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How Does Rossetti Tell The Story In ‘Cousin Kate?’

1260 words - 6 pages

Rossetti's ballad, 'Cousin Kate', presents the narrator who has become a fallen woman through a pre-marital relationship with a Lord. Furthermore the narrator's cousin, Kate, then marries the Lord due to her refusal to have a pre-marital relationship with him. However the narrator has not lost everything as she has had a child with the lord and it seems to be unlikely that Kate will be able to provide this for him.
Rossetti’s choice of scenes and places is a key aspect of her narrative method as it helps to shape characters in the text. The two key settings in the text are the ‘cottage’ and the ‘palace’. Rossetti uses these two settings in juxtaposition within the first two stanzas of the ...view middle of the document...

The fact Rossetti does not name the narrator emphasises her ‘outcast’ status of the narrator from the rest of society. The narrator no longer has a place in society and therefore no longer has a name in society.
Rossetti shapes the tone of the narrative throughout the poem to mirror the narrator’s feelings towards the events the she is recounting. The tone changes from regret: ‘why did a great lord find me out’, in the first stanza Rossetti presents the narrator’s regret for leaving with the Lord. Rossetti does this at the start of the narrative so that readers feel sympathy towards the narrator. The tone, after this, then changes to bitterness: ‘because you were so good and pure.’ Here Rossett is clearly stating the narrator’s anger towards Kate who was supposed to be loyal to the narrator and not the Lord. The tone then changes to anger: ‘I would’ve spit into his face.’ Here Rossetti is emphasising the Lord’s wrong-doing. The final, biggest, change of tone is in the final stanza to pride: ‘my pride, cling closer, closer yet.’ Rossetti emphasises the narrators final triumph over Kate as she has ‘little doubt [she] fret[s].’ Rossetti suggests that Kate is unlikely to conceive, meaning Kate could just as easily be ‘outcast’ as the narrator is currently.

Rossetti uses the pronoun ‘cousin’ in front of ‘Kate’ to remind the reader that Kate is of a family bond to the narrator. Through the use of this pronoun Rossetti emphasises that Kate so easily neglected her family for the prospect of the Lord’s wealth. In the third stanza Rossetti calls Kate ‘O Lady’ once again emphasising how Kate prioritized being a Lady over a cousin to the narrator.
Rossetti moves between the past, present and conditional tense to tell the story in ‘Cousin Kate.’ Rossetti’s change between the present tense and the analeptic narrative reflects how past events have shaped the narrator and how they are currently affecting the narrator in the present tense. For example the retrospective, analeptic narrative in the first stanza represents the radical contrast between the past, where Rossetti presents the narrator as being ‘content’ with her simple life, to the present where she is ‘outcast’ from society. Rossetti uses the change between the two tenses to highlight the naivety of the narrator: ‘not mindful I was fair’, whereas in the present tense she leads a ‘shameful life’ due to her past naivety and if she could’ve changed her actions she would have not ‘taken his hand.’ Rossetti’s change in tense clearly shows the development of the narrator’s persona.

Rossetti uses the conditional tense in further develop the persona of the narrator. Rossetti uses the...

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