Milton and Rossetti - Comparing Their Treatment of Women Essay

1692 Words 7 Pages
The Treatment of Women in John Milton's Paradise Lost

And Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market"

In literary history, the theme of the apparent female inability to curb curiosity has been a reoccurring one. In Greek mythology, Psyche's curiosity proved her undoing, when she fetched a lamp to see her husband's features that had been proscribed to behold. In Perrault's "Bluebeard", the fatal effects of curiosity are again depicted, with his new bride succumbing to the temptation to open the one door that was forbidden to her, with disastrous results. It would seem that the image of `woman' through the ages is somewhat unfavourable, suggesting that she is often weak, untrustworthy and is
…show more content…
The subsequent birth of Death destroying her beauty from the waist down as he "Tore through my entrails, that with fear and pain/Distorted, all my nether shape thus grew/Transformed..." (2: 784-786) seems to be a punishment, for nothing other than being attractive. The violent rape by her `son` that precipitates her eternal torture by the "hell hounds" that ."..about her middle...never ceasing barked...and rung hideous peal...there still barked and howled/Within unseen..."(2: 654-659), so encourages an unhealthy insinuation that she must also pay for her `crime` of incest, and cordially appears to justify it. Hence Milton's misogynistic doctrine is manifested, and begins a perfect prologue to the parallels with subordinate and weak Eve.

Conversely, Christina Rossetti's approach has a fairy-tale element which is the perfect vehicle for teaching a moral lesson, without the negative connotations implied by Milton. "Goblin Market" deals with temptation through an almost childlike innocence, with the poem itself being like a nursery rhyme. Rossetti also uses two female characters, but with more disparity between their moral leanings. The two sisters are immediately defined by way of virtue; one being demure and `pure' of way and heart, the other being open to suggestion and temptation. This is evident early in the poem, in the lines "Laura bowed her head to

Related Documents