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The Governess versus The Mad Woman

The Governess,1739-1770 (circa)

Painted by: Jean Simeon Chardin

Printmaker: Thomas Burford

The British Museum research collection

The mad woman, 1922

The lithographs of John Copley and Ethel Gabain, Chicago, 1924

Painted by: Ethel Gabain

The British Museum research collection

During the nineteenth century, social status within the social hierarchy was arguably the most important aspect of life. Your rank and thereby your worth, was determined by a variety of factors. These factors were income, property, and your circle (family, connections). If any of these factors were not up to par with societies standards, you were looked down upon and considered less than. For women in particular, there were but a limited amount of options they could choose from in order to properly establish or maintain themselves in a respectable Social position. The vast majority veered towards marriage, because this allowed women to be able to move up the ladder depending on their new spouse’s influence. There is conflict though, with women who do take this approach because again if you do not confine to societies standards, or behave the way a conventional wife is supposed to act towards her husband, you may be deemed mad or crazy. If you were a woman without options or connections, specifically those within the lower economic classes, you were left with no choice but to work.

Choosing between marriage or work is a difficult decision for any woman. Especially because during the nineteenth century, your work options were extremely limited. During this time period, one of the only respectable jobs was considered that of a governess. Searching within the archives of “The British Museum Collection Database”, I came upon two correlating images. The title of the first image is called “The Governess” created between the years 1739-1770. The image displays a governess and that of her charge. This image displays a typical picture of what a governess looks like and what her duties consisted of. It was originally painted by a man named Jean Simeon Chardin, and later printed by Thomas Burford. There are obvious differences between the two especially in regards to their social class. The governess is dressed in simple and plain attire, whereas the young boy is dressed in finery. The social hierarchy is clearly displayed here, because it shows the governess waiting on a young boy who is clearly richer than her. The expression on her doesn’t seem to be one of unhappiness, but one of contentment. It can be deduced that the aforementioned image supports the idea of Social hierarchy and how women were expected to act. If this image did not support the concept of social hierarchy, the image would show the governess perhaps turned away or running from her charge. Here though, she is sitting and ready to serve and assist her young master.

The second image is an illustration created by a woman named Ethel Gabain titled “The Mad woman” in the year 1924.It is a lithographic print, which is a drawing of an image directly upon a printing element with the use of greasy pencils. This image was created specifically for the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and illustrates the differences between the two love interests of Sir Edward Rochester. The image displays a significant scene in the novel, where Jane wakes up startled when she finds a figure standing by her dressing table. This figure does nothing to harm her, nor does she interact with Jane. The only action this figure does is to tear the bridal veil, a physical representation of how this character feels in regards to the confines of marriage. Of course, we do not find out who this mysterious figure is until later on in the novel. The main reason this image was selected was to show the separation Jane and Bertha have throughout the novel, despite the similar circumstances of being with Rochester.

As previously mentioned, there are two women affected by societies standards, although one character has more of a voice than the other. Jane Eyre, as well as Bertha mason, the first wife of Sir Edward Rochester, represent two sides of the societal coin and how it affects women. This novel is a first-person narrative and allows for a more open view on both Janes and Bronte’s views on Social Hierarchy. Jane Eyre, the titular character is a governess. Since her birth, Jane had no connections or income. She was an orphan, born into unfortunate circumstances, forced to stay with a family who did not love her. This young woman, born with limited means and no choice but to work for her income, constantly struggled against society’s ideas restrained upon her. This novel can be seen as a critique on the social hierarchy, because it shows Janes constant battle within herself and with society to be seen as an Equal to Rochester. She demands this equality when she says “Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you, — and full as much heart! (Bronte ch.23). Sir Edward Rochester, begins as her master and as the novel goes on, they fall in love with each other. Rochester has a considerable amount of income and property, and therefore is of a higher social standing compared to Jane.

Due to her limited means, it is not until she receives an inheritance towards the conclusion of the novel, is it deemed socially acceptable for her to marry Rochester. Jane seems to be in this constant state of in between. She is not poor, but she is not rich either, and so her social class is constantly acknowledged. She is able to interact with all social classes because she is not in any one level. Governess is considered a respectable position, and so she is able to openly show her character as one of an outspoken and honest nature. Unlike other women during this period, Jane knew her place in life but never let it bring her down. She always spoke her mind, which was a characteristic outside the social norm. Women, especially working women, were expected to be demure and respectful. When Jane says, “Again the surprised expression crossed his face. He had not imagined that a woman would dare to speak so to a man. For me, I felt at home in this sort of discourse. I could never rest in communication with strong, discreet, and refined minds, whether male or female, till I had passed the outworks of conventional reserve, and crossed the threshold of confidence, and won a place by their heart’s very hearthstone.” (Bronte 432), she shows her disregard for differences in ranks or status, and even in matters of Sex. She compares her oppression with that of slaves, “He is not of your order; keep to your caste” (193), due to her being made to feel like an outsider or an “other”. She is neither slave, nor family, rather she is just “there”.

The other female character discussed throughout the novel is Bertha Mason also known as the Mad Woman locked away in the attic. There is not much known about her character and she is first introduced as the source of all the weird noises Jane has been hearing at night. Bertha, was the only daughter of a wealthy family living in Jamaica. She is of Creole heritage which is also known as mixed race. When Jane describes seeing her figure, she claims that the figure was “Fearful and ghastly to me—oh, sir, I never saw a face like it! It was a discoloured face—it was a savage face. I wish I could forget the roll of the red eyes and the fearful blackened inflation of the lineaments!”(381). This description brings into the conversation this concept of the “other”. Jane believed she stood on the precipice of otherness due to her being in a state of in between in regards to social class. Bertha on the other hand, represents the “other” in matters of race because she was of mixed unknown descent but it is implied that she is dark skinned.From her physical description, to also being the main obstacle that stands in the way of Janes marriage to Rochester, Bertha is the true “other” in this novel.

Bertha was a woman known for her beauty and wealth. These two factors allowed her a settled place in society, specifically in the area she lived in. Upon meeting her, Rochester falls in love with her, but only for these two factors and not for the person herself. Bertha does not love Rochester either, and they are married due to the pressure of their families. Even as a woman born into wealth, the options in life are still limited by the constraints of society. As a woman, you are expected to do only one of those two things; work or marry. Having wealth, Bertha was given no choice but to head towards marriage; not because she wanted to, but because it was what was expected to happen. Previously, it was discussed that having connections of some kind or even wealth would allow for a good social standing. In Berthas case though, this was not enough, and she was still considered less than undoubtedly due to her outspokenness and race.

It is unfortunate that all we know of this character is only from the perspectives of her estranged husband Rochester, and Jane herself. Bertha does not actually have any lines of her own, and we never get to hear how she feels or what she has experienced. What we know of her is mainly based on her interactions with the other characters, like Rochester. Rochester describes her as “Bertha Mason is mad . . .she came of a mad family; –idiots and maniacs through three generations! Her mother, the Creole, was both a mad woman and a drunkard!-as I found out after I had wed the daughter: for they were silent on family secrets before. Bertha, like a dutiful child, copied her parent in both points . . .Oh! my experience has been heavenly, if you only knew it!” (249), which shows his reasoning for locking her away in the attic for all these years and keeping her existence a secret.

I would argue that Bertha is not actually mad, but a representation of what could have happened to Jane had Jane not followed at least some of the conventional standards. Jane struggles against societal standards in her own way, but Bertha does not want marriage and makes this obvious in her actions. Trying to escape, only wound up confining her physically as well as mentally. Jane pushed down her anger and her fear of marriage constraints, bertha did not.

Chardin’s “The Governess”, does not support the novels critique. While both the first image and the novel display what a governess should be, Bronte challenges this idea. “The Governess” maintains a simple political position in support of the social Hierarchy and conventional standards. Looking upon the first image, there does not seem to be any inner depth or hidden meaning. A governess, looking upon her charge was just an everyday thing, something that just is. When the archive was created, it was undoubtedly looked upon as nothing special, and just a normal portrait of a woman working. An idea that was expected and part of the norm. Bronte spits against this idea, establishing a character filled with strength and dignity, showing that characteristics should triumph over matters of social status. Jane proudly claims “I am no bird, and no net ensnares me; I am a free being with an independent will” (297), establishing this critique against any societal barriers, from sexual inequality to the social hierarchy. The second image though as well as Bertha herself, represents Bronte’s own inner conflict with societal restrictions and how these constraints could make any woman mad.

Works Cited

Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Peterborough, Ont: Broadview Press, 1999. Print.

Chardin, Jean Simeon, The Governess.1739-1770 (circa). The British Museum Collections Database, England. Accessed 7th November 2018. https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=3000269&partId=1&searchText=The+governess&page=1

Gabain, Ethel, The mad woman. 1924. The British Museum Collections Database, Chicago. Accessed 16th December 2018. https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=701993&partId=1&searchText=jane+eyre&page=1

An Unpatriotic Death

My archival object is a photograph was taken by Heinrich Hoffmann titled “A large anti-British demonstration in London by Irish patriots demanding separation of Ireland of England.” The tile is exactly what is occurring in this photo. In 1939 Hoffmann captured sea of people picketing while there is a large number of people on a stage. The only slightly readable sign says “England Expects that you will enroll today” and “Irishmen of no property unite.” The controversy here is occurring after the Anglo-Irish War when they got de facto independence from Britain but they were not able to completely sever the connection to the British until about 1948. And because this photo is taken in 1939 this demonstration was right in the thick of the dispute.

