English Lit A Level (Christina Rossetti)Watch
Anyone done or doing English Lit at A level preferably doing Christina Rossetti poetry that has done comparison essays that have achieved B-A grade that wouldn't mind sharing?
How does Christina Rossetti present women in the poem “Passing and Glassing”? and “Maude Clare”
In the Victorian era, there was much controversy about women’s rights including rights of education, marriage and sexuality. These oppressions are explored through poetic devices to share universal messages about the difficulties women face in life.
In “Passing and Glassing”, Rossetti uses imagery of flowers and nature as a metaphor for womanhood and the pressures of beauty. She speaks of “how her bloom must fade” and “wither’d roses” which suggests -through the fragility of flowers- how the concept of beauty in the eyes of women is a fragile and sensitive topic. Christina Rossetti uses the repetition of “wither’d” to reflect the transcience of beauty and the inevitability of aging as well as the progressive withdrawl of youth and strength. In addition to this, Rossetti hints at that with age, women lose their attractiveness in the eyes of men with the imagery of “the fallen peach”. Rossetti uses the symbol of the fruit with the verb “fallen” to imply the decrease in temptation and decline in sexual appeal. The fruit ,“peach”, is used by Rossetti to reflect her religious beliefs and the story of the “forbidden fruit”, evoking the idea of temptation and in “Passing and Glassing”, women grow to become victims of time and consequently are no longer a temptation to men. Thus, highlighting women’s insecurities with aging.//
The title “Passing and Glassing” alludes to the impermanence of time and a woman’s physical encounter with a mirror. It also implies the concern women have for their outward appearance. Christina Rossetti wishes to show the universality of women’s relationship with the mirror by using the possessive “women’s looking-glass” as all women face up to their physical changes with time. The poem is specifically tailored to all women and is written in third person as Rossetti repeatedly uses the pronoun “her” to show a reflection, which is ironic and a play on words as it contrasts with the semantic field of woman’s physical reflection and appearance. Perhaps she is also showing woman’s obsession with their appearance to the point of vanity. “dried up violets and dried lavender” are interesting choices of flower by Rossetti as they both connote the colour purple, often associated with royalty, extravagance and sexuality. Despite the pitiful tone in the first stanza, the overuse of “dried up”, “fade” and “fallen” throughout the poem may even by Rossetti mocking women’s vanity and infatuation with appearance as “dried up” implies a dull and lifeless image, attributes that women are ashamed of.//
However, on line 7 of the second stanza Christina Rossetti uses the pivot of the conditional and exclamation “Still sweet, may comfort her, Nor need she cry Alas!” to express that women’s beauty and materialism, is less important than a characteristic such as “wisdom” introduced in the last stanza. Rossetti uses opposites in the last stanza “hope and fear”, “good or ill” to possibly show the inner conflict women possess with their attitudes towards physical and inner beauty. Furthermore, the overall antithesis in the poem shown by the repetition of “womans looking-glass”, “womans tiring-glass” and the different personified “wisdoms looking-glass” in the second line of each stanza to possibly be representational of the societal pressures of Victorian society to retain youth and beauty. However, time is against women’s will, therefore “wisdom” is the alternative, valued characteristic. This is enforced by Rossetti’s use of repetition of the first line in each stanza “all things that pass” used as a reminder of the transcience of time and that time remains the same while “all things that pass” by time, will change. Therefore, woman’s youth will unavoidably “fade” despite womans best efforts to remain young and beautiful and perhaps the reminder is solace for women who blame themselves for physical change and that “wisdom” is a valuable attribute to replace beauty. Having the contrasting ideas between the frist and secondlines next to eachother and the title “Passing and Glassing” is significant as Rossetti wishes to show how relevant time is with beauty and the concerns women have with it.//
Unlike, in Passing and Glassing where Rossetti associates women with fragility and deterioration, in Maude Clare, Rossetti shows a powerful alternative type of woman – “Maude Clare”. The name is significant as “Maude” derives from the word ‘warrior’ and connotes extreme strength and power, thus presenting women as powerful. However, there are similarities between the two poems as Rossetti uses the noun “queen” to describe “Maude Clare” at the end of the first stanza to strongly resemble royalty, extravagance and possibly sexuality, themes that are also present through the colour purple in Passing and Glassing. The use of royalty initiates a hierarchy in the poem as the other woman in the poem (Nell) is described by Rossetti as a “village maid”, perhaps someone more reserved and modest than “Maude Clare”. Rossetti uses interclass to exemplify the defiance of stereotypes of Victorian women and exploit those who are non-conforming. “out of the church she followed them With a lofty step and mien:” implies rebellion and perhaps spitefulness as the adjective “lofty” suggests that Maude Clare is imposing her superiority over the couple and dominates the scene which is what some would say would be ‘brave’ of a Victorian woman but is also perceived as ridiculous and inappropriate behaviour. Therefore, showing women to not only be badly behaved but to also hold the capabilities to possess power.//
Another way Rossetti presents women as being powerful and dominating is by her repeated use of the adjective “pale” to describe “Nell”. In the dialogue in stanza three, “Nor I so pale as Nell” suggests inferiority and perhaps even insignificance, placing Maude Clare above Nell. It reinforces Rossetti’s intentions of showing a hierarchy and using an adjective such as “pale” not only implies inferiority to the audience but also shows how Maude Clare sees her as physically feeble and weak. Furthermore, “Maude Clare” shows her spite towards Nell as she engages in conversation in stanza nine and ten. “take my share of a fickle heart Mine of a paltry love:” – the adjectives “fickle” and “paltry” contrast with the caring verbs of “share” and “love” emphasises Maude Clare’s hatred for Nell as her offers are terribly insufficient and of no value. However, despite Maude Clare almost stealing and dominating the poem throughout, Nell almost becomes the heroic character at the end – “I’ll love him till he loves me best, Me best of all Maude Clare”. The repetition of love implies a deeper embedded power that is worth more than “Maude Clare’s” bitterness and haste. The dialogue in the poem reflects the different types of women and most of all Rossetti shows the vicious side of women and perhaps how women’s personalities are faulted.//
“Passing and Glassing” and “Maude Clare” both present a variety of ideas about how women are perceived in the 19th Century using poetic devices such as repetition. The poems give clear evidence of different types of women and contain links to Rossetti’s religious beliefs to explore negative and positive issues such as power and appearance. The deceptive simplicity of the poems opens doors to various interpretations of women and the imagery allows the reader to view women subjectively.