Here two books written by different authors are considered in which the situation of women is dealt with. It is seen that women’s condition in both the books is more or less same and even the male child is more important than the female one. From birth itself the difference is seen and that continues in her whole life. Women’s role is to bear children and look after their family and children and is treated as property of their respective husbands. They don’t have their individual identity and are never asked what they want to do or what their choice or opinion is regarding any decision.
Women’s role got limited to a helper rather than a partner. Both the novels are gothic novels and the story revolves round a woman and her sufferings of married life. They give us an idea of the eighteenth century Britain and its patriarchal institution of marriage and also about the legal system and how much it protected. “The Castle of Otranto” was published in 1764 and is a novel that depicts the melodrama of character’s ambition, violation and sexual desire and anxiety along with elements like castles, ghosts and damsels in distress.
In this novel Manfred’s ambition and distress is epicted and just to keep up the family lineage he proposes to his late son’s former betrothed, Isabella. Manfred is too ambitious and is busy expanding his power and rule and has only son and heir who dies a violent death in the very first chapter. In order to save his power and win over another he wants to marry Isabella who on the other hand is not ready to marry the ambitious father. The murder of Manfred’s son, Conrad is also a part of this power and control over the ruled.
The plot of the novel is not very strong but the main thing that is seen here is that women are never asked of their opinion even for their marriage. Isabella likes Manfred’s son Conrad and wants to marry her but after he is killed, his father proposes her and her father somewhat agrees for this just to save his power. All this shows that men only used women at that time for fulfillment of their ambition and sexual desire. Even the maiden ghosts are also depicted as helpless and the supernatural powers are more in the hands of ghosts.
The novel also shows that some people can go to any extent just to maintain family lineage so that the power remains within the hands of members of the same family. But everywhere the dominance is seen of men whether it is decision making for ower or marriage and a woman’s wish has no importance. When we consider the story of the novel “The Wrongs of Women” by Mary Wollstonecraft, which was published in 1768, the real picture of the condition of women of that time is depicted. This novel was published by Mary’s husband after her death and is considered her most radical feminist work.
She, in her novel depicts the desires and emotions of a woman Maria who does not surrender always to men and their desire and wants to fulfill her needs too. Even if she is the victim of men time and again but her desires do not wash away and whenever she finds ways she tries to fulfill it. In this novel women are shown helpless but they try to uplift their situation as much as they can. Even when Maria is imprisoned by her husband and her child is also snatched away from her she does not give up hope of life but falls in love with an inmate there.
Maria makes friend with a lower class woman Jemima in the prison who when gets assured that she is not mad brings her some books to read. Jemima also has a story of her own and is been the victim of men right from her father to her master who used to beat her, had starved her and raped her. When she was found pregnant she was thrown out of he house. And after some time started working in this asylum. So the condition of every woman whether she was from upper class or lower class was the same and was considered as property of her father and after marriage of her husband.
Maria narrates her story in first person from chapters seven to fourteen and the reader finds how she manages to somehow fulfill her desire and for this she has to live in different locations and various situations. In the end of the novel Maria is saved by Jemima and they start a new life along with Maria’s first daughter. This also shows that omen understood their situation and Maria, Jemima and Maria’s daughter forms a family and Maria agrees to live for her daughter.
Both the novels, “The Castle of Otranto” and “The Wrongs of Woman” revolve round the story of women but latter also tries to depict that women fights for her desire and does not surrender to the situations. Wollstonecraft writes in the preface to the novel, “The Wrongs of Woman”, In many instances I could have made the incidents more dramatic, would I have sacrificed my main object, the desire of exhibiting the misery and oppression, peculiar to women, that arise out of the partial laws and customs of society.
Courtney from Study Moose
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