pressure women face to be polite and accommodating, even at the expense of their own boundaries. Despite the challenges, Rossetti’s speaker stands her ground, asserting her right to say no and refusing to be manipulated or gaslighted. The poem’s relevance to modern times lies in its exploration of gender dynamics and the ongoing struggle for women to be heard and respected.

  2. This poem definitely stresses repetition and utilizes rhyme scheme in a way that relentlessly gets Rossetti’s point across, which is, as you nicely articulated, that this guy won’t take no for an answer. It is frustrating to witness her speakers courtesy, though some of the poem’s humor really comes from her blunt refusals and snarky remarks followed by a respectfully forced ‘no thank you’ at the end. This pattern of women not being heard or respected can be found in several of the books we’ve read thus far from Lady Audley’s Secret to Dracula to many other of Rossetti’s poems. Although some of this consistency is due to the time period, I find Rossetti’s poems especially to be quite relatable in todays world.

  3. I agree with your insight in the context of the problem of men being able to take no for an answer, that is a huge problem in today’s world and one that needs to change. The fact that the subject of the poem stood her ground is badass, and not a theme that was extremely common to write about back then. One connection I saw between not taking no for an answer was with Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market. The goblins were extremely unrelenting with their persuasion, and although Lizzie was able to stand strong, Laura’s curiosity got the best of her and she ended up being much worse off for taking the fruit of the goblins.

  4. This reading of the poem is one that I find accurate, due to the fact of it’s relevance in modern day despite being written in 1862. There is a societal urge for women to “treat men nicely” and “let them down softly” which is completely asinine. Rossetti takes back this urgency and importance in the dynamic of a relationship by firmly standing on her point of it’s non existence. The fact that a lot of men in life, even to the modern day cannot take no for an answer is astounding.

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