Rosetti’s feminist demonstration of poetry



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.

Stoker’s Misogynistic Tale of Dracula


Does Stoker believe women are unable to survive without men?


In Stoker’s novel Dracula, he makes it very clear that Dracula, the source of terror and destruction, only targets women. While there are sexual undertones in Dracula sucking their blood and attacking them, there is an underlying belief that Stoker has, demonstrating that women, due to their feminine nature and their lack of natural strength, are unable to protect themselves from harmful things. Therefore, Stoker makes it clear that men not only can, but have a responsibility to protect women and be their guardians.

While Lucy is in distress from blood loss, she requires multiple blood transfusions. Each of these transfusions are performed by men, and Van Helsing, referring to Arthur, specifically says, “ ‘He is so young and strong and of blood so pure that we need not defibrinate it.’ Then with swiftness, but with absolute method, Van Helsing performed the operation” (Stoker 133). The idea that Arthur is “young and strong” is emphasized, and these lines demonstrate that a man, being so fit to protect and provide, are supposed to do so since women cannot do that themselves. Additionally, fitting with late 19th century values, there is more emphasis placed on the quality of his blood, since he comes from an upper class family. This belief that he has a biological difference in him due to his class furthers the idea that men, specifically upper class men, are supreme beings in society.

Additionally in the story, when Dracula is hunted and killed, the men do the “hard” tasks, leaving Mina mostly out of the action. This provides more evidence that Stoker believed men were far more important than women, because he also put Mina in a vulnerable place and made her suffer, while the male characters provided for her safety. Without male characters, Dracula would not have been able to function as a story, because Van Helsing would not have been able to make his discoveries and give key insights to the characters, and Dracula would have feasted on the blood of women with no repercussions.

How Dracula tells the English to fear the outside world

“God preserve my sanity, for to this I am reduced. Safety and the assurance of safety are things of the past. Whilst I live on here there is but one thing to hope for: that I may not go mad, if, indeed, I be not mad already. If I be sane, then surely it is maddening to think that of all the foul things that lurk in this hateful place the Count is the least dreadful to me; that to him alone I can look for safety, even though this be only whilst I can serve his purpose. Great God! Merciful God! Let me be calm, for out of that way lies madness indeed.” (Stoker 43)

As in many Gothic novels and stories, the English’s fear of the outside world and outside influences entering and destroying their culture is very prevalent in Dracula. Stoker not only uses Dracula as a representation of the outside world entering England, but shows the outside world to the English through Harker’s journey to Dracula’s domain.

In the beginning of the quote, Harker begs God to save his sanity. These lines demonstrate the level of fear that he currently has, and the torture he has been put through by living outside of England. Dracula, whose identity as a vampire is not clear to Harker, has put Harker through mental torture and challenges, and just the strangeness of his lifestyle, his strength, his castle, and more make Harker feel like he is going mad. Additionally, Harker is aware that Dracula plans to move to England, and this idea that Dracula and his horrors will travel to England furthers Harker’s suffering. Harker is completely powerless in Transylvania and in Dracula’s castle, which is the reason he reaches out to God, and the reason he is going mad. The idea that Dracula, the cause of his suffering, would be traveling to England where Mina, his lover, is, and where everyone he knows and loves is, is another cause for Harker to go mad. Without having any power or chance of stopping Dracula, Harker further shows England’s xenophobia, because he especially fears the idea that Dracula would make his way into his culture, and essentially ruin it by infecting those around him, or just physically harm them.

While Dracula the character is one reason Harker is going mad, he specifically says that he fears everything that is around him in the castle that he is unaware of. These lines also show that beyond the character of Dracula entering and affecting the English people, Stoker reminds the English that they are to fear and disrespect the land around them. This classic Xenophobia is added to Dracula as a character, because Harker also says that he can only feel peace or somewhat comfortable when Dracula is around, making Transylvania truly feel like an un-Earthly place that is host to dangerous, terrifying, and Hellish creatures, and that the westerners are not to interact with that area of the world.




