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representation of gender in Tannyson's poetry

By flodavies Jan 16, 2014 782 Words
Compare the representation of gender in Tennyson’s poetry. “The Lady of Shalott” portrays women as oppressed and trapped, maybe by men, or by society. In line seventeen he uses “and the silent isle imbowers the lady of shallot” the word ‘imbowers’ is a word used to mean imprisoned or surrounded. A bower is an old word for a Ladies private room, so to imbower means to close up in a bower. This could be taken, out of context, to mean she is being protected, but within the poem it is clear that she has been ensnared. In part two it becomes clear to a reader why she is imbowered, “a curse is on her” this implies that someone is in control of her and has cast this curse. Tennyson wrote that “she hath no loyal knight” this implies her loneliness or could perhaps imply that she has had a knight, but no loyal knight, suggesting that she has been let down. Tennyson uses words such as ‘free’ and ‘golden galaxy’ both of these words create the image of liberty and independence, I believe the reason the Lady of Shalott followed Sir Lancalot to Camelot is because she craved freedom and free will. This resulted in the curse causing her to die because she had left the tower, this to me shows that Tennyson represented women as weak and vulnerable, a complete contrast to the noble and strong knights in the poem. Another poem on the theme of women’s fragility is ‘Mariana’. Tennyson uses imagery to imply decaying and blackening surroundings throughout this poem. The decay and stillness could be seen as a metaphor for her life, slowly decaying away and not achieving anything. The refrain at the end of each stanza tells us a lot about her, she describes her life, the day, the night and herself as dreary, this goes on for seven stanzas and is incredibly repetitive and uses long vowel sounds to elongate the refrain. I believe that Tennyson used this to make the poem dreary to read and really make the reader understand what Mariana felt like going through this every day without change. This device is affective and portrays her as melancholic, helpless and alone. Conversely in ‘Tithonus’ Tennyson represents the woman as the authoritative figure, the main female character is Aurora the Goddess of the dawn from Greek mythology. The male character is Tithonus, her love. In the poem it is Tithonus who is pleading with Aurora to help him “can thy love, thy beauty make amends” he has been granted a gift of immortality, but not eternal youth, he begs her to retract the gift. This change in roles where normally the male would be superior and the woman inferior would have been a controversial subject and it may not have been understood by readers or audiences of the time why Tithonus was represented as the inferior and dominated party. Most of the men in Tennyson’s poetry are represented as strong, noble and the superior gender. In poems such as “Ulysees” the speaker is male and speaks of traveling far and wide ‘cities of men and manners, climates, councils, governments’ compare this to “the lady of Shalott” who was imbowered all her life. Tennyson uses the phrase in Ulysees ‘how dull it is to rust unburnish’d not to shine in use’ this, to me means that the speaker is acknowledging his freedom and confessing how lifeless it must be not to have this freedom and be forever oppressed, much like the women Tennyson writes about in his poems. In ‘Northern Farmer’ the speaker is a man taking to his son. The father clearly has no regard for women or for love; he sees marriage only as a way of securing wealth. This means that his view on each woman is based purely on what her father owns, as if he were looking straight through her into the pocket of her father. This shows total disrespect for women as individuals and implies that they cannot be attractive unless they come from money. This is classist and mildly sexist, although I am sure women were advised to marry for money also. The father says to the son “if thou marries a good un I’ll leave the land to thee… if thou marries a bad un I’ll leave the land to Dick” this threat by the father shows the reader that he believes the incentives of his son should be to marry money and obtain as much land, property and wealth as he can. The father clearly does not understand love and what his son is willing to give up for love.

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