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Thread: My essay on Tennyson's Mariana (comments are welcome)

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    My essay on Tennyson's Mariana (comments are welcome)

    edit: essay deleted.
    Last edited by regularjoe; 03-20-2009 at 02:30 PM. Reason: -

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    Rework the language somewhat - use of pronouns and fragmentary sentences make the reading jarring. Lack of introduction sentences, or coherent argument connectors make the reading fragmentary. As far as content, it seems rather basic and artificial, quite young - I hope it isn't for a university course - it seems a pretty obvious, and yet, off target thesis to be arguing. Either way, the poem Mariana doesn't portray women as such - I don't think any renown Feminist critic could make that argument, but shows a woman in such a situation, brought about by the misogyny of the unnamed male in the poem.

    The key bit in the poem is this, the repeated part:

    She only said, 'My life is dreary,
    He cometh not,' she said;
    She said, 'I am aweary, aweary,
    I would that I were dead!'

    It is not that she is helpless, but longing. In terms of how that fits into the feminist scheme, well, it doesn't really, when you examine the text. IT isn't saying all women are helpless, or even that Marianna is helpless. It merely expresses her longing for her lover, who has abandoned her. There isn't a suggestion of patriarchal abuse of women within the poem. The desire to die comes from her unreturned love, and unfullilment. We, strangely enough, see the same sort of language coming from Romeo, at the beginning of Romeo and Juliet, in regard to Rosalind. It isn't a "Female" experience even, but a human experience.

    When you make big claims like

    Female identity is represented as being unable to seek solutions. Whilst Mariana is very capable of describing her ghastly situation, her failure to actively seek solutions is portrayed vividly when we read about the garden of her home which is overgrown with weeds. This can be interpreted as Mariana having allowed the things around her to go askew, just as she has allowed herself to grow hopeless and despairing.
    You should probably back them up. Where does the poem even mention female identity? The poem doesn't contain the word feminine, female, or even woman inside it. The setting isn't really a reflection of femininity at all, but a mere aspect of the setting borrowed from Shakespeare - it is, after all, a grange is it not?

    The setting itself doesn't react to female experience, but of the isolated experience, and develops over the passing of time, the shift from night to day, or other such time related changes.

    In itself, the poem seems more existential than anything else. It's a stretch, without using other Tennyson poems as support, to assert this as a projection of women as being helpless.

    Take Sappho's poem to Aphrodite for instance. I don't see people claiming it represents women as helpless, but rather represents love as cruel, or isolation as something cruel. There is no real political statement in regard to women in this poem, I can't help but noticing. Mariana stands as much for Tennyson, or a male reader, as it does for a female reader.

    The lack of quotes in your essay, I think would support this. The external source you threw in, doesn't seem to support your thesis anyway, and seems more pretentious than anything else.

    If you, for instance, were writing about Mariana's helplessness, then perhaps your thesis would have some support, as it seems to be supported by the poem. But as it is, arguing that Tennyson projects women in this poem as being helpless, definitely undercuts itself, by its lack of support within the poem. The only real way to support this, would be to go outside of this poem, and look for clues in other poems, but that still wouldn't really support any definite conclusion, other than establish the author's perspective, not the poems.

    To conclude, you really should rethink your essay somewhat. There are many, many flaws. Your reference to Oenone perhaps would be better suited, instead of using an external source, by actually referring to the poem Tennyson wrote about her. Perhaps there is something there, but your stretch of "Clearly shows..." is only really clear to you.
    Last edited by JBI; 03-20-2009 at 01:34 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    Rework the language somewhat - use of pronouns and fragmentary sentences make the reading jarring. Lack of introduction sentences, or coherent argument connectors make the reading fragmentary. As far as content, it seems rather basic and artificial, quite young - I hope it isn't for a university course - it seems a pretty obvious, and yet, off target thesis to be arguing. Either way, the poem Mariana doesn't portray women as such - I don't think any renown Feminist critic could make that argument, but shows a woman in such a situation, brought about by the misogyny of the unnamed male in the poem.

    The key bit in the poem is this, the repeated part:

    She only said, 'My life is dreary,
    He cometh not,' she said;
    She said, 'I am aweary, aweary,
    I would that I were dead!'

    It is not that she is helpless, but longing. In terms of how that fits into the feminist scheme, well, it doesn't really, when you examine the text. IT isn't saying all women are helpless, or even that Marianna is helpless. It merely expresses her longing for her lover, who has abandoned her. There isn't a suggestion of patriarchal abuse of women within the poem. The desire to die comes from her unreturned love, and unfullilment. We, strangely enough, see the same sort of language coming from Romeo, at the beginning of Romeo and Juliet, in regard to Rosalind. It isn't a "Female" experience even, but a human experience.

