Monday, April 10, 2006

The Golden Thread?

I made a reference to Lucie Manette in one of my previous posts. I thought of her again as I was re-reading "The Goblin Market". Lucie is a typical Victorian female from A Tale of Two Cities. Her blonde hair is the "golden thread" that links and binds the characters through love, while her foil, Madame DeFarge knits them together with the black wool of hate and revenge.

I notice in Rosetti's poem there is a reference to a lock of golden hair, the lock that Laura uses to pay for the fruit.

But sweet-tooth Laura spoke in haste:
"Good folk, I have no coin;
To take were to purloin:
I have no copper in my purse,
I have no silver either,
And all my gold is on the furze
That shakes in windy weather
Above the rusty heather."
"You have much gold upon your head,"
They answered altogether:
"Buy from us with a golden curl."
She clipped a precious golden lock,
She dropped a tear more rare than pearl,
Then sucked their fruit globes fair or red:

I wonder what this gold hair might have represented to the Victorians. Here it seems to be something refined and innocent that Laura sacrifices. With Lucie, it is her care, concern, and love--her womanly gift to care for her family and her nest.

There are also references to nests in Rosetti's poem. (?)

I can't put it into words (that's what poetry is for I suppose) but both works seem to capture the special, almost unwordly, qualities the Victorians assigned to women. Victorians embraced the feminine so much that no woman could live up to the ideal. And of course, many women were trapped by it as well.

....But, it seems sad that some of it has been lost. To be a liberated woman in our time, we are often expected to look and act like men. Our feminine characteristics are seen as weak. Have you even been scoffed at when people find out that you are a knitter? Why? I have read a lot of Nathaniel Hawthorne. He longed for a different standard for feminity and admired the hardiness, strength, and grace of early colonial women. He complained that the Victorian woman had become weak and superficial. Why did this happen? Would Rosetti agree with Hawthorne's assessment? I am not sure.


Blogger Ann said...

I don't know where to start! I love your comments and they set me off on so many differnt threads.
First, The references to hair. Your comment on that immediately made me think of O. Henry's story, "The Gift of the Magi>" In that Victorian era story, the woman gives away her hair to buy something precious for her husband. It does seem that a woman's hair was a very valuable item.
I don't even know how to put into words my ideas about nests, the poem, and the Victorian Ideal. You really got me thinking there. I love it.
I do agree with what you are saying on being woman and equal with man should not mean that we have to be like men. I get so irritated with some women who only feel like that can be treated equally if they try to be like men. (A friend in college used to wear men's boxers instead of women's underwear so that she could free herself of inequality.) We are women. To be feminine is to be strong, often much stronger then men. I also wonder what happened to the ideas of womanhood that made them what they were in the Victorian times. BUt maybe not all Victorian women became weak, I'm sure the lower class women still had to trudge along doing all of the work, just like always.
My family has always made fun of "feminine" things, and it's something I've been having to work with since moving away and getting married. (My sisters still make fun of me whenever I wear pink!)
I don't know why many people today equate femininity with weakness.
As Lizzie shows, it can also be very strong.

6:14 PM  
Blogger teabird17 said...

Interesting comment, Jenni. I agree with you: something has been lost in our road to equality. A lot of the early feminists (since 1960) tried to put forth the idea that women were *identical* to men. That's simply not true. Our brains are wired differently, with more fibres (corpus callosum)linking the two lobes, possibly giving women a more global, two-sided view than men. The centers of the functions of our brains (speech, etc.) are more diffuse (less strictly organized) than those of men, possibly giving us more chance of recovering from stroke and such, and being able to continue caring for our children. Etc.

Different, not better; not the same, but equal - at least if you accept Darwinian reasoning, which I do.

Hair has always represented something - identity, strength, beauty. Remember in "Bernice Bobs Her Hair," Bernice not only bobs her own hair, but also spitefully bobs her cousin's? How different from the sisterly love shown in "Goblin Market" !! Which would I prefer? I'd prefer that I bob my own hair (heaven forbid: my hair is quite long) and let other women make their own choices. That's the loving way, the compassionate way. Compassion (I believe) should be the basis for our relations with each other.

(Note: the story was written by a basically mysogynistic man who stole many of his ideas from his wife, Zelda.)

Even though Lizzie and Laura go through a trial (by fire, or fiery liquid), they do become mothers, and create "nests" of their own. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if they were both knitters......

6:49 AM  
Blogger Jenni said...

I had forgotten about both of those stories--especially "Bernice Bobs her Hair". I hadn't read that one since high school--what great insight!

I do think something has been lost in our fight for equality. If we had real equality, our female uniqueness would be valued just as much as masculine qualities.

I love the strength that Lizzie shows in this poem. She walks right into that crowd of goblin men and takes it, yet she remains a lady. I love it!

I can imagine Laura and Lizzie knitting, and making no apologies.

4:51 PM  

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