‘In the Grass’ and The Vindication of the Rights of Women are two works which consider the woman and her relationship with men. This is the only way they are similar, because the lead woman of each one is very different in their ideals of their relationship with their man. In the poem, ‘In the Grass’ by Annette Droste-Hustoll, we find a woman who is mourning the loss of a beloved man, though one doesn’t know if it is her husband, father, or brother, it’s just a man who is very important to her. This woman is the perfect female of the family and unbelievingly domestic and ‘perfect’. A major issue is the repeated use of the word sweet.
It seems to not only mean ‘sweet repose’, ‘sweet reeling’, and ‘sweetly laughter’, but sweet, devoted female. This poem is a sort of mourning remembrance of the perfect life where this woman was the little darling of the now gone man. The phrase ‘Sweetly laughter flutters down, dear voice mummers and trickles’, is a major phrase used to conjure up to the reader this perfect family life. It is an image of the ideal family, the man strong and ruling and the female soft and yielding. She reigns in her domestic sphere, giving the man a place of rest. But, now the man is gone, and she is remembering the good times.
She is lost because she no longer has the only life she knew how to live. Finally, the last series of lines tells the only course left to her is to go with him, ‘Please, a soul, to fly with him’. She believes she no longer has a reason to live without her guide and protector. She was a queen, but only with him, and all she wants is to go with him and continue their happy relationship. She is not envisioning life on her own, perhaps she can’t. Is she an individual being or an extension of him like his arm or leg? When Mary Wollstonecraft wrote A Vindication of the Right of Women, the woman in the poem, “In the Grass”, was the ideal.
Women in Wollstonecraft’s class were supposed to be soft creatures that let their husband do the thinking while they discussed clothes and child rearing. Wollstonecraft was against this and preached women’s rights. For this she was called ‘a hyena in petticoats’, but she refused to be silenced. Remember how in the poem ‘In the Grass’, the word ‘sweet’ is repeated over and over to set the tone of a darling little women by her man’s grave? Wollstonecraft strongly rejects this, calling all those endearments given to women from men, ‘those pretty feminine phrases, which the men condescendingly use to soften our slavish dependence.
’ Slave was a harsh word to be throwing around, especially with slavery still existing in the US, but she wanted to shock. She was writing to shock women out of their dependence. Rousseau wrote that the only good virtues of a man are the ones he creates himself and not the ones he is told he should have. Wollstonecraft thinks this should be extended to women and she should be valued by her own worth rather than by the weak virtues men tell her she should have. She tells mothers, ‘The mother, who wishes to give true dignity of character to her daughter must…. proceed on a plan diametrically opposite to that which Rousseau has recommended. ’ In the end, perhaps it is safe to say each writer is creating a piece of literature that reflects the times they lived in.
Droste-Hulsholl wrote during the Romantic Movement, when all things were idealized, including the relationship between men and women. Wollstonecraft wrote with Enlightenment ideals which encouraged the rights and the power of the individual to take hold of his/her life and change him/herself and the world. They created such different pieces because they saw the world in totally different ways.
Courtney from Study Moose
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