    When you make big claims like



    You should probably back them up. Where does the poem even mention female identity? The poem doesn't contain the word feminine, female, or even woman inside it. The setting isn't really a reflection of femininity at all, but a mere aspect of the setting borrowed from Shakespeare - it is, after all, a grange is it not?

    The setting itself doesn't react to female experience, but of the isolated experience, and develops over the passing of time, the shift from night to day, or other such time related changes.

    In itself, the poem seems more existential than anything else. It's a stretch, without using other Tennyson poems as support, to assert this as a projection of women as being helpless.

    Take Sappho's poem to Aphrodite for instance. I don't see people claiming it represents women as helpless, but rather represents love as cruel, or isolation as something cruel. There is no real political statement in regard to women in this poem, I can't help but noticing. Mariana stands as much for Tennyson, or a male reader, as it does for a female reader.

    The lack of quotes in your essay, I think would support this. The external source you threw in, doesn't seem to support your thesis anyway, and seems more pretentious than anything else.

    If you, for instance, were writing about Mariana's helplessness, then perhaps your thesis would have some support, as it seems to be supported by the poem. But as it is, arguing that Tennyson projects women in this poem as being helpless, definitely undercuts itself, by its lack of support within the poem. The only real way to support this, would be to go outside of this poem, and look for clues in other poems, but that still wouldn't really support any definite conclusion, other than establish the author's perspective, not the poems.

    To conclude, you really should rethink your essay somewhat. There are many, many flaws. Your reference to Oenone perhaps would be better suited, instead of using an external source, by actually referring to the poem Tennyson wrote about her. Perhaps there is something there, but your stretch of "Clearly shows..." is only really clear to you.
    Thank you very much for your quick reply. I certainly should rethink the essay. This is indeed for a university course.My final essay before I finish the bachelor and do a Master course in Linguistics! (clearly, Literature is not my stongest subject!) Also, this is clearly not the final version. Thanks for your many comments. I can see the many flaws in my argument (which suddenly doesn't strike me as being as cogent as I had hoped!).

    The question was : how do any of the poems represent female identity? What else was I supposed to do than look for elements representing femininity in the poem?
    Last edited by regularjoe; 03-20-2009 at 01:48 PM.

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    Another thing I forgot to mention - perhaps this may be more interesting to you.

    Does the poem suggest women are helpless, or that men are cruel and selfish? What Tennyson questions in this poem is not whether or not women are helpless, but he clearly, I would think, doesn't believe that (Hallam's death had, it would seem, a drearier effect on him than his sister, who was engaged to him), but rather that the fickleness of male bravado is somewhat taken at the expense of female kindness.

    In contrast to Oenone, it would seem Tennyson suggests that the he is more in line with the thought of Euripedes's Medea, than anything else (though without the ending and central plot, as he is writing lyric, not drama). The real thing Tennyson questions, is not whether women are helpless or not, but rather, whether men's words carry weight, and whether male constancy is but a lie to seduce women.

    You can take this argument further, and bring in the Lady of Shallot, who is conquered by her desire to have the companionship of a man. These female characters, I would argue, less helpless, and more unfulfilled, or, I would argue even further, simply better people (as women generally are, I would argue) than their male counterparts.This vein running through his poems, I would think, questions patriarchal authority rather than enforces it.

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    Also, just so you know, never use the terms this can be interpreted, or this clearly shows, or any other such things. They don't build a point. Instead of "This can be interpreted", just give the interpretation, don't waste space - the conclusion is not a restatement, but a conclusion of argument. "This clearly shows" is redundant, because if it clearly shows it, then you wouldn't need to say that it clearly shows it.

    You never should use words like clearly, or other such words. You should simply just stick 100% to your interpretation. It's a common mistake, I think, but really, in terms of mechanics, it doesn't make one's argument more convincing, but rather perhaps less convincing, as it shows a slight sense of doubt in your argument.


