Women in Romantic Literature

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Women in Romantic Literature:
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Sinner or Victim
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[ Amanda Schwartz ]
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Professor Bardsley
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English 324
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During the time period that Romantic Literature was being written woman in society were being stereotyped, oppressed, and generally given no respect compared to their male counterparts. Feelings and actions that were considered to be natural for a man were then criticized when reciprocated in a woman especially when it had to deal with sexual desires. Authors such as William Blake and William Wordsworth commented on the role of women by writing poems in which the oppression placed on their women characters by the conventions of society is the cause of their demise. The question that is brought up in the poems “Visions of the Daughters of Albion” by Blake and “The Thorn” by Wordsworth is whether the women in the poems are victims to the cruelty of the word’s thinking or are they sinners being punished for being women with improper attitudes towards sex. Oothoon in “Visions of the Daughters of Albion” is quite open about her feelings towards men namely her love for Theotormon even being as brazen to say, “I loved Theotormon/And I was not ashamed”(Blake iii.2-3). Not only was she admitting her feelings, she was also proclaiming that it was not something she felt she had to hide or feel bad about; she was not apologetic about having sexual desires. Martha Ray in “The Thorn” had similar feelings for Stephen Hill and it is said that she, “Gave with a maiden’s true good will/ Her company to Stephen Hill” (Wordsworth 117-118), which signifies her giving up her virginity to the man she loved for what she believed to be an understanding that he would marry her afterwards. Although feelings and ardor for someone are natural and can not be controlled women were not supposed to give in to them and after Oothoon voicing and Martha Ray acting upon their passions their fates do not end up as joyous as they once had hoped and planned on them being, as if they were being punished for their feelings towards the ones they loved. In the beginning of ”Visions of the Daughters of Albion” Oothoon is the image of the typical innocent little girl wandering around a field plucking flowers but on her way to see Theotormon when, “Bromion rent her with his thunders” (Blake 1.17), and she is raped thus losing her innocence. For Martha Ray her innocence had already been taken from her when she gave herself up to Stephen Hill but after being denied by him when he married someone else she also lost her sanity. Even though both poems show the ludicrousness of the effects society has on people’s lives Oothoon is able accept what has happened to her and move on from it whereas Martha Ray gives into what has happened to her and lets it define her. Blake did not believe in conventions and felt that society's way of thinking was small minded and that feelings regarding the human body were natural and should not be suppressed. He did not agree with the way women were treated and...
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