Literary Summary: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, by Mary Wollstonecraft

Julie Renee Phelan By Julie Renee Phelan, 1st Nov 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/109hogy6/
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Wollstonecraft sheds light on the fact that women are subjugated into their subordinate position through flattery―innocent, delicate, feminine, and beautiful. Women are praised for their “fair defects” of character and revered as “angels” or “girls,” rather than being capable, intelligent and mature women equal to their counterpart men.

Literary Summary: A Vindication of the Rights of Women, by Mary Wollstonecraft

“A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” by Mary Wollstonecraft, published in 1792, was a reaction to the French Revolutionary Assembly’s Declaration of the Rights of Man which granted participatory citizenship only to men. The “Rights of Man” meant a fraternity of “liberty, fraternity, equality” only for men, comparing marriage to slavery and tyrannical oppression. Wollstonecraft challenges the thinking that sustains and idealizes this subjection: it questions the view of woman’s subordination as a fact of nature, history, philosophy, and divine ordination. Wollstonecraft critique of such subjective interpretation of human existence is criticized with incisive and sarcastic examination of myths and their literary vehicles: such as John Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” Alexander Pope’s “Of the Characters of Women;” Samuel Richardson’s “Clarissa; Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s education novel “Emile” and his romance “Julie, ou la Nouvelle Heloise;” Dr. John Gregory’s “A Father’s Legacy to His Daughters;” and Dr. James Fordyce’s “Sermons to Young Women.”

Wollstonecraft sheds light on the fact that women are subjugated into their subordinate position through flattery―innocent, delicate, feminine, and beautiful. Women are praised for their “fair defects” of character and revered as “angels” or “girls,” rather than being capable, intelligent and mature women equal to their counterpart men. Wollstonecraft argues for gender neutrality. According to Wollstonecraft, this arrangement is not by divinity but rather a social formation. She argues that God would not have created women with their capacity for virtuous conduct and spiritual salvation if it were not intended to be as important as aspects provided by their male counterparts. As well, Wollstonecraft discusses the discourse of tyranny and revolution which has already occurred for male colleagues, which allows her to point out the reactionary attitudes about women that may be tolerated and supported by progressive thinkers.

Wollstonecraft’s most incisive, sarcastic and sophisticated argument comes in a letter to M.Talleyrand-Perigord, Late Bishop of Autun, dated 1792, when she asks, “Sir, you will assert, that a duty can be binding which not founded on reason? If indeed this be their destination, arguments may be drawn from reason: and thus augustly supported, the more understanding women acquire, the more they will be attached to their duty―comprehending it―for unless they comprehend it, unless their morals be fixed on the same immutable principle as those of man, no authority can make them discharge it in a virtuous manner. They may be convenient slaves, but slavery will have its constant effect, degrading the master and the abject dependent" (289).

Work Cited:

"The Longman Anthology, British Literature," Ed. Wolfson, Susan and Peter Manning, Fourth Edition, Volume 2A, The Romantics and their Contemporaries, Pearson Education, Inc., 2010, Print.

Tags

A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman, England, Gender Equality, Literary Summary, Literature, Mary Wollstonecraft, Romanticism

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author avatar Julie Renee Phelan
I have attended Central Washington University, University of Hawaii, Oregon State University, California State University at Long Beach, University of California at Los Angeles, Cabrillo Community College, University of California at Santa Cruz, Univ...(more)

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Comments

author avatar Lisa
2nd Nov 2011 (#)

What was the book called that was written by Susan B. Anthony in the late 1800s that was dedicated to Wollstonecraft?

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author avatar Kattie
30th Nov 2011 (#)

i dont know. you should google it

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author avatar Kattie
30th Nov 2011 (#)

kewl:P

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author avatar Crystalice
24th Jan 2012 (#)

History of Women's Suffrage (1881)

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