Women in Modern Imperialism

Fin de siècle marked the end of the 19th century and it was a period of tremendous anxiety caused by urbanization and industrialization. But it also symbolized a period of hope and a new beginning for Europeans. In this period, women were considered as submissive and domestic orientated people. Women were bound to marriage, child production, performing domestic duties such as kitchen work, and most importantly they were the nurturer/angel of the family. In H. Rider Haggard’s “She”, Ayesha, the most controversial character in the novel, broke the stereotypes of a typical female in the late 19th century. Ayesha embodied the characteristics of a femme fatale which caused anxiety to European society as these qualities were never expected from a late 19th woman.
H. Rider Haggard’s She can be interpreted as a literary manifestation of male awareness over a new independent women. Ayesha is described as “the swathed mummy-like form before me was that of a tall and lovely woman, instinct with beauty in every part, and also with a certain snake-like grace which heretofore I had never seen anything to equal” (139). In this passage, Haggard classifies Ayesha as a femme fatale by comparing her to a serpent. In the Western Society, serpent is often alluded to the biblical story of Adam and Eve as a symbol of temptation and fall from perfection. Correspondingly, Ayesha poses as a temptation for Holly and Leo, who they know is evil, are seduced by her beauty.
In the novel, Ayesha tells to Holly that “men are faithful for so long only as temptations pass them by. If man, like every rope, hath his breaking strain and passion is to men what gold and power are to women- the weight upon their weakness” (202). This explanation represents how men are prone to fall from the carnal temptations of women. Women’s carnal features can be a tool for women to manipulate men, therefore giving them power over men. Due to Ayesha’s beauty and capability of going over the limits of nature (e.g....