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The Rights of Women

Essay by   •  December 8, 2012  •  Essay  •  2,360 Words (10 Pages)  •  1,223 Views

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The Romantic era is classified by many different things. Most notable is the freedom of expression artists and writers alike began to exercise. Emotions were no longer suppressed as they had been throughout the Neoclassical era, but were encouraged, and individualism became the surfacing trend. It is emotion and opinion that brings me to discuss the prose "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" by Mary Wollstonecraft, and how it adheres to the rising trends set by other Romantic writers.

First, we notice that the prose is written in 1st person narrative, which is very indicative of the Romantic era. It is apparent from the very beginning of the Introduction that the author is passionate about the topic she is preparing to discuss by stating that she has done research on the subject as well as observed her life and the lives of others to gather the information needed to draw her conclusions as well as share these conclusions with the world around her. Within this same opening sentence we are reminded of the rise of the Romantic era when the author writes "most melancholy emotions of sorrowful indignation have depressed my spirits", meaning, simply, that the author is deeply saddened. Consistent with the poets from this era, there is a lot of emphasis on the feelings of the narrator, which in this case, is the author herself.

Immediately, the reader hears tell of the events that have caused such sadness for the narrator. That is the idea that "either nature has made a great difference between man and man, or that the civilization which has hitherto taken place in the world has been very partial." This gives the author two different discussion paths, either men and women were indeed created to be unequal, or the society around them has created an idea that men are the superior sex and women the inferior.

It is important to point out, that at this point in the reading, we as readers can be fairly certain that the audience this piece is intended for spans a wide variety; from the highest class of aristocrats, to the middle class, to the lowest class of society, and has included educators and fellow writers. However, it is not clear yet how that affects the tone of the piece until later, so I will refer back to this to expand on my point at that time.

The narrator tells us that she has turned over many books on the subject of education, so it is clear that being literate and educated is a very important matter to her own well-being. She continues on with informing us that she has "patiently observed the conduct of parents and the management of schools", meaning that this is not only an important subject for herself, but that she feels it is critical for others to embrace it's importance as well, but, in following, we find that her patience on the matter has been to no avail. It is in the next part of the sentence, "my fellow-creatures is the grand source of the misery I deplore; and that women, in particular, are rendered weak and wretched by a variety of concurring causes, originating from one hasty conclusion" that we understand which side of the initial argument the narrator is going to take. That side is that men and women were not created unequal, but have been "rendered" so by many different things, all stemming from a society that has concluded, unjustly, that is the way it has to be.

Over the next few lines, the narrator expands on her point by telling the readers that it is obvious that point of view is wrong. That if anyone were to really look at a woman they would see that she is not in a "healthy state of mind" because of the conduct and manners that are taught to them being so constricting to their natural states. The narrator is confused, and seemingly appalled that others would not see this as she does. Women are compared to flowers, a very nature oriented comparison, consistent with the poets of the time, that are planted in too rich a soil, and that "strength and usefulness are sacrificed to beauty". This, of course, tells us that part of the conduct and manners mentioned before was that being beautiful by societies standards is of extreme importance. She returns to the flower reference saying, "and the flaunting leaves, after having pleased a fastidious eye, fade, disregarded on the stalk, long before the season when they ought to have arrived at maturity", letting the readers know that not only does the narrator disagree with societies idea of beauty, but that it has been habituated into young girls so much that they become this idea of beautiful and physically mature much faster than what, perhaps, the universe, or our creator, had intended for them to, and are therefore, left to whither and fade at a much earlier time in life in terms of physical appearance. She attributes this to a "false system of education", which confirms that she feels this societal standard has been pressed on young women without their being old enough to make an informed decision on their own, and that this standard has been provided by "books written on this subject by men" who consider "females rather as women than human creatures". To further elaborate that, she tells us that these men who are writing the books to educate the world's young women are more interested in making them "alluring mistresses" rather than wives and reminds us that they have a primary thought, or agenda, when educating these women, and that is sex and beauty.

The subject of sex leads the narrator to further elaborate on the early maturation of women and the why of it, as it conforms to the teachings of conduct and manners. The civilized women have set a goal to become the wife and not the mistress, as that somehow displays their success in life, and in order to achieve that status, they must "inspire love", which they do using their compliance and beauty, implied to be that same as conduct and manners, rather than their abilities and virtues. The narrator does not blame the women for this misunderstanding though. Instead, she blames the "men of genius" who have "enfeebled" the minds of the women by writing the books that has lead women to believe that this is the way to a successful life.

At this point the narrator takes on somewhat of a sarcastic tone and reminds all of the readers that she is not deliberately trying to start confrontation on the subject, but it has hindered her from things in which she wants to accomplish in her life, and therefore, she must point it out so that she may accomplish these things, whether anyone cares to follow in her steps or not. She does not deny the physical difference between men and women, which naturally, puts men at a physical advantage, but does not take any offense to that. She does, however, take offense to that fact that men

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