In Christina Rosetti’s poem, No thank you, John , Rosetti writes from the point of view of (presumably) a woman, who has repeatedly rejected and said no to this man named John. John continues to ignore her and continues to try and talk her into loving him. She offers him friendship but makes it clear she does not want a relationship. When he realizes she’s serious, he turns on her, calling her heartless and cold because she does not want a relationship. This poem highlights the idea that women were not allowed to have their own opinions and needs regarding relationship with men. It was seen that they must accept the advances of men and marry whichever man courts her first. While overall, societal expectations have changed regarding women and their (somewhat) autonomy, many men still have high expectations fo women and expect all women to accept their advances. This can be seen in modern day media, an obvious example being Meghan Trainers hit song, “No.” In this song, Meghan Trainer is repeatedly telling a man that she does not want his number and she does not want to interact with him at all, which he seems to be ignoring.
It is interesting that this theme and idea has transcended into centuries and that even today we are witnessing the ongoing effects of negatively controlling and viewing women in modern media and everyday lives.
In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, there seems to be an on-going theme regarding a women’s sexuality. The first instance of this can be seen when Jonathon wakes up to find three women talking about kissing him and attempting to seduce him. While Jonathon does characterize them as “beautiful” he also calls them “the devils of pit.” Which insinuates that women who are sexual beings and have embraced their sexuality are devilish and unnatural.
Later on in the story, we learn more about Mina and Lucy, the other two main women in the story. Mina and Lucy are both charactered as more “normal” women compared to the three vampires, however their gender also impedes people’s judgments about them. Most notably Is the moment when Mina writes about how peaceful Lucy looks while she is sleeping. She also takes the time to make fun of the New Women, claiming in Chapter 8 that “Some of the New Women writers will someday start an idea that men and women should be allowed to see each other asleep before proposing or accepting.” Mina is essentially making fun of the progressive women and insinuating that women need to be docile and needy, especially when it comes to men.
Reading this book at first, the insinuations and highlights may not be obvious. But digging in deeper, the theme and issues within the story are obvious. These two moments are just a few of many genders related issues at play within Dracula. These moments show us that women who are perceived as sexual, who may not be married, however they are comfortable with their own sexuality, are considered devils and from the pits of hell in Victorian culture. This theme also shows that progressive women were considered outsiders in Victorian culture and even other women played into the idea that women need to be docile and follow men.
Within the second volume of Lady Audley’s Secret, there seems to be an underlying theme or possible binary between the two sexes. At one point, Robert Audley goes on a rant about how women are, “pitiless to each other” and are essentially, the lesser sex (236). Later on in the volume, he even continues to talk about the “horrible things that have been done by women, since that day upon which Eve was created to be Adam’s companion” (271). On the other side, Lady Audley also takes the time to explain to Alicia that “madness is more often transmitted from father to son than from father to daughter” (276). While this quote is less obviously defaming of men, it can be inferred that she is illuding to the madness of all men, since madness is more likely to be transmitted from father to son.
While looking at these three quotes and passages, one might find themselves questioning why there is this theme and binary. While it cannot be said for sure, unless you are Mary Elizabeth Braddon, there may be assumptions. My assumption is that it is not really about the sexes, but more so the actual people these characters were talking about. Robert and Lady Audley have an obvious dislike for each other. Robert believes that Lady Audley murdered his best friend, while Lady Audley is either worried, he’s going to find out her secrets, or is pissed that he thinks that in the first place. While they go on tangents about the opposite sex, I believe these tangents are just overall thoughts about each other. Robert thinks that Lady Audley is the devil, that she is lesser than and realizes the (so-called) horrible things she has done. Lady Audley believes that Robert is mad, even if he is right about his assumptions. While these comments were spoken in the second volume, the entire book shows the dislike these two characters have for each other. I would bet money that continues in the third volume.
One of the more interesting aspects of this section of reading is the section where Lady Audley requests that Phoebe does her a favor and then gives her time off and extra pay for completing this (P. 61). While the narrator does not specify what exactly Lady Audley requests of Phoebe, it is obvious it is something she does not want others to know. Because of the pattern Lady Audley seems to be taking, where she is consistently avoiding George, it could be assumed that Phoebe was the one who sent the telegram requesting Lady Audley to visit her sick friend. I think that Lady Audley is attempting to avoid George, because she is actually Helen, his late wife.
Overall, this passage relates to the entire novel because it sets up another way that Lady Audley is attempting to avoid George. We do not know for sure if Phoebe sent the telegraph at Lady Audley’s request, but due to the secrecy of whatever the request was, and the surprise Lady Audley had when Mr. Audley offered to go with her, we can assume that she knew this was a fake trip. There is a pattern throughout this book, where Lady Audley is exhausted, or ill, or off on a trip and she avoids seeing George. She does not seem to avoid seeing Robert, however she does avoid George. If Lady Audley is George’s late wife, she could be hiding to enjoy her now extravagant life and she would rather not lose that experience.