Compare and Contrast The Romantics: William Blake and Mary Wolstonecraft Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman sets out to invalidate the social and religious standards of her time in regards to gender, just as William Blake sets out to do the same for children. Both Blake and Wollstonecraft can be read by the average man and woman, lending its attention toward both upper and middle class. Wollstonecraft’s revolutionary themes of tyranny and oppression of women parallel the themes in Blake’s poetry of the tyranny and oppression of children; hence, leading the reader to the Romantic notion of empathy. Wollstonecraft’s use of nonfiction prose for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman sets her apart from the conventional poetic form of the Romantic literary movement; but the tone and theme of her work is as revolutionary as Blake’s “The Chimney Sweeper,” “Holy Thursday” and “The Little Black Boy” and so is the epitome of Romanticism.” Wollstonecraft and Blake set the tone for Romanticism through the use of simple and common diction within their literary forms. This shift in conformity from the Age of Reason allows both Wollstonecraft and Blake to directly address the unjust social issues at hand. In Vindication, Wollstonecraft directly addresses men and their selfishness in regards to the standards they have implemented for “female virtues” and says that ...”men who, considering females rather as women than human creatures, have been anxious to make them alluring mistresses than affectionate wives and rational mothers” (291). Likewise, Blake poetically criticizes the treatment of children in “The Chimney Sweeper,” and says, “And my father sold me while yet my tongue/ Could scarcely cry weep weep weep weep/ So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep” (Lines 2-4). By using common and direct diction within their literary forms,
Wollstonecraft and Blake are able to speak directly to both upper and middle class about the injustices in society, which is one literary element of Romanticism. A main theme for the Romantics is to defend the weaker from the state of societal tyranny and oppression. Because women of her time were seen as “creatures” who lacked good sense and moral virtues, Wollstonecraft vehemently defends her gender by shifting the cause of these “female follies,” on men and argues, “From the tyranny of man, I firmly believe, the greater number of female follies proceed; and the cunning, which I allow makes at present a part of their character, I likewise have repeatedly endeavored to prove, is produced by oppression.” Blake directly addresses the same Romantic theme of tyranny and oppression towards children in “Holy Thursday” wherein he bluntly, yet poetically says, “Is this a holy thing to see/ In a rich and fruitful land/ Babes reduced to misery/ Fed with cold and usurious hands” (lines 1-4). Although Blake uses poetic blatancy, while Wollstonecraft uses direct nonfiction prose, both epitomize “Romanticism” with their revolutionary themes of an unjust system of society that points towards immoral conduct by using the weaker for their own happiness and gain. A characteristic tone of Romanticism is to evoke empathy within the reader to gain a deeper understanding of the revolutionary topics. In Vindication, as Wollstonecraft argues that a woman should have proper education so that she may exercise her hidden power of the use of reason when “young love” grows cold and she can no longer please her husband, she addresses this issue by eliciting empathy from her male readers, which is best exemplified on page 299, wherein she says, “The woman who has only been taught to please will soon find that her charms are oblique sunbeams, and that they cannot have much effect on her husband’s heart when they are seen every day”…”Will she then have sufficient native energy to look into herself for comfort”…”or, is it not more rational to expect that she will try to please other men.” Blake...
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