    Edit: one last thing, in your introduction to this essay, you mention Mariana as someone whose identity we are unsure of, but that isn't really true. Tennyson himself tells us where he got the idea - he took it out of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. The character has some flesh, and background - she isn't just an anonymous woman. I think, you must really take that into account as well, and the tradition behind her as a character. The whole poem is built upon intertext, and I think you really ignored that in your analysis.
    Last edited by JBI; 03-20-2009 at 02:03 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    Also, just so you know, never use the terms this can be interpreted, or this clearly shows, or any other such things. They don't build a point. Instead of "This can be interpreted", just give the interpretation, don't waste space - the conclusion is not a restatement, but a conclusion of argument. "This clearly shows" is redundant, because if it clearly shows it, then you wouldn't need to say that it clearly shows it.

    You never should use words like clearly, or other such words. You should simply just stick 100% to your interpretation. It's a common mistake, I think, but really, in terms of mechanics, it doesn't make one's argument more convincing, but rather perhaps less convincing, as it shows a slight sense of doubt in your argument.
    I am starting to think "the lady of Shalott" might have beena better poem to consider analysing for this question...

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    Quote Originally Posted by regularjoe View Post
    I am starting to think "the lady of Shalott" might have beena better poem to consider analysing for this question...
    You can explore female identity with this poem, but something like Oenone works better, or even better, yes, The Lady of Shallot. I personally have a preference to Oenone, because of its fantastic refrain lines,
    O mother Ida, many-fountain'd Ida,
    Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die.
    And its more meditative language, but all three are great poems in their way. There are also other great ones for this question, like this early sonnet written for his wife to be:

    XI.

    THE BRIDESMAID

    O bridesmaid, ere the happy knot was tied,
    Thine eyes so wept that they could hardly see;
    Thy sister smiled and said, ‘No tears for me!
    A happy bridesmaid makes a happy bride.’
    And then, the couple standing side by side,
    Love lighted down between them full of glee,
    And over his left shoulder laugh’d at thee,
    ‘O happy bridesmaid, make a happy bride.’
    And all at once a pleasant truth I learn’d,
    For while the tender service made thee weep,
    I loved thee for the tear thou couldst not hide,
    And prest thy hand, and knew the press return’d,
    And thought, ‘My life is sick of single sleep:
    O happy bridesmaid, make a happy bride!’
    Last edited by JBI; 03-20-2009 at 02:13 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    What's the question?
    "HOW DO ANY OF TENNYSON's POEMS EXPLORE FEMALE IDENTITY?"

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    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    You can explore female identity with this poem, but something like Oenone works better, or even better, yes, The Lady of Shallot. I personally have a preference to Oenone, because of its fantastic refrain lines,


    And its more meditative language, but all three are great poems in their way. There are also other great ones for this question, like this early sonnet written for his wife to be:

    XI.

    THE BRIDESMAID

    O bridesmaid, ere the happy knot was tied,
    Thine eyes so wept that they could hardly see;
    Thy sister smiled and said, ‘No tears for me!
    A happy bridesmaid makes a happy bride.’
    And then, the couple standing side by side,
    Love lighted down between them full of glee,
    And over his left shoulder laugh’d at thee,
    ‘O happy bridesmaid, make a happy bride.’
    And all at once a pleasant truth I learn’d,
    For while the tender service made thee weep,
    I loved thee for the tear thou couldst not hide,
    And prest thy hand, and knew the press return’d,
    And thought, ‘My life is sick of single sleep:
    O happy bridesmaid, make a happy bride!’
    So you would agree that for this question the lady of shalott is a better poem to consider.? That's great. I will change the topic immediately. In hindsight, there is probably more to write about the representation of women when we consider Lady of Shalott (the more famous poem
    Last edited by regularjoe; 03-20-2009 at 02:19 PM.

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    Perhaps, I just think you're thesis is the problem, not your poem choice though. I don't want to give you a thesis, because I feel you need to write your own essay, but I think you misinterpreted the question somewhat in your analysis, and then massaged the content of the poem to fit your idea. I think you are preoccupied with portraying Tennyson negatively, and miss the point of the poem. If anything, Tennyson makes a statement against the result of patriarchy, rather than reinforcing it. He seems to be critiquing in his poetry Victorian ideas of Female roles more than reinforcing them, and I think you missed that somewhat.

    The keyword in the question is identity, not female. Remember that - the question asks how he portrays the way women identify themselves, or are identified with their surroundings. The setting of the poem is crucial, but only from the fact that it acts as a form of prison.

    The binary then set up, is that female identity is repressed by patriarchy. The grange acts as a lockaway for women, while their male counterparts go off to, in this case, create mischief (Angelo goes off to try and rape Isabella, and have Claudio executed). Tennyson is more critical about that, than supporting it. After all, if Mariana is helpless in this poem, it is because Angelo has made her so.

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