“Pen is Envy”: Education, Feminine Sexuality, and Fruitfulness in Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” and “An Apple Gathering” and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments
The Victorian era was a time in which people were very much interested in morality and sinning, especially when it came to women’s sexuality. It was also time in which conversations about women and education often linked women to their bodies—even medical doctors during this era spoke of the dangerous consequences education might have on a woman’s reproductive capabilities. While men’s sexual transgressions were often viewed as a natural result of their being in the public sphere, women were expected to be the pure and domestic moral compass there to guide men that could not help but sin because of their nature and the environment they were exposed to. While redemption was plausible for men, many conservative Victorians did not see female premarital sexuality in a similarly hopeful light. Conservative Victorians often viewed women and sexuality in a very binary way, with many believing that women could belong to only one of two categories: chaste, domestic women like Coventry Patmore’s “Angel in the House,” or immoral, sexually curious fallen women that posed a threat of contamination to their pure opposites. Christina Rossetti challenges this dichotomy in the poems “An Apple Gathering” and “Goblin Market” through her use of fruit imagery and characterization, suggesting that women are complex humans—not completely unlike men—with wants and desires that do not fit into this unnatural box conservatives have made for them.
Dr. Halina Adams, Thesis Advisor
Dr. Matt Bell, Committee Member
Dr. Kathleen Vejvoda, Committee Member
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Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.
White, Hannah. (2020). “Pen is Envy”: Education, Feminine Sexuality, and Fruitfulness in Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” and “An Apple Gathering” and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments. In BSU Honors Program Theses and Projects. Item 348. Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/honors_proj/348
Copyright © 2020 Hannah White