My two twentieth-century texts Willian Butler Yeats’ “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” and “The Second Coming,” which can both be viewed as voicing Ireland’s pessimistic view toward World War 1 and the truth that many countries that were under the dominion of Britain died in a war where they were anything but patriotic. My object and texts support one another as unspoken and unpopular theme of death due to duty to a country that you do not love but are constantly exploited by.

In particular, we find that “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” begins with explaining his plight when he says “Those I fight I do not hate. Those I guard I do not love.” This is a direct statement showing that he is in the war not out of love or care for the future of Britain or due to the feeling of enacting pain toward the opposing countries. The narrator then goes on to admit some information about himself and his people when he says “My country is Kiltarian cross, My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor, No likely end could bring them loss Or leave them happier than before.” From this, we find out that Kiltarian is a county in Ireland where he is from and they live in such harsh conditions that no matter who wins the war there is no hope for lives and better for these people. To know that you are going to war as an airman which is a suicidal task with the knowledge that you are fighting in a war that will not effect any change for the place you are from seems like a death wish. He is fighting a war with the awareness that Ireland will never see freedom for Britain’s tyranny. The airman’s death wish in his eyes after witnessing so much tragedy on a daily basis is his only liberation. Yeats’ is neither sympathetic or unsympathetic to the airman’s feelings of suicide. In this poem Yeats’ only paints a picture of the feeling of the time and a path that seems to have often been taken because these people such a lack of hope. Yeats’ does not valorize or condemn the airman’s deathwish, he simply acknowledges it and that it did happen. He is also bringing attention to the fact that the Irishmen were so uncared for that no one knew their true plight, without this poem we would of never known how extreme their situation was. The Airman had no idea about the rebellion and change that his country would go through only twenty later depicted in Hoffmann’s photograph. If he had this hope we wonder if he would have chosen to keep living. Afterward the narrator says “The years to come seemed a waste of breath, A waste of breath the years behind In balance with this life, this death.” The narrator through these words tell us his life in Ireland under British rule is like living while being emotionally and spiritually dead. He plans to unite his internal death with the physical state of death because life under such conditions are not worth living.

While “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” gives readers a view of the World War 1 during warfare. In Yeats’ “The Second Coming” we hear the aftermath of World War 1 through what can be considered the Irish perspective. In the first stanza, the narrator says “the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” the bloodshed was so devastating with over sixteen million people dead people were so disheartened an effect was that a large population of people gave up their faith and lost faith in nationalism overall. As small as Ireland is the loss of Irishmen at war was 35,000 out of the 210,000 who served. Considering that these 35,000 most likely had sentiments close to the Irish airman it shows the hopelessness of that land. It must also be taken into consideration that in World War 1 that six million British soldiers served but only 700,000 died. It is quite strange how the Irish lost 16.6% of their men compared to the British who only lost 11% especially after considering how many more British soldiers there were than Irish. The poem continues to look for some reason for such a massive havoc when it says “surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the second coming is at hand.” It is possible that for some of these Irishmen this second coming was their independence.

The narrator then calls out Europe when saying “The darkness of drops again; but now I know That twenty centuries of stony sleep Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle.” The darkness described here as lasting two thousand year could be the form of Christianity being used as a tool to have dominion over other people and countries. At this point all of the big empires including Britain have so much power because they are “saving” unknowledgeable and uncivilized populations through the love of Christ. This quote can also be translated that Europe has been in a deep sleep since the birth of Christ in a darkness which made them blind to their fate and surroundings. Europe’s ego was so big that it believes that it was incapable of being of taken down or suffering such a tremendous such a loss at the hands of another country. There were plenty of signs before World War 1 that were foreshadowing the fall of it as empire such as the Crimean war, the loss of the United States, Indian rebellions from Bengal to Punjab, colonial uprisings, and other events. But they were incapable of seeing it because as a country they were like a baby in cradle feeling comfortable and protected while in truth they are aware the British Empire’s impending death choosing not to handle it in the best way for them or their dominions. The poem end saying “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.” Consecutively after World War 1 was the Irish War of Independence. And the continual fight for independence of Irishman is what Hoffman captured. Maybe that beast they Yeats’ was speaking of was actually Ireland coming back to reap the independence that was once was theirs.

On the whole, World War 1 changed the world by causing the highest death toll the whole world has ever seen. But what more importantly needs to be taken into consideration that through “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” is an example that the war was an unpatriotic fight for many people yet conditions under British rule were so terrible it made death in war seem even pleasureful to citizens of Ireland. After World War 1 through “The Second Coming” we see the inspiration the Irishmen had to break free reign as their independence shown to be their messiah. Yet Hoffman’s photo shows what the Irish really look like they are passionate and patriotic for a cause they believe in. Overall, Hoffmann’s photograph and these poems by Yeats’ exemplify a sentiment of the Irish’s past that is often looked over in history when it comes to World War 1 and its effects.

Rigorous Instruction

Rigorous Instruction

 

Open-air school, Halifax, England

Teacher next to two girls at blackboard

 

(Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA)

 

Report of the state of the Northamptonshire Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church, from January 1, 1837 to January 1, 1838

Author:Northamptonshire Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church

Imprint: Northampton : Printed by T.E. Dicey, 1838

Pages:17

Language: English

Microfilm Reel #:2814:24

Physical Description: 16 p

The Making of a Modern World

(Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature, Senate House Library, University of London)

 

This image depicts two students writing on a black chalkboard in an open space. The teacher is standing over them to the right with her hand on her hip. The students are wearing white uniforms dresses with black tights and black shoes. The teacher is wearing a white frilled blouse that is tucked into a long black skirt. Her hair appears to be pinned towards the middle of her head. The student’s hair is straight/wavy and unruly. It’s interesting the position the teacher is standing in suggests an unpleasant mood. Her body language suggests that she is scolding them. You can see in the image that the girl on the right is looking up to the teacher as the teacher looks down with this unpleasant body language. This picture is similar to the aesthetics described at Lowood School in the story of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.

The image does not have a documented date but judging by the teacher’s long skirt with the frilled blouse it could potentially be in the 19th century. I would pose the question how this photo’s date wasn’t documented. Why was it archived without a date but just a country? Did these students also endure such harsh conditions that it was too shameful to document?

 

The document included above are pages 6 and 7 of a report from Report of the state of the Northamptonshire Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church, from January 1, 1837 to January 1, 1838. This report is essentially the meeting’s minutes that were discussed amongst the Eduational leaders. These leaders included The Lord Bishop of Peterborough, the patron. The president, the Maquess of Northampton. The secretaries: The Rev. D. Morton, The Rev. J. P. Lightfoot. The chairman of the school committee: The Rev. G. Butler, D.D. The Treasurers: J.Percival, Esq., S.Percival, Esq. The auditors: The Rev. J. L.L. Crawley, The Rev. P. Thornton. All of the above mentioned are church leaders. This document shows that the Education of the Poor was indoctrinated by the Principles of the Established Church.

The purpose of including this document was to gain a deeper understanding of the rigorous instruction provided by the Education of the poor and asylum schools for the poor. It provides a historical context for the Lowood School. The document discusses the regret felt by the committee due to their low enrollment. The document reveals the allocation of funds to church leaders to decide the school’s budget from their salaries. The document also reveals the ideology of using religion to help the poor and their “seek the kingdom of heaven.” (Northamptonshire Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church, 6).  The report discusses the progress of the boys’ schools versus the girls’ schools, revealing the patriarchal ideals. The reports also reveal the committee’s awareness of the poor’s reliance on their schools, amidst the profits made off their children.

The highlight of the report is on page 6 (pictured above) it says:

“any money granted by them towards the opening or maintenance of any school, shall be transmitted to the Clergyman of the parish in which such school is stated. The local committees will then decide on the most fitting application of the grant. This resolution will, it is hoped, prevent any inefficient masters from benefit from Society’s funds, and will also remove an erroneous supposition, which some masters have entertained, that the grants of the Society are made immediately to them as a part of their salary, and are not otherwise applicable to the necessary wants of the school” (Report of the state of the Northamptonshire Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church, from January 1, 1837 to January 1, 1838, 6).

This passage reveals the historical context behind the harsh experiences of Jane and other students of the Lowood School. Mr.Brocklehurst was the headmaster they described at the end of this passage, he may have considered the grants apart of his salary neglecting the school’s basic needs. The Lowood School endures a winter without heat and it can now be assumed that the headmaster’s greed is the cause of it.

 

Another highlight of this report was on the following page (pictured above) it says:

“…the committee do most urgently appeal to the friends of the Establish Church, and to all who are favorable to the instruction of the poor, not in worldly wisdom, but in that which maketh ‘wise unto salvation,’ as to the especial necessity…The committee believe they are echoing the wishes of subscribers generally, in expressing their own earnest desire, in all schools under their care first by God’ help to teach the child to ‘seek the kingdom of heaven and his righteousness’, ….They do therefore most honestly call upon all who have the means to further the objects of a society which would ever make religious instruction the paramount to all other, they would wish to enlist the interest of the poor on its behalf, and would offer to them all, the opportunity of having their children educated in the principles of the pure and apostolic Church of Christ, and then would humbly but confidently commit their cause to the blessing of that Being whose it is, in the religious and moral, as in all other departments of His Providence, and whose alone it is, to give the increase. If after adequate provision has been made, there are still those who prer a different system, wherein another creed is taught, or even no creed, the Church will have endeavoured to fulfil her duty, and will have responded to the call of her supreme Head on eart, who with a watchful eye to the well-being of her people, has made a first appeal to them by inviting their support for the National Schools.”

(Report of the state of the Northamptonshire Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church, from January 1, 1837 to January 1, 1838, 6).

