Women Characterization in 19th Century Literature

Literature in the 19th century depicted women to be subpar to their male counterparts. Various texts portray women to either be concerned with nothing but physical needs, or too involved with their emotions. Whether is a happy or tragic ending to the text, it is evident that the author felt that women have flaws or behaviors that are in need of correcting. Charles Baudelaire’s, “A Carcass”, depicts women as a vile, rotting corpse. He showed that her body too, will be subjected to such treatment. In Anton Chekhov’s, “The Lady with the Dog,” women are seen as too emotional. In this text, women did not know how to give their affection and emotions to those who can return it.
In Baudelaire’s text, he compares the woman’s future to a rotting corpse they spotted. As stated; “And you, in your turn, will be rotten as this: Horrible, filthy, undone […]” (1387, 37), the line bluntly states that she will be subjected to the same doom. She is characterized as a dead corpse, laying in the most vulnerable and revealing way. It lies there unwanted, wasted, and a thing of the past. The body will be something no longer wanted. It is as he wants her to realize that the soul and “love” will be everlasting. Such attention on the physical will render useless. Such point makes sense when thought of the long run. The magnitude of this uselessness may have been blown up beyond necessary. The language used reinforces the idea that women are seen as lower than men due to their ideas and beliefs.
Chekhov’s text takes on another aspect, women’s emotions. The text makes the points that women are almost fragile in relations due to emotions. It seems that he feels women do not have the ability to separate the two. The woman in the text needed constant reassurance and fell for him, despite knowing it was not the best idea. By her stating; “‘How can I justify myself? I’m a wicked, fallen woman […]” (1527), she acknowledges that she couldn’t contain herself. That is the author’s attempt to tell his readers that women cannot control themselves. This leads back to the idea that men are superior in yet another way. Men have the ability to control or recognize their feelings. They may not help who they love, but they know when they must recognize it and act upon it. The author’s thoughts make sense from a man’s point of view, for they do have a different thought process that involves a slightly smaller amount of emotion. However, the idea that a woman is fragile and needy is pushing the emotional differences to both extremes.
Both the texts present an idea that women focus on certain aspects more than a man would. The author’s themselves view that women have these flaws that will not have the best results. The actions of the woman, or the visual of the exposed and revealing carcass, shows that women were not seen as the highest in morals and values.

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About amanda.santiago

"Quick! Give me a bunch of words to describe you. Starrttiinnggg now!" - Short, random, honest, shy (until you get to know me), dependent in an independent way, creative, sensitive, music-lover, "bi-polar" (an insider amongst best friends), dreamer! Random Facts! =O: 1. I miss stepping, dearly! 2. I'm known as "brutally honest". 3. I'm 4' 11". 3. I have a soft spot for old-timers black and white movies. 4. My favorite movie is the 70s movie "Night of the Living Dead". 5. If you want to be my friend, just talk to me! I don't bite (not biting is fact #5)
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2 Responses to Women Characterization in 19th Century Literature

  1. It was very interesting to read this essay because Amanda compare to me analized the image of women in different works. I compare the images of women in 19th centure by Keats and Tagore but Amanda chose the works of Chekhov and Baudelaire. She have her clear point that Baudelaire depicts women as a vile, rotting corpse and she also shows that Chekhov describe women more emotionally. Her essay full of examples. Amanda’s emphasis were more about women in 19th centuries who were focused on certain aspects more than men.

  2. Profile photo of Cheryl Smith Cheryl Smith says:

    Amanda, Thanks for your post! I like how you point out that in Baudelaire’s poem, attention to the physical will be rendered useless in death, which will leave us all as grotesque as the rotting carcass. This is an important point, I think. Of course, he compares the woman in particular to the image of rotting death, and sexualizes the carcass as a female form, with a womb, etc. I’d love to hear you explore the female qualities (whore, festering womb, etc) and explain them in the context of your analysis of the poem. Similarly, in “Lady,” you make a great point in showing how Anna can’t resist what she knows is wrong. Yet, her self-laothing is more complex when you look at it in relation to how her marriage and homelife are depicted(as a prison, uninspiring), and when you look at Dmitri’s own failings when it comes to love and all his sexual conquests. I’d have loved to hear how you’d contextualize Anna’s “weakness” in these other issues.

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