I agree with this statement as during the Victorian era, women held the label of being weak, fragile and incapable of thinking in a practical way due to their sensitive nature. On the other hand, their counterparts: the men of society, were regarded as emotionally strong, superior and the righteous authority figure. In retrospect, the only power women had was the way the house was run, the private sphere. They were expected to conform to the patriarchal society’s standards of women – remaining in silence and obeying whatever their husband’s commands were, thus lacking in power. Though Rossetti explores the relationship between men and women, she also had complicated views on women and suffrage, which is explored in a variety of her poems.The issue of patriarchal dominance is exposed in the poem ‘Goblin Market’ where women are portrayed as ‘damsels’ and ‘fallen women’ that were easily enticed and ruined, and in need of protection. Gender expectations associated with females is explored through the metaphor “you have much gold upon your head”, Laura’s “precious golden lock” is symbolic of her femininity and naivety, by which giving some away to the goblin men to gain from them, she is surrendering her innocence. This shows how women are perceived to be weak to succumb to their temptations, whereas a male figure would be depicted as daring or mischievous. It is essential to note that Laura doesn’t pay for the fruit with money or jewels, but with a piece of herself which could represent prostitution or how women that explored their sexuality were seen as an object to be traded amongst men, whereas men would be applauded for their behaviour. The Victorian era saw massive changes in contemplating women’s roles and responsibilities which is evident in Rossetti’s attitude in ‘Goblin Market’ where she shows the sexual liberation that women were starting to gain, and how women were beginning to have a voice. Through Laura’s refusal to hear out her sister’s notice – “Nay, hush” – Laura opposes the oppression of females, guaranteeing her status as a strong woman. She is doing the opposite a typical Victorian lady should do – obey and stay within her limits. As H.Bertens states in ‘Literary Theory: The Basics’ “dependence leads to indulgence and reverence while independence leads to dislike and rejection”, which is highlighted in Laura’s attitude who chooses to defy the expected behaviour of women during the Victorian period. It could be said that though the poem is based on two females, the voice and attitude in the poem is one of a typical male during that era; since women who chose to express female sexuality and desire in the way that men did were looked down upon and classed as ‘fallen women’. Similarly, the poem ‘Maude Clare’ is another example of women’s power in a male dominated society. Maude Clare is shown to have more power in this situation since she is the one who speaks the most, while Sir Thomas “hid his face” which shows how Maude, despite being female uses the power of her words to express her thoughts and emotions. This is ironic as in Victorian culture women didn’t have a voice and were expected to agree and obey to men, and here the male doesn’t have the upper hand. Rossetti subverts conventions and challenges society’s expectations by conveying to the reader her beliefs on how the “perpetuation of the unequal power relations between men and women” should change. It should be noted that though Rossetti was engaged twice, none of her relationships ended in marriage – part of the reason being that both men fell short of her standards. This attitude is highlighted in her poems; the independent woman who is strong and brave enough to defy gender expectations. Rossetti essentially utilizes this idea of an atypical Victorian woman to remark on the distinction between a woman’s real desires and the confinements of her place in Victorian culture.Rossetti’s speakers exhibits both an awareness of and resistance to social and political expectations which define acceptable roles for women that would most likely leave them powerless which is inferred in the poem ‘Winter; My Secret’. The narrator states that her “secret’s mine, and I won’t tell”, her privacy is not to be encroached and thus she leaves the reader speculating at her knowledge, she skillfully withholds power and control in this situation which was not at all like women during the 19th century. Furthermore, the narrator’s contradiction and avoidance throughout the poem gives the impression that she is flirting with the peruser, maybe only for her pleasure. The narrator’s attitude is mischievous, but behind this playfulness is an interesting study in the manipulation of power. The playful nature of the narrator establishes strategies for resisting expectations and traditions, and empowers women to accomplish equality and independence in a male dominated society.The theme of power and women in a male dominated society is explored in the poem ‘No Thank You John’.The narrator knows precisely how she feels and isn’t hesitant to demonstrate it “I never said I loved you John” where in a past time, a woman would have seized the opportunity to be someone’s trophy, and would not have had a real choice in who she gets married to or if she even got married at all. The opening line of the poem is blunt which is contrary to what is regularly observed as the Victorian ladylike behaviour, meek and submissive, she does not conform to the traditional role of a woman. The poem declares women’s rights to state ‘no’, to assert autonomy. The narrator isn’t to be harassed into a relationship on the grounds that a man or social convention generally demands it, however the man referenced in the poem has no voice which is ironic as men dominated society but here the female has all the power.However it could be argued that Rossetti’s poetry focuses on how women are presented as ‘others’ and ‘possessions of men’. ‘A Royal Princess’ is an example of this where the princess describes herself as an “eagle that must not soar”. Eagles are huge birds of prey and so by depicting herself as being trapped and her father’s possession, she is suggesting that her nature is being squashed and diminished; by being kept in the palace the princess feels that she cannot live the life she would deem to be appropriate.  It could be said that eagles are powerful birds, and so this quality is shown in the princess who is brave and strong for defying her father as usually women were expected to not have a mind of their own and to remain in submission to the men of the house since they were controlled by men. Rossetti sharply scrutinizes medieval paradigms envisioned by her male counterparts. She speaks about women’s secondary status in the Victorian social ideal which is highlighted in the princesses real desire of self expression that paternal feudalism has denied her.Another focus in Rossetti’s poetry is that men and women are socially constructed as different due to stereotypes. Taken from Literary Theory: The Basics, by H.Bertens states that “what traditionally has been called ‘feminine’ then, is a cultural construction, a gender role that has been culturally assigned to countless generations of women”. This is also shown in ‘Goblin Market’ where the two sisters “talked as modest maidens should”. This shows the stereotypical view in which women were expected to conduct themselves and how good behaviour – obeying to men and being domesticated- was expected of them. Generally, men would instruct boys how to fix and assemble things ; mothers would show girls how to cook and clean. Children would then get parental endorsement when they complied with gender expectations and adopt culturally accepted and conventional roles. Society produced a bias that was organized based on gender identities. Patriarchy reinforced this gender predisposition and perceived that society is a male dominated space. In this manner women confronted gender bias from the prevailing male centric culture, leading to expectations of conventional behaviour that was to be followed by women therefore men and women are different due to stereotypes where women are less powerful and inferior, second class beings.Overall, Rossetti explores the issue of women and power in a male dominated society in her poems; her work investigates the limitations forced upon women, Rossetti’s poems challenge the sharp line that her male counterparts drew between the unadulterated lady and the temptress, to show a substantially more adjusted picture of womanhood.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           


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