1Ellen
J. Stockstill Gender Politics in Alfred, Lord Tennyson THE LADY OF SHALLOTT.

2 Ellen
J. Stockstill Gender Politics in Alfred, Lord Tennyson THE LADY OF SHALLOTT.

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3 https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/nascence

4
Tennyson, Alfred. “The Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson.” Mariana. Wordsworth Editions; New edition edition (5 July 1994)

 

Tennyson’s
‘Mariana’ 4again focuses on isolation
and loneliness, whereby the poem discusses the emotions experienced by a woman
waiting for her beloved; who doesn’t turn up and, so she desires to die. Through
‘Mariana’, Tennyson highlights how psychological impingement results in
limitation of her freedom, whereby she is locked within her mind and her
thoughts, unable to escape. Secondly, her obsession with her lover is also
impingement by limiting her enjoyment of life and freedom, consequently wanting
to die.

A
breakthrough of both the lady’s psychological and physical impingement on her
freedom, occurs however, when she breaks her curse by looking out of the
window. The act of bravery due to lust, results in a decision that appears to
be her first and last with regards to freedom and instantly ‘the curse is come
upon’ her; whereby ultimately her loneliness lead to her death. Tennyson
demonstrates how essentially, she has gained ‘nascence’; whereby she can emerge
into being and breaking free 3from the physical and
psychological imprisonment towards freedom, however her consequent death
highlights how impinged the lady’s freedom is. Through life she was isolated
and to death, she was isolated, ‘singing in her song she died'(The Lady of Shallot, 4.44), her only
form of freedom was from art and singing and when she broke the curse from
carrying out these mundane tasks, she suffered. Arguably, knowing where her fate lay, Tennyson perhaps
allowed the Lady’s last moments to be within the boat before floating to
Camelot, thus it could be interpreted that the Lady essentially had control
over her freedom for the final time by reaching the city she so desired. However, it is ironic as the visit
to Camelot only occurs in death, thus through the character of the Lady of
Shallot, Tennyson demonstrates the gloomy pre-raphaelite truth, whereby women
were forbidden and unable from seeking freedom, and by doing so consequently
ends in disaster. The final scene depicts how the curse affected her
psychologically and trapped her physically thus are impinging her freedom.
Furthermore, whilst an elaborate way of portraying the scene, it is essentially
demonstrating the idea that when women act on their own accord to achieve
freedom despite the motivation, it will inevitably end in tragedy.

Tennyson
states that ‘she lives with little joy or fear'(The Lady of Shallot, 2.10), a sentence that initially conjures up
sympathy, due to the fact she has not experienced joy in life and inevitably
must be lonely. However, by juxtaposing the use of ‘little joy’ (The Lady of Shallot, 2.10) with ‘no
fear’ (The Lady of Shallot, 2.10) additionally
gives the implication that whilst her life isn’t joyous, she is safe and
therefore must obtain some contentment. By Tennyson choosing to mention that
she has little fear, could imply that she is unlike most women of the Victorian
era of whom need to have a man around so that they can feel safe, furthermore
he could be suggesting that she is only safe as she is locked away in isolation.
In agreement, Stockstill points out how ‘the curse the Lady bears is the
ultimate inescapable nature of assigned gender roles and sexualities in patriarchal
power structures.’ 2Furthermore,
Tennyson reminds readers of the damsel’s desire for freedom as she observes
those outside ‘Sometimes a troop of damsels glad'(The Lady of Shallot, 3.6). As the curse has prohibited the lady
looking outside, she is psychologically impinged and terrified thus will not
experience visual freedom. The fact that she can only observe shadows and their
reflections in the mirror and ‘never sees the real things, just the images and
the use of shadows'(The Lady of Shallot, 2.71),
highlights how isolated the lady must be as she cannot interact with anybody nor
see anybody in the flesh.

Tennyson
portrays ‘The Lady of Shallot’ as segregated from the world around her within
the tower she inhabits in. Tennyson primarily focuses on the tower’s appearance
and features, arguably  a technique
incorporated with the hope of signifying her surrounding’s are more important
than herself, and sheis merely an addition to her surroundings. Through the
emphasis on the segregation of the tower and focusing on the tower’s features
instead, it’s interpretable that Tennyson is implying that her surroundings are
her impingement on freedom. Firstly, within a tower you are above everybody and
don’t have the freedom to leave and secondly, the town of Shallot is isolated
also, therefore lack of freedom and isolation is imminent. Furthermore, by
Tennyson choosing to discuss the tower’s appearance and its surroundings, it
could be interpreted as demonstrating the lack of freedom and importance women
of the Victorian era obtained. Supporting this, Tennyson adds a sense of mystery
to the Lady through disallowing her to speak throughout the poem and without
providing details for the reasoning of the curse and only portraying the female
as partaking in mild ‘female’ considered tasks. Tennyson further depicts the
Lady as perhaps too weak to be outside, alongside the men, thus must remain
within the confines of her tower. Through Tennyson primarily focusing on the
beautiful surroundings and the outside world with the use of words, it limits
her freedom further through the implication that she has no entitlement to be
discussed. Furthermore,
it could be interpreted that Tennyson attempts to conform with societies
attitude by not giving the ‘The Lady of Shallot’ a forename, and instead
referring to her based on her location and demonstrates the lack of respect and
equality women of the period received. In agreement, Stockstill furthers this argument
stating, ‘The repetition of her title in the narrative forces us to similarly
ignore the Lady’s identity beyond her constructed position inside the tower’1

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