 

Though a lengthy quote, the entirety of it reveals the piety that Mr.Brocklehurst possessed- similar to the photo- expressing nuances of an education system with religion at the frontier. Mr.Brocklehurst, much like the Northamptonshire Society, used religion as an agency of self-righteousness. Oh, for the poor should “seek out the kingdom,” should they be worthy of God. Mr.Brocklehurst used this logic to abuse the students because they needed to learn “the word of God.” The rigorous instruction doesn’t involve a pedagogy that implements an educational theory of higher learning. The rigorous instruction is higher learning that involves the figurative and literal beating of bibles over the heads of the poor students, at Lowood school. Once they are knowledgeable enough to see the graciousness of their teachers, they will be so thankful to have been taught the word of God.

 

Like the image of the Teacher next to two girls at blackboard, Lowood School is a religion-based school that upholds the ideology of poverty equaling inferiority. This is the logic behind the rigorous instruction that was lathered in the piety the headmaster, Mr.Brocklehurst, hid behind to inflict pain. Students are condemned publicly and literally whipped into shape. Their poverty acts as an agent of permission for their teacher’s withholding of food, water, and even heat! This image could undoubtedly represent the public condemnation that Jane endures at Lowood School. The students in the image look as though they are writing a series of “I will not…,” several times across this board while the teacher, similar to Mrs. Scatcherd, evaluates for penmanship to be up to her standard. There may only be two students, based on the historical context, due to the low enrollment rates as referenced in the report. At Lowood school, there isn’t any way to infer the population of the students at the school, based on the conext clues. However, we can assume there aren’t many because of the historical context provided by the report.

 

The harsh reality of this photo is at the hip of the teacher and her arm that rests on it. Her body language combined with the student’s current activity suggests that these may have been subjected to strict and harsh conditions similar to Lowood school. The report suggest that the girls’ schools are more difficult to manage as opposed to the boys’ schools. Teachers are uncapable of fostering a positive environment for the students of Lowood. Jane says, ““The other teachers, poor things, were generally themselves too much dejected to attempt the task of cheering others,” (149) Lowood was an all-girls asylum school for orphans. The teachers are unpleasant as we see with Mrs.Scatherd.

 

Lowood barely provided the basic needs for the girls and drilled their head with religion and called it a miracle. The historical context for this is revealed in Report of the state of the Northamptonshire Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church, from January 1, 1837 to January 1, 1838. The headmaster was the only male in the building who provided everything for the students. This was due to the previous policy, as referenced in the report, that allowed headmasters the entire grant to allocate for schools’ necessities.

 

The lack of meeting basic This is seen in the novel where Jane says, “Then the scanty supply of food was distressing: with the keen appetites of growing children, we had scarcely sufficient to keep alive a delicate invalid.  From this deficiency of nourishment resulted an abuse, which pressed hardly on the younger pupils: whenever the famished great girls had an opportunity, they would coax or menace the little ones out of their portion.  Many a time I have shared between two claimants the precious morsel of brown bread distributed at tea-time; and after relinquishing to a third half the contents of my mug of coffee, I have swallowed the remainder with an accompaniment of secret tears, forced from me by the exigency of hunger” (148). Poverty is used as a way to justify the “failure” of these children’s lives. Additionally, these schools such as the one in the image and Lowood feel they are doing their Christian duty by caring those these orphans. “Oh, the poor kids!”

 

The students in the image appear to be mismatched and/or slightly uniformed. This may have been the reason behind why they’re writing on the board. Conformity is a highly regarded principle for orphan schools. This uniformity is spoken of in Jane Eyre it says, “Oh, dear papa, how quiet and plain all the girls at Lowood look, with their hair combed behind their ears, and their long pinafores, and those little holland pockets outside their frocks—they are almost like poor people’s children” (80). This shows that uniformity of the school represented in the image similar to Lowood heavily relies on the low socio-economic of the students that attended there. The historical context given in the report suggests that all schools were required to maintain uniformity across all schools regarding rules and policies of the students’ behavior. The students didn’t have a say on what they wore because it was mandatory. Additionally, they were poor, so their clothing options were limited regardless.

 

The students are mandated to wear their hair straight just like in this photo both students appear to have uniformity. Students at Lowood were reprimanded for not having neatly straightened hair. They would be punished for this. Possibly these students were punished for their wavy unruly hair. Similar to Jane Eyre on page 158, Mr.Brocklehurst demands that a girl’s naturally curly hair should be shaved off because it cannot be straightened. Her physical attribute was condemned as a sign of failure. She was singled out by the oh so pious headmaster.

 

Jane discerns the punitive culture of Lowood School which encompasses a class and gender hierarchy in Victorian England. Similar to this image, she was sent to the school at the age of ten years old. The students, similarly to this image, seem to be condemned for their physical appearance. This is rewarded with punitive action and ostracization. As we see in Jane Eyre, she’s publicly condemned as a liar and placed on a stool with signage that states her status as so. This photo, similarly suggests the ostracization of these students possibly due to similar infractions.

 

This image illuminates several layers of culture. It illuminates the culture of Victorian England orphan schools. The Report of the state of the Northamptonshire Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church, from January 1, 1837 to January 1, 1838 provides the historical contexts providing readers with an understanding of the harsh treatment/rigorous instruction implemented in schools similar to the image and Lowood. The socio-economic hierarchy that exists for children to be sent here to endure such harsh treatments, is also enlightened with this image and report. Through the body language and physical appearance in the image we are able to analyze this information. With the report we are able to gain insight on the education system during that time. With the use of the comparison to Jane Eyre, we are able to infer what the purpose of this image is despite the lack of the archive date.

 

 

Works Cited

Brontë, Charlotte. (1897). Jane Eyre.

Northamptonshire Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church. Report of the state of the Northamptonshire Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church, from January 1, 1837 to January 1, 1838. Northampton, 1838. The Making Of The Modern World. Web. 13 Dec. 2018.
Document URL:

<http://find.galegroup.com/mome/infomark.do?&source=gale&prodId=MOME&userGroupName=lehman_main&tabID=T001&docId=U3605641770&type=multipage&contentSet=MOMEArticles&version=1.0&docLevel=FASCIMILE>.

 

Open-air school, Halifax, England. [No Date Recorded on Caption Card] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/2004668296/.

 

 

Hiding in Plain Sight

In the Victorian era, British women lived in a society that caused them to “hide in plain sight” which means to hide while simultaneously remaining completely visible.  It appears that the women in Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814) consciously or subconsciously hide which enables them to cope in a male dominated society.  While Jane of Bronte’s Jane Eyre (1847) had more independence, she too copes by hiding.

A woman hiding is illustrated in the above image from the New York Public Library, Art and Picture Collection.  She is well dressed, in an outfit with matching hat and shawl, which indicates that she is a woman of wealth or high social standing.  As she stands behind a wall in a wooded area, it appears she does not want to be seen by the gentleman walking in her direction along the unpaved path.  The gentleman could represent her father, a suitor coming to visit or some other male authoritarian figure.  The wall, she stands behind seems out of place.  It may be the ruin of a building that was damaged in a storm.  It could also be a structure that was planned for construction, but never completed as indicated by the short unfinished wall behind her.  The woman looks very solemn as if she is hoping the wall will hide her from the man on the path.  This image captures the predicament of women in Mansfield Park.

In Victorian culture, middle-class women were raised to marry well and take care of the household.  Many women were satisfied to fulfill this expectation and would use their beauty to attract a good match.  Mansfield Park begins by stating “About 30 years ago Miss Maria Ward, of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram of Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a baronet’s lady, with all the comforts and consequences of a handsome house and large income.” (3).  In the first sentence of the book, Austen directly tells us that a woman’s fate is to obtain a husband of status to increase or maintain her rank and secure her future.  It’s interesting that Austen uses the words “good luck” and “captivate” in conjunction with Miss Ward getting a husband.  Luck is something received without any action by the receiver, so this indicates that she had to be fortunate enough to have a respectable family and a dowry.  In addition, captivates, indicates that in order to get a husband of means a woman would have to use her beauty to attract and hold his attention long enough to get a proposal of marriage.

There are different ways that hiding in plain sight manifests itself in the women of Mansfield Park.  Miss Maria Ward, or Lady Bertram, is an example.  As Austen says, Lady Bertram “had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram of Mansfield Park” which means she was beautiful enough to be chosen as Sir Thomas’ wife.  Austen writes “She was a woman who spent her days in sitting nicely dressed on the sofa, doing some long piece of needlework, of little use and no beauty, thinking more of her pug than her children” (16).  Lady Bertram has a presence and respect as the Lady of the house, but hidden are her desires, opinions and personality.  In fact, she hides herself so well that she appears to have lost herself and her purpose in life.  Unfortunately, because of hiding Lady Bertram is not fully respected.  For instance, when Tom tries to convince Edmund that the play would lessen their mother’s anxiety, Austen states, “As he said this, each look towards their mother.  Lady Bertram, sunk back in one corner of the sofa, the picture of health, wealth, ease, and tranquility, was just falling into a gentle doze, while Fanny was getting through the few difficulties of her work for her.  Edmund smiled and shook his head” (100).

Miss Maria Bertram is another example of a woman who hid her feelings.  When Sir Thomas told Maria that she did not have to marry Mr. Rushworth if she didn’t want to, “She thanked, him for his great attention his paternal kindness, but he was quite mistaken in supposing she had the smallest desire of breaking through her engagement…She had the highest esteem for Mr. Rushworth’s character and disposition, and could not have a doubt of her happiness with him” (157).  Actually, Maria was in love with Henry Crawford, but she had no “luck” with Henry.  What Maria doesn’t realize is that she did have some “luck” because Sir Thomas was willing to “…act for her and release her.” (157) from marrying Rushworth.   But she hid her feelings behind what was expected of her because she could not have Henry and she wanted to get out of her father’s house.  Going back to the word “luck”, Maria’s received her luck differently than Lady Bertram because her luck came in the form of getting out of a marriage.  Unfortunately, it was so ingrained in her to hide her feelings and she didn’t recognize that her “luck” was an opportunity to derail marriage to a man she did like.

