A Garden of Women: How Women Are Compared to Flowers in a Vindication of the Rights of Women

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Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the first credited feminists of the literary world wrote an essay in 1792 called, A Vindication of the Rights of Women. This essay thoroughly describes how women were treated and viewed through the eyes of others, mostly men, during the 18th century in England. Wollstonecraft speaks out against the sexist nation through this piece not only by pointing out the flaws in man and country but goes even future to attack her own sex in specific passages. During the 18th century in England, women were not seen as equals but as “things” whose lives had been condemned at birth. Women were pretty things with arms and legs, eyes and mouths, but they were also pretty things without intelligence and passion, individualism and power. Women were solely seen as “flowers” and used to produce and care for the family. Since women were viewed as such things Wollstonecraft compares them to flowers in her essay. Wollstonecraft writes, “The conduct and manners of women, in fact, evidently prove that their minds are not in a healthy state;(…)” she goes on to say “(…) like the flowers which are planted in too rich a soil, strength and usefulness are sacrificed to beauty; 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” (171). This close reading will provide an in depth explanation of Wollstonecraft’s flower simile which contributed to her vision of the birth of the individualistic woman.

The opening line begins, “The conduct and manners of women, in fact, evidently prove that their minds are not in a healthy state (…)”, although this quote is not part of the actual simile, it is interesting. Wollstonecraft expresses her concern for women’s mental health in this passage by explaining to the reader that women could not exercise their individuality and intelligence because it was socially deviant among the community.

As the quote...
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