The Isolated Youth of the 19th Century


   I have chosen to write about Illman & Sons’ The Greek Maiden. The engraving depicts a somewhat young-looking woman alone, staring off either into the distance or simply zoning out—it’s difficult to tell where her gaze is directed. Either way, she does not seem to be engaged in the current moment. The woman appears almost unaware of the artist. Her solitariness gives off a sense of isolation. Perhaps, because of this isolation and the somewhat melancholy look on her face, she feels as though she does not belong in the society in which she resides. This may be what she is thinking about—the cause of her miserable expression. The location she sits in may be the spot she escapes to to have some alone time.

   This woman reminds me of Carroll’s character Alice. Alice, being rather strange, does not seem to fit in with what the youth of the Victorian era was expected to be. However, this may have been a common occurrence for 19th century children, for kids are often not naturally born prim and proper. I can imagine that nearly all youth felt isolated in the Victorian era, not yet respected as fully functioning members of society until their superiors felt they were mature enough. Alice and this Greek maiden, like many children, feel out of place in their environment. Alice does not fit into Wonderland either.

   This Wonderland may have been a way for Alice to rid herself, even for just a few hours, of her strict and possibly unfulfilling life. Although Alice was unconscious during her escape, this may be what the Greek maiden is seemingly lost in—a daydream. Both pieces might speak about the pressures youth and women felt and still feel today, as well as the temptation to get away from it all.

3 thoughts on “The Isolated Youth of the 19th Century”

  1. I do agree with your interpretation in seeing Alice’s adventures as an attempt to escape, even if just for the short time of a dream, the every-day reality. I see her escape as a call for attention common to many children at that time, as witnessed by the fact that as soon as Alice wakes up and runs off, her sister is ready to live exactly the same experience of her sister. I wonder, however, what you mean when you say that Alice does not meet the expectations that the Victorian era had on the youth. To which expectations are you referring to?

  2. You have a lot in this post and it’s awesome. I was really interested in the way you brought up daydreams and think it would be a great point to expand on. I worry that there is a lot of supposition surrounding your description of the image. Though I understand nothing can be certain, I would advise you try and rework the opening so there are fewer suppositions. Your transition from discussing the image to connecting the image with Alice in Wonderland was strong, especially the last few sentence of the second paragraph.

  3. I was really interested in this image when we were in the Trout Gallery as well. What it made me think of was Laura Mulvey’s Gaze theory. In it, Mulvey discusses women’s “to-be-looked-at-ness” where they exists for male viewing pleasure. One of the characteristics of this is that they don’t meet the viewers gaze, but instead are presented solely for the purpose of being looked at.

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