Austen further illustrates and highlights what it means for a woman to hide in plain sight when she writes in regards to Maria’s upcoming wedding “In all the important preparations of the mind she was complete: being prepared for matrimony by a hatred of home, restraint, and tranquility; by the misery of disappointed affection, and contempt of the man she was to marry.” (158).  It’s so interesting that Austen writes that Maria was “complete”.  Complete means finished.  In a society where women were groomed only for marriage, Maria should have been happily complete.  She had the “good luck” to “captivate” Rushworth and like Lady Bertram, Maria was entitled to assume the title of Mrs. Rushworth and sit on the couch and doze in the lap of luxury.  Instead, Maria was as complete as the structure the woman in the illustration is hiding behind.  Austen writes Maria is complete by “hatred” “misery”, “disappointed affection” and “contempt”.  Here, Austen illustrates that when women are forced to hide it can affect them monumentally.  Hatred, misery and contempt are strong emotions that can fester over time and when a person has no outlet to express feelings or live life as they choose they can becomes a time bomb.  In this paragraph, Austen’s words also emphasizes that a female who lives in a society where she is only to be seen and not heard it completes her negatively.  This causes, Miss Bertram to choose the path of financial security and status and become Mrs. Rushworth.  In the end, she could no longer hide behind the wall of marriage and it caused her to make a humiliating, disgraceful and life changing decision.

In contrast to Mansfield Park, Bronte’s, Jane Eyre, gives insight into the lives of women who are without status or wealth.  Jane does not have to hide herself to the extent of the women of Mansfield Park because her rough childhood forces her to be strong and advocate for herself.  Due to her upbringing, she was not groomed, or inclined, to captivate a husband.  As a woman who has no dowry, Jane must take care of herself in a patriarchal society where submission to men is the norm.

The image below from The British Museum, Collection Online, titled “A Life of Flowers”, characterizes the plight of women who are considered second class citizens.  One woman is well dressed in a white poufy dress or ball gown with a flowing matching cape and beautiful long curly hair with a matching hair adornment.  She encounters a woman dressed in black who is sitting on steps in front of a building and she appears to stop for a moment to consider her condition as she lifts her dress to go around her and avoid disturbing her.  The woman dressed in black and seems to be sleeping or just too tired to lift her head or maybe she is just depressed and down-and-out.

The woman in white represents both the middle-class women in Mansfield Park who hide who they are and the lower-class women in Jane Eyre who are more independent and able to make decisions about their life within the confines of a repressive society.  Looking at the woman in black, she represents the wretchedness of the plight of all women who have no voice and no rights.

Bronte illustrates an independent woman when Jane decides to leave her world and comfort zone of teaching at Lowood to experience the real world and to have the “…courage to go forth into its expanse to seek real knowledge of life amidst its perils.” (85).

Bronte also writes of the plight of women when Jane reflects “Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags.  It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.” (109).

Bronte’s use of the terms “too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation” is reflected in the posture of the woman in black.  It is also reflected when Jane experiences “to rigid a restraint” in the home of Mrs. Reed.  For example, Jane was locked in the unused red room (where her uncle died) as a punishment.  After being in the room a while Jane got spooked and begged Mrs. Reed, “Oh aunt, have pity!  Forgive me!  I cannot endure it – let me be punished some other way! I shall be killed if ——-” (18).  Sadness, shame, depression, loneliness, vulnerability, being unloved are emotions that are the result of “too absolute a stagnation”.  Unfortunately, Jane experiences these emotions in her interactions with Mrs. Reed who rejected her, allowed her children to bully her and sent her away permanently to a school that was like an orphanage.  Mr. Brocklehurst also shamed Jane when he told the students Jane was “…not a member of the true flock, but evidently an interloper and an alien.  You must be on your guard against her; you must shun her example: if necessary, avoid her company, exclude her from your sports, and shut her out from your converse.” (66).  These examples also illustrate how females are made outcast if they do not hide in plain sight.

Despite her independence, there are times that Jane hides in plain sight.  As a governess at Thornfield Hall, she is subject to the wishes and demands of the master of the house, Mr. Rochester.  While Jane is independent and sometimes outspoken, there are times that she hides what she thinks, and does as she is told by Mr. Rochester.  An example is when she acquiesces to Mr. Rochester after Mason is stabbed by his sister.  She did as she was told and did not ask any questions about what was going on although she was quite curious.  Perhaps her love for Mr. Rochester leads her to hide herself so that she could be useful to him.  Jane again hides in plain sight when she tries to please St. John.  She learns a new language as he commands to please and help him as he prepares to do missionary work in India.  However, when St. John asks her to marry him to go with him to India, she chooses not to hide, exercises her independence and refuses to marry a man who doesn’t love her.

In conclusion, both Mansfield Park and Jane Eyre gives the reader some insight into the quandary of British women who live in a society where women, are treated like second class citizens and, as a result, are restrained, stagnated and forced to hide the very essence of who they are.

The Victorian Era ranged from around 1832- 1900. Queen Victoria became the Queen of England at the age of 18 and ruled for over 64 years consecutively. Due to this many believe that she gave England the leadership and stability that transformed their nation forever. During Queen Victoria’s reign there was known to be a certain type of behavior that was needed to obtain in order to withhold the reputation England was working to portray throughout the world. During her reign, Victoria worked endlessly to expand her empire and was extremely successful taking over large nations such as Western Canada, South East Asia, and a large portion of Africa. The Victorian Era was known to be strictly based off of three major assets that helped keep everyone and everything in order (Gender, Class, and Race). Through the very strict rules and ways of living, the way humans interacted with one another with another was based on their social class. The three social classes consisted of the upper class (those who were born into money), the middle class (those who were doctors and lawyers, financially stable), and the lower class (those who worked on a day to day basis). The ranks of your financial status could often be determined by the clothing worn. All folks were known to dress conservatively meaning that women could not even show their ankles, as well as men often wearing long suit jackets and long pants. The difference within  the appearance and fabric of the clothing.

One major aspect that took place during the Victorian Era was Gender. Women and Men were known to have separate jobs in society. “Women inhabited a separate, private sphere, one suitable for the so-called inherent qualities of femininity: emotion, passivity, submission, dependence, and selflessness, all derived, it was claimed insistently, from women’s sexual and reproductive organization.” (Gender Roles of Victorian Era for Men and Women). Women would have to obtain the household due to their nurturing and sensitive characteristics. This was believed; women would not have made it in a man’s society due to their sensitivity, often thought that they would have failed at their jobs and become an embarrassment. The highest withholding job a woman was able to abide was one of a teacher. Women did not have the freedom to explore their horizons and discover their strengths and weaknesses. On the other hand, men were known to be mean, strong, and tough, making them qualified to make it out in a very cruel and vindictive world. Men were able to explore different fields of interests until they discovered what they were good at. The image of women was known to be the glue that kept the house from falling apart, meaning that although a woman was working within her household throughout the day, she was not exempt from looking her best. Women would also be asked to blend with the many other women in their society, meaning they would dress the same, wear there hair the same, and not overcome the norm.  Charlotte Bronte wrote a novel titled  Jane Eyre in which she discusses very often the appearance of women as well as what was appropriate to society and what was not. “Julia Severn, ma’am! And why has she, or any other, curled hair? Why, in defiance of every precept and principle of this house, does she conform to the world so openly—here in an evangelical, charitable establishment—as to wear her hair one mass of curls?” In this passage, there was a sense of mortification when Mrs. Temple discovered that a child’s hair could naturally curl without a way of taming the curls. Her response to this was “I have again and again intimated that I desire the hair to be arranged closely, modestly, plainly. Miss Temple, that girl’s hair must be cut off entirely […].” Their way of coping with something that was outside the norm, something that not everyone could do so naturally, was to dismay is and entirely get rid of such a catastrophic appearance. 

Throughout the book, there is a very strong sense of women slowly taking over and making their voices heard. Jane Eyre was published during the Victorian Era (1847-1901) and although this was a time of growth for women and their education, there remained a lack of respect as well as abiding by certain rules put in place. As seen in the image titled A Girls Complexion. We see an image of five girls who appear to be sitting alongside a deck, looking into the water as they smile. Written on this image is “… is not injured by sun or wind. It may be burned or tanned, but such conditions quickly yield to the right treatment, and the delicate skin is restored to its soft, clear, pink and white loveliness.” When interpreting this quote, what appears relatively clear is that they are trying to paint a vivid picture that; no matter how many times you knock us down, no matter the hurtful and semi-permanent words and scars you place within one’s heart and soul, every woman is capable of healing, restoring herself, and standing up stronger and more lively and beautiful than ever before. Women are a force of nature that can be wrecked with, but when done so there will be consequences for the actions taken place. One thing I noticed was the image is of young girls who appear to be starring at the water smiling, my interpretation of this is pure innocence. They appear to be doing what they were taught from the time of birth. As they sit up straight, well dressed, and appearance of perfection… they demonstrate exactly what was expected of a woman, to sit still and look pretty. I feel almost as if, had this image been of a man or young boys, they would be off studying or dressed for a court of office appearing serious and ready to tackle on a big work assignment. 

