The Lady Of Shalott Tantalus's Daughter Analysis

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The Lady of Shalott: Tantalus’s Daughter
Alfred Lord Tennyson is a Victorian poet who seldom strays out of narrative territory. His poems are stories, and “The Lady of Shalott” is no exception. The Lady of Shalott, for whom the poem is titled after, is a heartbreaking heroine who spends most of her life locked away in a tower, only to finally emerge and softly depart from the world. In the short span of four parts, her tale spans the themes of dreams, imprisonment, misogyny, and death. Not only does the Lady of Shalott’s story carry visual representations of the daily struggles both contemporary and historical women are subjected to, but also her plight is reminiscent of mythological figure Tantalus’s torture.
The struggles of women in history
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The entire poem is heavily laced with patriarchal structures. Ellen Stockstill, who teaches English at Georgia State University, describes the Lady as “an archetype for all women – a woman with a woman’s lot in the world” (13). A woman’s lot in the world was different in Tennyson’s time, but there are still patterns of misogyny that have not changed since then. Much of the imagery in the poem creates parallels between the Lady’s struggles and the struggles of real-life women. For example, the mirror placed in the tower shows everything in the outside world – everything the Lady wishes she had, but cannot attain. Likewise, women are surrounded by ideals of beauty and career success, but they will never be deemed beautiful enough, and the glass ceiling prevents them from being successful in their careers. Another example is the loom, and the “web” she is weaving. The Lady does enjoy weaving to some degree, because it is the only way she can express herself in this tower. However, because it is the only way she can express herself, it becomes endlessly tiring and boring. This draws a parallel to the way modern women may be reduced to one of aspect of themselves – one thing they can do well – and as a result, the joy is stripped from it. A woman may take pride in her natural beauty, but when that is the only thing people find appealing about her, she no longer finds pride in it. Furthermore, the setting of the Lady’s confinement inherently marks her as an object. Dr. Carl Plasa, Reader at Cardiff University, observes how the Lady of Shalott’s position in the tower reflects the culturally appropriate gender roles and standards of Victorian times (24). She is sequestered in a tall, narrow tower so that anyone may stare at her and fantasize about her. She is placed in a box and expected to do absolutely nothing other than weave and look

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