The Lack of Intelligence Portrayed by Women
The idea of intelligence didn’t arise until the mid 17th century, developing into a more dominant concept during the 18th century. With intelligence being an unfamiliar concept, writers were able to take the topic in whatever direction they perceived it as. Contrasts between men and women’s intelligence became evident in many different works of literature. Defoe, Hatwood, Pope, and Swift all wrote stories that suggest women acquire a lessoned value of intelligence than men. Each author depicts the lack of intelligence that women possess in various ways, giving multiple examples of why women were considered the more fragile sex during this time period. Each author depicts the lack of intelligence that women possess in various ways.
Alexander Pope’s, The Rape of Lock illustrates the absence of intelligence ...view middle of the document...
C.F. Goody writes, “It is by appearances that we judge others, they judge us and mutual recognition or misrecognition occurs. Intelligence is one such form of mutual (mis)recognition” (63). Rather than allowing people to see who she really is, she makes the mistake of being identified as the only thing she cares about, a beautiful woman.
Jonathan Swift’s, “The Lady’s Dressing Room,” is similar to The Rape of Lock in showing the importance of appearance to women. The vanity expressed by Celia in this poem is considered to be an intellectual disability. Stephron’s misogynistic tone is apparent as he describes the getting ready process that Celia goes through. Words such as, “dirty,” “unsavory,” and “vulgar” are used in this poem to define all of the things Strephron finds in Celia’s dressing room. Although Strephon originally refers to Celia as a goddess, he quickly changes his mind after he realizes everything she does in order to look the way she does. The idea of vanity is overwhelming in this poem, making readers believe that appearance is the only thing of importance to women.
In Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe takes a different approach to illustrating the lack of intelligence that women obtain. Defoe’s story revolves around one man, and some other male characters, but absolutely no women. Crusoe’s wife is mentioned at a point when he says, “…for first of all I marry’d… But my wife dying” (257). The first time Crusoe mentions his wife, it is in the same sentence that tells us she dies. The lack of female roles in this story shows that the adventure Crusoe goes on is considered to be one that only a man could accomplish. Robinson Crusoe is all about adventure, bravery, and strength, leaving no room for women because these are qualities that they do not possess according to gendered stereotypes. Crusoe is smart in the way that he is resourceful while on the island and not including a woman character in this story leads to the assumption that a women would not be capable of the same critical thinking.