Females According to Christina Rossetti and Mary Wollstonecraft

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Females According to Christina Rossetti and Mary Wollstonecraft

What is it that separates and elevates human beings from the rest of the animal world? It is the ability to logically explain an action, decision, or conviction; it is the capacity to reason. As Rousseau states, “Only reason teaches us good from evil” (Wollstonecraft 238). According to him, as well as countless other intellectuals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, through the exercise of reason men become moral and political agents. Of course, this Enlightenment theory does not include women. Rousseau declares his opinion of the female, “O how lovely is her ignorance!” (253) The woman is the man's fantasy, the man's student, the man's plaything. Controlled,
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To rupture this cycle, the woman must be seen by men, other women, and herself as much more than a beautiful creature. The woman must claim herself as a rational, intelligent, and independent human being.

Nineteenth century poet, Christina Rossetti reflects this notion of female self-ownership in her poem, “Winter:My Secret.” She states, “I tell my secret? No indeed, not I/...Only, my secret's mine, and I won't tell” (1,5). Rossetti maintains the ambiguity of her secret throughout the poem, representing the mystery of the female self. Instead of allowing herself to be defined by and dependent on the male, and as Wollstonecraft states,“blindly [submitting] to authority,” (241) she is impenetrable and therefore, free from the male's grasp.

Although the secret itself is never revealed, Rossetti's enigmatic words explicate its thematic significance, “Suppose there is no secret after all/ But only just my fun” (6-7). She has the power to decide whether or not to tell her secret. She controls whether or not it even exists. And, in her statement, “only just my fun,”she asserts her self-ownership.

This possession of the female self is a radical idea, emerging in a man's world. Wollstonecraft notes the great inequity between the dominant man and subordinate
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