The Clash of Indian and English cultures in the Speckled Band


“But a terrible change came over our stepfather about this time. Instead of making friends and exchanging visits with out neighbors, who had at first been overjoyed to see a Roylott of Stoke Moran back in the old family seat, he shut himself up in his house, and seldom came out save to indulge in ferocious quarrels wit whoever might cross his path.” (Doyle 134).

This passage describes the mental deterioration of Dr. Roylott following his return from India and the death of his wife, but I believe this passage and the overall story of “The Speckled Band” is a xenophobic tale that teaches readers to fear and dislike Indian culture.

Roylott’s neighbors, described as being overjoyed by his return, show that before his great trip to India, he was a rather well respected, sought after doctor and person, that benefitted those around him, and was nice to be around. However, his interactions with those around him became ferocious and rare following his return from India. I believe these details are meant to show that the influence of outside cultures on Roylott, and his lifestyle in India created a harsh and brash person, who found himself disliking the British. Roylott returned with animals of India, Baboons and Cheetahs, furthering his development into a representation of Indian culture in the story. The first line, saying “terrible change”, tells the reader that Roylott was not this way before his venture to India, and that clearly the ideas and culture that influenced him while he was there is the reason that he changed.

Additionally, beyond this terrible change, during Roylott’s attack on Helen, he uses a snake, the Speckled Band, to kill her. This act, the use of an Indian snake, I believe is significant on the xenophobic tale, because Roylott did not use an English weapon or method of attack, instead letting a foreign snake do the deed. The snake is representative of the evil that other cultures, specifically India and the cultures that England had conquered, were dangerous influences on the sound minds of the English, and would create such false ideas in their mind as to kill their own family members.

George’s Mental Collapse

Quote: “ ‘but a feeling has come over me since my wife’s death, that I am like a man standing upon a long low shore, with hideous cliffs frowning down upon him from behind, and the rising tide crawling slowly but surely about his feet. It seems to grow nearer and nearer every day, that black, pitiless tide; not rushing upon me with a great noise and a mighty impetus, but crawling, creeping, stealing, gliding towards me, read to close in above my head when I am least prepared for the end.’ (Braddon 65).

This passage consists of George describing his current mental state to Robert. Before George’s disappearance, he almost predicted its coming. George, following his return from Australia to find Helen gone, returns to a place that is completely unfamiliar, despite being the exact same location. On his return from Australia, he felt complete, he felt like he truly accomplished something by becoming a wealthy man, but he did that just to find his life collapsed as he left, and I believe that broke George, because he learned that he cannot control everything in his life, which I believe leads into his thoughts of the tide slowly rising to kill him, and he cannot change that either. The language in this passage comes from a man that is sleepwalking his way into death, and that language defines the passage to me. Words such as “creeping” and “gliding” really demonstrate how his death is set in motion, and he cannot walk away, because he feels he has nothing to walk towards. He mentions his lack of love for poetry, but then follows that with his incredible comparison of his death coming to him in the form of a rising tide, sounding like a truly disturbed poet. In the novel, I believe this quote serves an interesting place, as it demonstrates that George almost knew his life was ending, he just did not know when that end would take place. It is interesting that he talked so openly about his life ending, and while doing so he put himself in the place where his life would end with the people who would take his life, and I believe that is an eerie coincidence. Additionally, I believe this passage truly shows the importance of loved ones in this novel, because Robert follows this quote by shoving it off for the cigars George has been smoking, but following George’s disappearance, Robert then realizes George’s importance in his own life, and that sets Robert down a path that changes his life and his personality, making him notice more important details in life, and notice people’s personality more rather than living life without a care. Beyond the foreshadowing of George’s death, and his manifestation of his own death, I believe this passage demonstrates how important a partner is in enabling someone to live a more fulfilled life and give them purpose in their life.