    In Jane Eyre, we are introduced to a young child who was sent off to live with her Aunt and three cousins who treated her unkindly. Jane was given the opportunity to attend a school in which many poor children attended with no the best of education. Jane and her friend Helen worked together to create a better and happier life together, but after Helen’s death, Jane was lost again. Striving to succeed Jane graduates and becomes a teacher for two years before being offered a position as a governess. It is here where she falls for the very handsome Mr. Rochester but as seen later on was already married to a mad woman named Bertha. After forgiveness and many years apart from Mr. Rochester, Jane returns to his home where she realizes its destruction learning of Bertha setting fire to the Rochester Home and jumping to her death. Jane finds Mr. Rochester blind and full of regret and offers to marry her once more. Jane accepts having a son ten years later.  

Men, on the other hand, were thought to be the warriors of the world. The ones who rode into battle ready to fight and protect their nation, for no one cared more for England than those who were ready to die for it. The Soldier written by Rupert Brooke tells the story of a brave soldier who marches his way into battle, fearing the unknown but brave enough to die for his country. “If I should die, think only this of me: That there’s some corner of a foreign field that is forever England.”  My interpretation of this very powerful opening stanza is simply; if he were to die in a foreign country wherever he is buried, wherever his blood mixes with the soil of a foreign land, his blood, his body is displaying  England. His bones will stand for England. That country has a piece of England. Men were known to be the ones who would protect their families from any harm that would come there way. Many times, money came into play when deciding who would fight for England. Being that rich and wealthy men could not afford to lose their lives, it was often found that commoners, people of the lower class would have to fight for their country in order to withstand its reputation. 

Men were known to spend countless days, weeks, and months away from their families and homes in order to provide for their family. Working endless hours to be able to provide for the family was one of the major components that went into being a male during the Victorian Era. “According to Susan Kent, men possessed the capacity for reason, action, aggression, independence, and self-interest [thus belonging to the public sphere].” (Gender Roles of Victorian Era for Men and Women)

Citation:

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Ground crewmen from the Italian bomber squadrons on the Channel coast prepare for a mission against England, which has suffered devastating attacks in the past weeks against cities producing vital war materials.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1940. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/ae7bb9f5-450a-5a5d-e040-e00a1806317f

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “A Girl’S Complexion.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1914. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-f1ed-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. “Queen Victoria.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1931. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/45003c00-6dce-0132-2fff-58d385a7bbd0

Joshi, Vaijayanti. “Queen Victoria.” NYPL Digital Collections, 2017, digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/45003c00-6dce-0132-2fff-58d385a7bbd0.

Rollason, Jane, and Charlotte Brontë. Jane Eyre. Richmond, 2012.

Controlled or Independent?

Women have been controlled by men, almost becoming enslaved. In the image to your left your attention is focused on three individuals. Cupid, a well-dressed man and a female reflecting a smile. My Fair Lady is the subject heading for the current photo based off a musical that was adapted from a play titled Pygmalion. The main repository of the current play was normally held in a music division. The Osio Nye Teater version of My Fair Lady was presented in 1959, which was held in Norway. In the musical My Fair Lady the man took in a woman from a broken home and helped her develop into a better person. In the image to the right “The Irish Domestic Servant”. Sadler Bessy Conway’s photograph captures the central narratives in the Irish immigrant life. Domestic service was by far the most popular career choice for single women. An overall debate can be held if you felt Jane Eyre was persuaded by a man or her environment made her vulnerable. Is there a correlation that can be determined between the photographs and the story?

Let’s focus our attention on the image on the right “The Irish Domestic Servant”. Irish domestic servants were single women who migrated alone without their parents similar to Jane Eyre who happened to be an orphan. In search of an opportunity for a better future or an official career path. The servants were paid wages in addition to room and board. Had no expenses and their main concerns was accomplishing their job duties. Becoming a domestic servant allowed the women an opportunity to marry for love. Before being able to find love the servants were actual servants. Working long hours and performing strenuous physical labor. In Brontë’s novel character Jane became a governess teaching a young child knowledge she can grasp throughout her life journey. Jane’s main characteristic throughout the novel was an educator. Always respectful and helping children.

Focusing your attention to the image on the left Cupid is a mythological god of desire. In other words, the god of love. Present in the image cupid is controlling a man as a marionette puppet and the man is doing the same with a female. Cupid may be identified as “marionettist” out in the open as he wishes for the man to act on his command. Prior knowledge: “string puppets were often used to depict biblical events, with the virgin Mary being a popular character” (Wikipedia). Displaying women as an inferior. Cupid has chosen this couple because the women is innocent and pure. The couple is united because cupid the god of love has created their path. To be determined if it was in fact lust or love. In correlation to Jane who is also young, pure and innocent. Putting her in the direction of a man that can tame her.

Jane Eyre signify a woman on a quest for love. Ready to embark on her own journey.  Charlotte Brontë created Jane Eyre in 1847 which conformed to her society’s expectations of women but to an extent. While the novel was expressed from a first person female’s perspective. Jane Eyre captured a female searching for her own path of self worth but, at times become distracted within her own thoughts. The novel’s style also represents a naturalism style. Naturalism: “a style and theory of representation based on the accurate depiction of detail” (Dictionary).

Brontë expressed the disadvantaged position’s of women who were made to be attractive in a man’s eyes. Present between the photograph on the left and Jane Eyre the women is displayed under the man dangling from string.  Quoted from the novel “Seeing Rochester among his high-class houseguests, Jane realizes that he has more in common with her than he does with them” (2.2 Brontë). The image on the right show’s a domestic servant, taken from the novel Jane’s occupation was a governess and nothing more, she got granted permission to see her employer in a different atmosphere. Brontë already changing the normal perspectives of what takes place in a private home. Brontë begins removing Jane from her normal element and allows her to explore different opportunities. Even though Jane was considered an employee of Rochester and they were in fact in a different economic class she felt a chemistry between her boss and her. Allowed to see Rochester in a different atmosphere allowed Jane to develop different feelings for her superior. “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will” (2.8 Brontë). From the following quote you would assume this was Jane’s Pivotal moment, overcoming being an orphan and being mistreated by her aunt. She no longer wants to be a caged bird, she would rather be free and released into the world giving herself the proper introduction into the world. Taking from the same chapter Jane is conflicted between her emotions. Wanting to be a free bird no longer caged but, seeing her boss in a different atmosphere willing to become a caged bird once again for love. Allowing to be dangled from wires as expressed in the image.

“I cleared up the mistake of supposing Mr. Rochester’s movements a matter in which I had any cause to take a vital interest. Not that I humbled myself by a slavish notion of inferiority: on the contrary, I just said you have nothing to do with the master of Thornfield, further than to receive the salary he gives you for teaching his protégée, and to be grateful for such respectful and kind treatment as, if you do your duty, you have a right to expect at his hands” (2.2 Brontë). Was Jane wrong for believing her and Mr. Rochester can be together? Did Rochester persuade Jane into falling for him with the conversations or was it the home and money that in fact made Jane feel accepted to her current lifestyle. She felt she belonged in his world. As a women distance herself from a broken lifestyle anything that might lead them on a fresh path can become a dream come true. It wasn’t Rochester’s intentions to pursue Jane, he wasn’t the one to hire her. He just had something to offer and she was determined to find out what it was exactly.

Reflecting back to the image on the left, recited from Eyre “Feeling . . . clamoured wildly. “Oh, comply!” it said. “. . . soothe him; save him; love him; tell him you love him and will be his. Who in the world cares for you? or who will be injured by what you do?” Still indomitable was the reply: “I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man” (chap 27 Brontë). Here Jane is arguing with herself asserting her strong sense of moral integrity over and against her intense immediate feelings towards Rochester. But allowing herself to be controlled by a man as she indicated I have respect for myself but it’s the law given by God which happens to be a man to be given permission to be controlled by another man. Even with questioning her own decisions Jane remained loyal to herself not allowing herself to feel enslaved by following her better judgment. Feeling as she belonged in his world but she refused to join that world without the following conditions being met. Conditions a real sense of connection and understanding there is no one else he wanted or needed in his world. Someone who also maintained a wealthy background. As expressed in the beginning Brontë conformed to her society’s expectations of women because, Jane Eyre was written before the Victorian era but became published during the stated era. Brontë captured evidence that women were capable of adjusting their social class and roles.

Supporting her theory of her novel that allows a female to gain her own power she wrote “This young girl, who stands so grave and quiet at the mouth of hell, looking collectedly at the gambols of a demon. I wanted her just as a change after that fierce ragout. Wood and Briggs, look at the difference! Compare these clear eyes with the red balls yonder—this face with that mask—this form with that bulk; then judge me, priest of the Gospel and man of the law, and remember, with what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged!” (2.11 Brontë). What image is interpreted of Mr. Rochester, is he a good man or dominate man? We met Rochester’s wife Berta Mason during chapter 26. We have come to learn that Rochester kept his mental wife locked in the house on the third floor. Makes sense to all the noises and weird encounters that took place in the home. In the following quote Mr. Rochester was trying to defend himself as to why he was trying to commit bigamy. Bigamy: “the act of going through a marriage ceremony while already married to another person” (Dictionary). Has cupid in fact deceived Mr. Rochester with his first marriage with Berta. As well with Céline? After suffering from numerous failed relationships, Brontë displayed Rochester in the opposite position in which society displayed males during the time. Now he wants a younger woman he was able to understand for a few years now, also knowing he can manipulate and control her. Allowing him to suffer before placing him on the right path.

