Feminism and Gender Equality

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The Victorian Age was both an era of misery, poverty, and exploitation, and also the prosperity of the upper and middle classes. Additionally, in Victorian Literature there was a significant number of feminist writers that emerged after the dramatic changes in society that resulted from the industrial revolution. For instance, many poets were more indirect and had other views of feminism but, some displayed their anger and dissatisfaction towards society directly through their work. On the other hand, there were also works that emphasized women’s superiority to men without just analyzing the existing gender roles. In Elizabeth Barret Browning’s poem, ‘Aurora Leigh’ portrays a feminism and gender equality while in Christina Rossetti’s poem, ‘Goblin Market’ portrays a feminism role within sisterhood without the male gender.

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Elizabeth Barret Browning was born in Durham, England in 1806. She was a Victorian poet and, most of her poems involve social and political issues. One of her greatest achievements is ‘Aurora Leigh’ it was published in 1857 this was one of the first major poems in literature to have the heroine be a woman writer. It is written in different sections making it a total of nine books. It is observed by critics as poetry promoting the ideals of feminism and gender equality. Society had set limitations on women because of the role they carry upon them. In ‘Aurora Leigh’, Browning depicts an independent and intelligent young woman. She demonstrates the obstacles women from the Victorian era had to overcome.

The first book commences with a description of her childhood in Florentine. Her mother died when she was just four years old and then her father died when she was thirteen years old.  She was sent to live in England with her aunt at Leigh Hall. Her father inspired the love of literature, but her hopes of becoming a writer prevailed over the typical woman’s education that her aunt gives her. Aurora makes observations on her aunt stating that ‘Her somewhat narrow forehead braided tight / As if for taming accidental thoughts/ From possible pulses…’ (274-276).

Her aunt embodies Browning’s idea of the kind of woman society honors. She was proper and never endeavored anything that might be controversial. Also, the aunt pulls her hair tight and close to her head to avert what Aurora Leigh thinks bad thoughts from occurring. Aurora also states, She had lived A sort of cage-bird life, born in a cage, Accounting that to leap from perch to perch Was act and joy enough for any bird (306-309). The cage can be a symbol of oppression and entrapment women from the Victorian period felt. They are prepared from a very young age a preconceived idea of the position women are supposed to follow that this demonstrates how confined they are with their roles.

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