How is the story told in Jessie Cameron, by Cristina Rossetti?
Told by a third person narrator, the poem begins in media res with dialogue from the persistent ‘neighbour’s son’, admirer of Jessie Cameron, repeating the titular character’s name with desire. This young lady who Rossetti creates as self-confident and stubborn is formed as a woman in her own right who is defiant enough to refuse the hand of a bachelor, multiple times. Subsequently, the setting of the beach becomes clearer, as the menacing sea draws nearer. Jessie’s persistence becomes more forceful as the story progresses until she starts refusing to answer him. We then hear of the ‘foot that would not fly’, and the meaning of this becomes apparent when the poem moves into the second part, where rumours are discussed about the death of the pair, through reported narrative. The poem ends with the debate of possibilities about their deaths, and the distinct image of the ‘hand or hair’ in the sea.
In the first four stanzas, the setting of twilight on the beach is described at the start- ‘Day was verging towards the night, There beside the moaning sea’. This setting then continues into the second half of the poem but the reader becomes aware of the attempt Rossetti is making for the setting of the sea, which represents society, to be almost up against Jessie Cameron’s character. Rossetti writes ‘But now her feet are in the foam, The sea-foam sweeping higher.’ The strength of the sea, or her opposition as society, is gaining power against her stubbornness, and will for independence. The setting then looks to the ‘darkening beach’. It is perhaps here that the reader is encouraged to assume that the pair drowned, as the darkening of the scene almost reflects the move from life into death. Therefore, Rossetti primarily tells this story using the reinforcement of the powerful imagery that is linked to the setting, in order to reflect upon the rumours that structure the story.
The poem of Jessie...
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