In volume three a new character is introduced St. John. St. John is older than Jane and starts instructing her to do things to fit his lifestyle as a clergyman. For example, asked her to stop learning German and learn Hindustani. Jane started wanting to please St. John now, her environment has changed and now she’s playing puppet to the next man at a higher ranking then herself. “Consent, then, to his demand is possible: but for one item one dreadful item. It is that he asks me to be his wife, and has no more of a husband’s heart for me than that frowning giant of a rock, down which the stream is foaming in yonder gorge. He prizes me as a soldier would a good weapon; and that is all. Unmarried to him, this would never grieve me; but can I let him complete his calculations, coolly put into practice his plans, go through the wedding ceremony? Can I receive from him the bridal ring, endure all the forms of love (which I doubt not he would scrupulously observe) and know that the spirit was quite absent? Can I bear the consciousness that every endearment he bestows is a sacrifice made on principle? No: such a martyrdom would be monstrous. I will never undergo it. As his sister, I might accompany him not as his wife: I will tell him so” (3.8 Brontë). Jane never considered her own feelings towards St. John she only mentioned she couldn’t marry him because he wasn’t in love with her. But, in fact if St. John did love Jane would she had jumped out the window and married him despite her own feelings. In reference to “The Irish Domestic Servant” image, it was indicated that servants looked forward to being able to marry for love and were also thrilled that they had been giving the opportunity to have income and shelter provided from the male. Who’s to say that love wouldn’t had been able to come further down the line? Shouldn’t the females have been in love with the idea of the income and shelter? That’s the lust presented with cupid’s image. Allowing a male to feel superior over a female because he’s able to provide her with a new since of direction of a new life. Able to offer her the dreams she might have once imagined.

In conclusion Osio Nye Teater’s image for “My fair Lady” displays a women being controlled by a man as she wears a smile proudly. Jane Eyre displayed a woman differently from what society had in store. A strong woman was presented being able to make her own life choices. “The Domestic Servants” also represented strong woman able to determine their futures. Domestic servants were able to migrate on their own on the path to new beginnings. Leaving home at a young age leaving family behind, working numerous hours while being provided with hospitality. During Jane’s time as a governess she never asked for much. Unfortunately, when Jane took on the role as a governess she appeared as a paid slave but once feelings accumulated for her boss, she was taking the proper steps to remove herself from her current situation. Breaking free from any money and shelter that was being provided to her. Still searching for her own path she was granted numerous opportunities but opposed once love wasn’t a factor. “In youth, it was a way I had, to do my best to please. And change, with every passing lad, to suit his theories. But now I know the things I know and do the things I do, and if you do not like me so, to hell, my love, with you” (Dorthy Parker). The following poem correlates with the character Jane. As a young orphan girl Jane had certain guidelines to follow, even being employed by Rochester she had to maintain a certain image. Once Rochester opened the door for her communication it allowed her the opportunity to become vocal for once. Once Rochester proposed to Jane and they finally married she became in charge of pleasing him and herself. Whichever way she felt it suited their relationship.

 

Work Cited

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. New York: Oxford, 15 May 2008. Print.

Dictionary. Neutralism. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/naturalism

Oslo Nye Teater My Fair Lady. Image. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/muslarsschmidt.200221716/>.

“Poem for the Independent Woman”. Dorthy Parker. https://www.google.com/search?q=poem+for+the+independent+woman+dorothy+parker&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS710US730&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=SVPmi60BrMmvEM%253A%252CsU75gpeQlcVLmM%252C_&usg=AI4_-kREh7lhSQlsM-rNChp9U0WyRm4M4w&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjSlIKV35PfAhWNuVkKHQYTC6kQ9QEwAnoECAMQBA#imgrc=SVPmi60BrMmvEM: (web). 09.12.18

The Irish Domestic Servant

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/sadlier/Domestic.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

The complex nature of man always involves some sort of duality between good and evil. That is the main theme/idea that the book The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr.Hyde discusses, along with Sigmund Freud’s The Uncanny. Even the illustration in this essay represent the duality of man. The good and the evil, on one side lies a man with no angry remarks on his face, nor any chains. The other side represents the evil; a man chained up with a hateful expression. This essay will explore how The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, including The Uncanny, along with this image show examples of man’s duality.

The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde revolves around Dr. Jekyll and his friends. One day Dr.Jekyll creates a potion that allows him to unleash his primal alter ego Mr. Hyde. Chaos ensues as Mr. Hyde takes to the streets and causes mayhem around London. From trampling a girl to beating a man to death, Mr. Hyde seems to have Dr. Jekyll’s friends concerned. Dr. Jekyll reveals his friends that he is trying to get rid of Mr. Hyde, only to wind up truly revealing they are both the same person.

Dr. Jekyll mentions his struggles with addiction in regards to becoming Mr. Hyde. For example, Mr. Utterson a friend of Dr. Jekyll visits Dr. Jekyll and speaks to him about Mr. Hyde. Mr. Hyde thanks his friend, “My good Utterson,’ said the doctor, ‘this is very good of you, this is downright good of you, I cannot find words to thank you in. I believe fully; I would trust you before any man alive, ay, before myself, if I could not make the choice; but indeed it isn’t what you fancy; it is not so bad as that; and just to put your good heart at rest, I will tell you one thing: the moment I choose, I can be rid of Mr. Hyde. I give you my hand upon that; and I thank you again and again; and I will just add one little word, Utterson, that I’m sure you’ll take in good part: this is a private matter, and I beg you to let it sleep.’” (Stevenson, Louis, Robert, Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde). Upon analysis of this statement Jekyll makes to his friend he seems to feel as though he has a grasp with My. Hyde. Until the wording reveals that he himself is struggling to deal with Mr. Hyde. By saying “the moment I choose, I can be rid of Mr. Hyde.” and, “this is a private matter, and I beg you to let it sleep.” give a sense of worry that Dr. Jekyll is facing. On one hand he is confident about getting rid of Mr. Hyde, on the other he is afraid to bring his friends into the matter, he knows as Mr. Hyde he can cause them harm if something goes afoul. This is an example of how Dr. Jekyll is struggling with the duality of nature within man.

Another example is when Dr. Jekyll has his full statement written down in regards to transforming into Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll admits that man has duality within themselves, something that purely evil that they keep locked away. Meanwhile, the person on the outside is usually the virtuous kind who tries to do the right things in life. For example, “With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to that truth by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one but two.” (Stevenson, Louis, Robert Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde).

We can tell due to unleashing Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll has discovered that man has a dual nature within themselves. Mr. Hyde is simply a personification of Dr. Jekyll’s evil nature, which explains why he kills a man within the book and tramples a little girl. Lastly, Dr. Jekyll also says this, “This, as I take it, was because all human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil: and Edward Hyde, alone in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil.” (Stevenson, Louis, Robert Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde).

Dr. Jekyll mentions how he takes a potion to become Mr. Hyde, and by doing so he awakes the duality within him. For example, “The drug had no discriminating action, it was neither diabolical nor divine; it but shook the doors of the prisonhouse of my disposition; and, like the captives of Phillippi, that which stood within ran forth.” (Stevenson, Louis, Robert, Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde). Unleashing Mr. Hyde was Dr. Jekyll’s way of freeing the evil that laid within him. As Mr. Hyde he can commit any crime and be free to do anything deemed irrational by society. Which is something Dr. Jekyll a man of prestige amongst society and his friends can not commit to doing. Which is why he uses Mr. Hyde as an outlet, for releasing his inner thoughts of evil and frustrations. These are examples of how The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde touches upon the duality of man in nature.

The Uncanny by Sigmund Freud focuses on what is considered “uncanny” in other words what is scary or out of place. While at the same time Freud examines the works of other scholars and their interpretation on the “uncanny”. Freud also manages to look at different languages for their interpretation of the word “uncanny” as evidence as to what the “uncanny” could possibly mean/be. For example, “In his study of the ‘uncanny’ Jentsch quite rightly lays stress on the obstacle presented by the fact that people vary so greatly in their sensitivity to this quality of feeling.”

In order for us to fully grasp what this quote is saying we must look back to what Freud thinks uncanny means. According to Sigmund Freud, “The subject of the ‘uncanny’ is a province of this kind. It is undoubtedly related to what is frightening-to what arouses dread and horror, equally certainly, too.” (Darwin, Charles, The “Uncanny”?) So, pretty much the word “uncanny” relates to something that arouses dread and fear. By using the definition of the word uncanny, we can truly see what Freud, along with other scholars mean when they use the word uncanny.

Another quote to involve some sort duality within the nature of man, “It is long since he has experienced or heard of anything which has given him an uncanny impression, and he must start by translating himself into that state of feeling, by awakening in himself the possibility of experiencing it.” (Darwin, Charles, The “Uncanny”?). This quote can get linked to The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde in regards to Dr. Jekyll transforming into Mr. Hyde. As well as the theme of this essay which is the duality of the nature of man. In order for Dr. Jekyll to fulfill his uncanny feelings that were barking at him internally, he must transform into Mr. Hyde. By transforming into Mr. Hyde he is able to freely commit any desire his feelings of uncanniness call for.

In regards to the image at the front of this essay, the two men which lay at either side of a pillar. The person on the left clearly being the “normal” one, the one of the right is fulfilling his uncanny nature. We can see so by how the man on the right has shackles and chains which dangle around his wrists. The angry look on his face exclaims how much of a danger he is, to both himself and society. These two men, are in a sense Dr. Jekyll and his alter ego Mr. Hyde if they were separated from each other. Dr. Jekyll, the famous doctor with a huge cast of friends is very well respected. Especially by his friends, the book even mentions they take days off to spend time with him and other friends. Mr. Hyde of the other hand is shown to be a menace, he is being hunted by Dr. Jekyll’s friend Mr. Utterson.  This is how the statue relates to The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde.

