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.     

The Unjust Death of Victorian Women

The Lady of Shalott is a lyrical ballad about a woman living alone in a tower on the secluded Ise of Shalott that is upriver from the great kingdom of Camelot. The poem pulls from many different stories in legends. Camelot, where it takes place, sleeping beauty from the tower and spindle, Arachne, and Penolpe (Odyessiouse’s wife) with the weaving. The Lady of Shallot is not allowed to look down at Camelot; she is forced to look through the reflection of her mirror or else be cursed.

The relationship between beauty and death in The Lady of Shalott is looked at through the lens of nature. “waterlilly, daffodilly, and water chilly” is the soft, flowy language used at the beginning of the poem. This is supplemented by the alliteration found at the end of each stanza. As the poem gets darker, the reaper is introduced, foreshadowing the wilting and eventual death of The Lady of Shalott. “I am half sick of shadows,” says the Lady of Shalott, looking longingly down at Camelot. The straw that breaks the camel’s back is when she glimpses Sir Lancelot. So desperate for connection, she watches him and hears his song. This delusion causes her to look out at him, and her mirror cracks. Like most women in Victorian literature, her life is ruined by a man. As she floats down to Camelot, she morphs into this creature. “…steady stony glance…bold seer in a trance…Mute, with glassy countenance.” this reminded me of Dracula and Lucy’s transformation into this sultry evil woman. As Lady Shalott dies, she is compared to a dying swan, which symbolizes the death of her innocence. Her features sharpen as she sings her death song, and people fear her. It is only when Sir Lancelot redeems her is she finally accepted.

Looks that Kill


Bram Stoker’s Dracula reflects Victorian society. He uses three female archetypes to show the changes of the time. The Victorian era was a time of scientific innovation, breaking from the church, and the emergence of “The New Woman.” Lucy represents traditional Victorian society with her purity and innocence. Mina embodies the “New Woman” because of her new-world ideas of femininity and her aspirations to work with Jonothan. The three vampire sisters demonstrate breaking from the church. Explicitly focusing on Lucy’s development from innocence to evil. The weird sisters hold the most power out of any of the women because of their vampirism. Their powers of seduction and femininity lead men to their deaths, as seen in their attempt at Jonathan. 

The weird sisters are a great example of the fem fatale. We see Lucy start to exhibit some of these traits in her transformation. “In a sort of sleep-waking, vague, unconscious way she opened her eyes, which were now dull and hard at once, and in a soft voluptuous voice, such as I had never heard from her lips…” In this passage, we see Lucy begin to become a dangerous seductress. As soon as she opens her eyes, her sweet innocence is replaced with a cunning mind and dark agenda. She demands Arthur kiss her with intent to suck his blood and kill him. Luckily, Van Helsing recognizes her vicious agenda and stops him. “Not for your life! he said; not for a living soul and hers! And he stood between them like a lion at bay.” The curious part about this quote is that Helsing has separated Lucy from themselves. They are the living, and her soul is gone, dead. Helsing is scared of her now. She has been dehumanized; Lucy is now an ”it,” an evil, inhuman entity. Like the weird sisters, she holds divine feminine power in looks that will literally kill.   





The Sacred Skull

“You interest me very much, Mr. Holmes. I had hardly expected so dolichocephalic A skull or such well-marked supra-orbital development. Would you have any objection to my running my finger along your parietal fissure? A cast of your skull, sir, until the original is available, would be an ornament to any anthropological museum. it is not my intention to be fulsome, but I confess that I covet your skull.”(10)

This is a passage at the very beginning of the novel when Sherlock is introduced to Dr. James Mortimer. This passage striked me as very monstrous and creepy in nature. It paints Dr. Mortimer as having some secret devious villiness nature. Dr. Mortimer is a Phrenologist and is deeply interested in Sherlock’s brain. This is most likely because of his almost supernatural talent for observation. So along with the mystery of Baskersvill, there is also the mystery of the great Sherlock Holmes. Something that specifically irked me about this passage was when Dr. Mortimer said “…running my finger along your parietal fissure?”. This quote made me feel like Sherlock was a specimen in a lab, a great gift to science rather than a human being. I can imagine the joy that would come with his death and the obtaining of his skull. The way it would be prodded at and picked apart. This great man shrouded in mystery being the object of every Phrenologist’s affection,”I confess that I covet your skull.” This passage is overall a very strange and out of place thing. For starters it is presented so early in the novel. It also puts Holmes in a less than ideal light. From his other books and various popular culture, we are used to seeing Sherlock as the one who has all the answers and is the one picking people and facts apart. Yet here, the narrative is flipped. This is leading me to wonder if this is an indication of coming strife for Holmes later on. I think this because we here Mr. Mortimer talked of the “best” a few pages earlier. Saying that Sherlock is number two. Does this mean that Sherlock will become somewhat of a Watson to this greater entity?

Monster in Disguise: Lady Audley Blog Post 1

“She looked a childish, helpless, babyfied creature; and Robert watched her with some torch of pity in his eyes, as she came up to the hearth by which he was standing, and warmed her tiny gloved hand at the blaze.” (Braddon 141)

In this passage, Robert encounters Lady Audley unexpectedly on a cold September morning. There is a lot of attention brought to how childish and babyish she is. This fragility brings out an emotional response in Robert, he feels pity for her. Lady Audley, as previously seen in a position of divine feminine power, is now described as this young and fragile thing that would shatter if anyone so much as touched her. There is a lot of repetition of the idea of her being small, helpless, and young. The reason the author is hyper-focused on making Lady Audley sweet and innocent is to distract from her hidden monstrous tendencies. If we refer to the passage, we see Robert pitying her. However, when Braddon decided to use the word “creature,” it alluded to the fact that she has a capacity for evil. That Lady Audley in a sense could be considered a monster, or a creature of the night. Later in the passage, the narrator talks about Lady Audley warming her tiny, gloved hand at the blaze. What stuck out to me here was the word choice for the fireplace. Blaze is very harsh and destructive, not a word typically used to discuss a fire in a fireplace. Going along with the theme of destructive fire, we also witness Robert with “…a torch of pity in his eyes….” Torches are historically associated with mobs and witch hunts, implicating Lady Audley. The theme of monstrosity is most powerful when Lady Audley is referred to as a “creature.” Even though the context surrounding the word is her innocence, the word creature makes her inhuman. I think the reason this passage is chock-full of evil and innocent comparisons is because Braddon wants the reader to start unpacking the paradox that is Lady Audley.