The Other Side of the Mirror-Representation of Women

Texts often represent women as victims in a patriarchal society.   Examine the statement in terms of how women are represented in two poems from the stimulus book.

The word woman has become synonymous with victim in a patriarchal society.   Poems and prose have become literary explanations of the views of women as sexual objects, often condemning the marginalisation of women. Feminist poets such as Adrienne Rich and Charlotte Turner Smith struggle to possess their own voice after being so long the “other sex” and the “object”. Through their poems, “Sonnet XLIV” and “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” they illustrate the married woman’s predicament in the domestic sphere.   Patriarchal society’s oppression is highlighted in the poems, as “Sonnet XLIV” reflects Smith’s image of marriage as ‘legal prostitution’ and “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” depicts a woman who is constrained and trapped within marriage.

The era in which both poets lived in as well as their experiences as “victims” in marriage, greatly influenced the content and themes of their poetry. Smith began her career as a novelist in the 1780s during a time where conventional women’s fiction focused on romance and were generally dominated by the virtuous, male “hero.” Refusing to conform with these ideals, Smith challenged the orthodox romance themes by inserting “narratives of female desire” or “tales of females suffering despotism.” This was a reaction from an earlier ordeal where her father’s impulsive spending forced her to marry earlier than even the norm of society at the time, for financial support.   The marriage, which Smith described as “legal, economic, and sexual exploitation,” played a significant part in her “Sonnet XLIV,” where she expresses her frustration of being suppressed and voiceless.   This is evident in the line “Press’d by the Moon, mute arbitress of tides” where the narrator lacks voice despite being an   internal ‘arbitress’ which is reference to a judge, a person empowered to make decisions....