Another person could even say the two statues actually represent the duality of good vs evil within man. Especially if you use the examples from The “Uncanny” by Sigmund Freud. In order for someone to adapt and change to the uncanny nature within themselves they must first participate in any kind of acts that are deemed “uncanny”. That can be anything from committing various crimes, robbing, raping, murder, and other acts of terror society deems unfit. Or, at least according to Mr. Hyde beating a man to death and trampling a little girl who was a prostitute.

In conclusion, the complex nature of man always involves some sort of duality within man. From the two statues within image which represent good and evil. To The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde which also represents the duality of man. A man who loses himself to his darker, uncanny side. A man who transforms into the evil Mr. Hyde and tramples little girls and beats men to death. At the same time Freud’s The “Uncanny” depicts how the average person deals with this duality of uncanny nature within themselves. So yes, overall people face a duality of good vs evil within themselves. It’s just how they present themselves and deal with their nature that sets them apart from what is considered “uncanny” by society’s standards.

 

Work Cited

Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: and Other Stories. Coward-McCann, 1960.

Freud, Sigmund. “The ‘Uncanny.’” The “Uncanny”, pp. 929–934.

“Image Gallery: Print.” British Museum, www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspx?assetId=652971001&objectId=3085102&partId=1.

The Bittersweet Relations

My object is an illustration that was created in 1934 and is referred to as “Primeval.” My object portrays both a naked man and woman sitting. The woman has long black hair and has her breast, arms, and the left side of her body exposed to the audience. The woman appears to be angry as her face is screwed. She has both her arms on top of her legs and looks directly at the audience. The man on the other hand, has his face buried in his hands as if he his ashamed or embarrassed of something. The top of his head, arm, back, and legs are the only body features that are shown. What appears to be the purpose of this image is to portray a man and a woman who engaged in illegal sexual intercourse and had to face repercussions for their actions by their society as a result. It appears that the man had engaged in intercourse with the woman who could’ve possibly been a prostitute as she looks directly at her audience with no shame on her face. Also, she does not even bother to cover her body parts. On the contrary, the man visibly shows something is bothering him as his head is buried in his hands and his private parts are covered. He seems to be in distress and almost as if he has put himself into a huge problem.The most striking feature about this object is the contrast of the white and dark features. The only thing that appears black on the woman is her long hair while her whole body is white. However, the man almost blends in with the dark scenery of the image. The man is drawn in all black. This color contrast strikes me because it forces me to understand the differences in the image. The object relates to Ford Maddox Fords novel The Good Soldier which presents the idea that suicide was prevalent amongst those who engaged in adultery and struggled to maintain the emotions that came with living a double life.
Below is the image of my object.

Throughout history and even up until today many partners who discover infidelity choose to remain married. Correspondingly, John Dowell was initially not aware of his wife’s cheating scandal until he was informed about it by Leonora. Ford notes “she stood out that she was not Edward’s mistress until Leonora said that she had seen Edward coming out of her room at an advanced hour of the night” (111). Dowell claims that he was unaware of the affair that went on nine years between Florence and Edward until Leonora told him about it. For as long as Dowell has known Edward he continued to perceive him as an honorable man despite his various affairs with woman and infers that he is not to blame for the affairs. However, Leonora from the start did not hesitate to show that she was aware of her husband’s unfaithfulness. Leonora tells Florence “”you want to tell me that you are Edward’s mistress. You can be. I have no use for him” (110). Leonora indicates that she is conscious of Edward’s unfaithfulness and it does not bother her in the least. The idea that emerges from the object and how Fords portrays the adulterous actions between Florence and Edward is that infidelity was definitely prevalent in the early 1900’s. As the object portrays the woman looking bravely at her audience with no shame evident on her face reminds me of Florence when Leonora clearly tells her that she is aware of her affair with Edward. Knowing that Leonora is aware of her affair with her husband it does not stop Florence from continuing to sleep with Edward. This shows Florence’s shamelessness and immodesty as the naked woman portrayed in the image. The object proves the idea that many individuals engaged in promiscuity and most of the time the faithful partner who discovered the infidelity chose to maintain the union despite how they were wronged. Furthermore, the unfaithful actions by the adulterers effected their lives and well being more than they could have ever expected.

The idea of lusting over someone other than a spouse and concealing infidelities ultimately results in unbearable emotional pain that leads to death. When Florence spies on Edward taking Nancy out on a romantic date to the casino but end up under a tree in a dark night it becomes difficult for Florence to fathom that the man she has fallen in love with loves another woman. Because of the emotional heart break Florence was dealing with and the fear of facing Dowell about her promiscuous actions she decides to take extreme measures. Dowell says “I think it was stupid of Florence to commit suicide” (60). Florence falls into despair and her world becomes dark to the point she commits suicide and Dowell still finds about her affair with Edward after her death. This reminds me of the contour of my object. Everything around the woman in the image is black including the male besides her. This is relevant to Florence because she committed suicide when her whole world became dark and she felt the odds were against her. Just like the woman in the image who appears angry Florence was upset about her relationship with Edward. However, Edward was nonchalant about the way Florence felt about him because she was not the only woman he had eyes for. Aware of how much Edward loved Nancy, Leonora tells Nancy “you must stay here…to save Edward. He’s dying for love of you” (124). While Florence falls into misery over Edward, Edward on the other hand falls into misery over Leonora because she fails to reciprocate the love he has for her. Now shedding light on the male in my object he seems to be a representation of Edward who seems to portray the same emotions of sorrow and sadness. I could imagine Edward in the same state of despair as he is buried with all his problems in life just as the male in the image buries his face in his palms. Just like Florence who is a representation of the woman in the image whose world is dark the male in the image is an element of that darkness and resembles Edward. Because Edward can resemble the male in the object who is part of the darkness in the image we can infer that Edward is a dark character. Moreover, Ford notes “it appears that at Aden Nancy had seen in a local paper the news of Edward’s suicide” (126). Edward’s dark world drives him to end his misery all at once. The misery of not being able to be with Nancy makes Edward kill himself and Nancy finds out about in a newspaper. Just like Florence, Edward commits suicide when the emotional pain becomes unbearable over loving someone else he shouldn’t have given his love. This theme of darkness in the lives of Florence and Edward is symbolic of the darkness portrayed in the object involving the man and the woman who might have committed adultery. Thus the object proves the idea that living a double life of unfaithfulness leads to severe emotional and physical consequences.

Considering all that has been mentioned it is safe to say that many individuals struggled to conceal their infidelities while living a double life. Failure to maintain a life full of secrets and betrayal ends in deterioration. As we see in the illustration, it appears that the man and the woman are both in dark places because of their promiscuous actions that have led to it. The outcomes that both Florence and Edward decided to resort to which was death makes it very clear that their infidelities is what made their worlds dark.
Reference
Ford, F. Madox. The Good Soldier. Oxford University Press, 2012.
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The
New York Public Library. (1934). Primeval Retrieved from
http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/42db8820-56bd-0130-33ab-58d385a7bbd0

Perceptions and Portrayals: Oroonoko in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko and King Gezo in “Gezo, King of Dahomey”

When many people think about the Transatlantic Slave Trade, they often think of white men benefiting from the capture and use of African people as slaves. However, figures that tend to go overlooked are the powerful African men who themselves captured, sold, and used other Africans as slaves and engaged with this brutal and inhumane practice. The New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has many interesting pieces on slavery, some of which highlight these African men that benefited from the slave trade. However, one that is very eye-opening is the portrait of Gezo, King of Dahomey. The image of King Gezo and how he is portrayed to the audience is very similar to the beginning passages of Oroonoko by Aphra Behn, where Behn, the narrator, describes the prince’s attire and how royal and “Roman” he is. The descriptions of both King Gezo and Oroonoko are quite similar, with an emphasis on his extravagance and grace, which is portrayed in this painting as well as with Oroonoko in his homeland of Coramantien. This paper will focus on the portrayal of both King Gezo and Oroonoko from the perspective of the audience/reader as well as how the painter and author of Oroonoko choose to portray both men of royalty who benefited from and engaged with the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

First, a description is needed of the portrait in order to compare and contrast it with the depiction of Prince Oroonoko in the novella by Aphra Behn. The first aspect of the painting that catches the eye is the attire of the king—a bright blue and white fabric that covers the left arm and leaves the right arm free to move. In addition, there is a large amount of red used in the portrait. First, the King’s sandals, umbrella, and hat all have red, as well as gold, in them. These colors give the viewer a feeling of royalty and power— colors that many normal people might not have been wearing. Therefore, it can be determined that these colors symbolize royalty and elegance. There is also red on the shawl of the woman standing behind him; this woman, however, is a mystery to the viewer. Perhaps she is a servant of his, a wife, a confidant. Nevertheless, it is difficult to come to a solid conclusion. However, it is quite clear that she is of lower status than he, due to her lack of shoes and minimal/simplistic clothing and lack of accessories, except for earrings. But this is not to say that she does not have status. She is wearing red, a royal color, and has earrings on, signifying some form of status in relation to King Gezo.

The last aspect of the portrait is the pickaxe that King Gezo is holding. In the description of the painting, it states that he captured and exported slaves from The Bight of Benin, the second largest exporter of captives after West Central Africa (Forbes). The description also states that he “was feared for his military power and his numerous slave raids. He had an army of several thousand female warriors, the famous Amazons” (Forbes). This leads one to believe that this tool could be a symbol of his influence and participation in hunting down other Africans, capturing them, and exporting them in the slave trade, as well as using them as personal slaves in his homeland. In the painting, in the distance, there is a brief outline of a tent with people standing in front of it. This could either be the area where King Gezo lives, or possibly an area that he is raiding and capturing people to be traded. Nevertheless, these facts are not presented to the viewer, therefore, only speculation can be used to determine where exactly King Gezo is.

The entire portrait portrays this feeling of superiority and power, which matches the description given of the illustration, showing King Gezo as a powerful and feared ruler and businessman. When one first views the portrait, one can immediately make a connection to Prince Oroonoko and his elegance/royalty. When examining these two African royals together, two main questions arise. First, when comparing and contrasting King Gezo and Oroonoko, how to the painter and Aphra Behn present these two royal Africans to either the viewer or the reader? How are they different? How are they similar? Secondly, how do the viewer/reader absorb these two powerful figures when given the context of their lives?

In order to answer the first question, one must examine how the painter and Behn are presenting King Gezo and Oroonoko, respectively. As stated before in the description of the portrait, King Gezo is presented to the viewer as a powerful and revered man with great status. However, after reading the description of King Gezo, one may no longer feel this reverence, and instead might feel frustration that another African would participate in the capture, exportation, and exploitation of other Africans. But this is also very interesting because it is something that is overlooked and not emphasized by Behn when she speaks about Oroonoko, an African prince that engaged and benefitted from the selling and trade of African people, just like King Gezo. Furthermore, because Behn tends to describe Oroonoko in a fetishized and obsessed manner, his engagement with the slave trade is generally overlooked, which causes the reader to not pay much attention to that fact and instead focus on Oroonoko’s elegance. In Behn’s first descriptions of Oroonoko, she stated, “I have often seen and conversed with this great man, and been a witness to many of his mighty actions, and do assure my reader the most illustrious courts could not have produced a braver man, both for greatness of courage and mind, a judgment more solid, a wit more quick, and a conversation more sweet and diverting” (Behn 145). Behn focuses on Oroonoko’s education, his intellect, and his rich upbringing. Behn then continues by stating, “He had an extreme good and graceful mien, and all the civility of a well-bred great man” (145) and that “He had nothing of barbarity in his nature, but in all points addressed himself as if his education had been in some European court” (145).  Behn’s description of the prince are focused on his Western characteristics that seemingly place him above other Africans. It is rarely mentioned that he was an African prince that, just like King Gezo, interacted with and benefited from the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Automatically, Oroonoko is presented in a more positive light to the reader than King Gezo is to the viewer, even though the two figures are quite similar in their status, wealth, and occupation.

Now moving on to the second question posed earlier, one must examine how these two figures are presented and what these mediums entail. The discrepancy in how King Gezo and Oroonoko are presented to the audience makes sense when examining the mediums in which they are portrayed. King Gezo’s portrait is presented in a digital archive which focuses much more on historical context and facts rather than sensationalism or fictitious descriptions. This is why a viewer of this portrait will most likely focus on the fact that King Gezo was an African king who killed, captured, sold, and used other Africans in order to maintain his wealth and status. This also accounts for a much colder response from the audience who views him as a historical figure that engaged in a terrible and inhumane market. However, the portrayal of prince Oroonoko is quite different, and therefore, his reception will also be different. Not only is this prince fictional, but also is presented in a fictional novella. Although Oroonoko is very similar to King Gezo, he is presented to the reader from the point of view of Aphra Behn, a white female narrator who has an obsession with the African prince and usually portrays him in a more positive light. This is a narrator who tells the reader that Oroonoko’s “nose was rising and Roman, instead of African and flat; his mouth the finest shaped that could be seen, far fro those great turned lips which are so natural to the rest of the Negroes” (Behn 145). Because Oroonoko is described as having extremely Roman and white features, the reader tends to forget that he is an African man engaging in the African slave trade, just like his real-life counterpart, King Gezo. The depiction of these two African royals using two very different mediums, one historical and one fictional, tends to illicit rather different responses in the viewer/reader, making them feel like they are extremely different men, even though they share many similar qualities.

By examining the description of prince Oroonoko and the portrayal of King Gezo in his portrait, many fascinating conclusions can be made about these two African rulers, whether fictional or not. As this paper examined, the way in which the creator paints King Gezo, and Behn describes Oroonoko are extremely similar; both works emphasize the royalty and wealth of each ruler. However, the discrepancy comes when examining the mediums in which both figures are portrayed—one through a historical and digital archive, the other through a fictional novella. These two different mediums lead the audience to feel differently about each man. With King Gezo, because he is shown through a more historical lens, the viewer tends to focus on his engagement with the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and tends to feel frustration towards a historical figure that blatantly took advantage of his own people. In contrast, however, there is Oroonoko, who is described by a biased narrator as basically a white man with wonderful characteristics, causing the reader to overlook his own involvement and benefit from the African slave trade. This demonstrates that the portrayal of figures and the mediums used to portray them have an extreme effect on the perceptions that people have about said works as well as how the audience interacts with these pieces.

Works Cited

Behn, Aphra. Oroonoko. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century, edited by Stephen Greenblatt, W. W. Norton & Company, 2018, 139-188.

Forbes, Frederick E. “Gezo, King of Dahomey (1818-1858).” 1851. Dahomey and the Dahomans. Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York. http://www.inmotionaame.org/gallery/detail.cfm?migration=1&topic=99&id=292420&type=image&metadata=show&page=3&bhcp=1

 

 

Effects of Punishment by Burning and Oroonoko

Aphra Behn’s novel Oroonoko and the image “Effects of Punishment by Burning, Richmond, Virginia, 1866” from Harper’s Weekly exhibit the devastating and inhumane nature of punishments from slavery. Behn’s novel follows the tragic tale of a man who, forced by the hands of slavery, murders his family, while the image shows the horrible torture done to a young woman. Both pieces of work display the atrocities of slave punishment and show that slavery is the direct or indirect cause of violence towards enslaved African-Americans.

The image of the young unidentified woman is taken from The University of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, “Slavery Images” archive. The image was published in “Harper’s Weekly” on July 28, 1866. According to the article, the woman in the image was thirteen years old when she was brutally punished for upsetting or annoying her mistress for reasons unknown. She was locked in a room alone for a little over a week when the mistress came in and repeatedly burned her during that time. Because of this, the mistress was arrested but was released after making bail. The black and white painting depicts the young African-American girl with several burn marks lining her back and arms. She also appears to have several burns on her head and her left hand appears to be covered by a bandage. The young woman appears to be sitting on a chair looking towards the opposite direction with her dress pulled down toward her waistline to show where she has been burned on her body. Underneath the image, the caption reads “Marks of punishment inflicted upon a colored servant in Richmond, Virginia”. From this painting, the viewer can assume that this is about the punishment given to the slave by the slave owner. This image displays one of the many forms of punishment that slaves had to go through. This painting can evoke an emotional response for those who view it because it shows the aftermath of a cruel punishment that someone wrongly endured.

Behn’s Oroonoko displays the inner turmoil the protagonist Oroonoko faces when he tries to decide whether he should get his revenge on Byam for selling him into slavery. Oroonoko knows that if he was to attempt killing Byam, his plan could possibly fail which would result in his death. The narrator states, “He consider’d, if he should do this deed, and die either in the attempt, or after it, he left his lovely Imoinda a prey, or at best a slave to the enraged multitude; his great heart could not endure that thought” (217). Oroonoko couldn’t endure the thought of his wife being alone and enslaved for the rest of her life. She would be vulnerable and more susceptible to the nasty lusts of other men and even death. His fear of slavery ultimately drives him to murder his wife and unborn child to free them from the pain and suffering of being a slave. The narrator continues, “he told her his design, first of killing her, and then his enemies, and next himself, and the impossibility of escaping, and therefore he told her the necessity of dying” (217). He concludes that since their chances of escaping slavery are impossible, he tells Imoinda that death is the only thing that will free them. In this sense, slavery has indirectly caused the deaths of Oroonoko’s family. Although Oroonoko murdered his wife with his own hands, slavery was the reason for his actions.

The image from the “Slavery Images” archive depicts one of many acts of violence against African-Americans. Similar to Oroonoko, the young woman in the image is a slave who was abused by her captor. As a slave, she was more vulnerable to violence and abuse from the slave owners. Although the woman was arrested, she made bail and was able to return home. This shows that violence towards slaves was normalized and accepted during that time. The article does not mention what happened to the young woman after this incident, but the reader can assume that this woman may have been abused again. Violence towards slaves was allowed because they were seen as merely the property of the slave owners who bought them. After they were bought, they could do anything they wanted to them, which resulted in the physical abuse that many slaves experienced. The same idea can be seen in Behn’s Oroonoko. Before being kidnapped and sold into slavery by Byam, Oroonoko was the last descendant of the royal line in Coramantien and seen as a noble hero who led his men with honor. When he was in his country, Oroonoko was treated with respect but after being stripped of his royal status, he was merely the property of Trefry. Although his slave owner was kindhearted, Oroonoko still suffered an inhumane death for conspiring to kill Byam. In the end, Oroonoko is tied to a whipping post, where he is slowly dismembered and murdered. Oroonoko’s family died because they were threatened with the prolonged suffering of slavery, while Oroonoko died trying to free himself and get revenge on the man who cursed him to the life as a slave.

In conclusion, Oroonoko and the young woman in the image both suffered by the hands of slavery. They were confined and imprisoned because of the color of their skin and were treated less than humans. In the end, slavery is the main cause of their suffering and also what drove Oroonoko to murder his wife and unborn child. Oroonoko dreamed of having his own family to provide and care for them, but slavery prevented his dreams from becoming a reality.

Works Cited

Effects of Punishment by Burning, Richmond, Virginia, 1866. Digital image. Slaveryimages.org. Harper’s Weekly, 28 July 1866. Web. 22 Oct. 2018.

Behn, Aphra, 1640-1689. Oroonoko, Or, The Royal Slave. Boston :Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000. Print.