The Role Of Women In History

2830 words - 12 pages

The role of women throughout history has seen little variety. Whether their livelihood came from being a wife or mother, seamstress or prostitute, women rarely strayed from these ‘professions’. Women have traditionally been judged primarily for their beauty, which was considered to be their most important quality. However, a woman was valued for her submissiveness, as men believed they lacked the intellectual capacity to think for themselves or the moral fibre to consistently know right from wrong. It was believed that deep down all women were inherently evil, as it was Eve who led Adam into temptation which resulted in them being cast out from the Garden of Eden. So, in literature, the ...view middle of the document...

The fact that he can so easily replace her with tavern wenches also tells of how little he feels for her in return. In stanzas 3 and 4 she describes how she ‘gave in' to him as he promised her marriage, however he left her alone and the imagery in line 11 reveals that she is now pregnant. “My apron string it’s now wearing short" (Line 11). Stanzas 13-15 describe how she has been left with the “grief and shame" (line 52) of being pregnant outside of matrimony, whilst the man has no consequences. “Light and false is a young mans blame" (line 51). The last stanza is mainly about the regret she feels for the child she carries and how her innocence of not knowing what deep hurt feels like is gone forever. "For my innocent days will come back no more" (Line 64).

Motherhood and the relationship, in this instance, is seen as a sin. The girl’s discussion about how people will react to her and treat her, reflect the common values, attitudes and beliefs of the time. Women were expected to remain pure and untouched for their husbands. A women who allowed herself to become involved with a man, or worse, allowed herself to be touched by a man outside of wedlock had committed a crime against God and s socially shunned. If she fell pregnant outside of marriage, that was seen as punishment, and she and the child would lead lives of social alienation, persecution and bullying as a result. The fact that the woman in the poem refers to her pregnancy as a "black disgrace" (line 32) emphasises the fact that she has sinned. Black is symbolic of death which is associated with pain and suffering, therefore signifying that the girl associates her pregnancy with a grim situation, such as death. In stanza 14 she even talks of suicide to escape her problems, because her life is going to become so difficult that death is seen as being easier to cope with. Since she is no longer socially acceptable enough for anyone to marry her, and had no education (being of the working class) she was going to have to depend on the mercy and charity of her family or she would have had to consider less decent ways of supporting herself and her child. Thus her future really was quite bleak, which is how motherhood really can be a punishment for those who have conceived a child illegitimately.

The female character herself has been represented in two possible ways. Again, through her discussion of how others will view her and treat at her, we can clearly see the predominant social attitudes, values and beliefs operating in the text. The woman in the poem describes how she can no longer participate in social activities “I’ll tie no posies for dance or fain, A willow-twig is for me to wear.” (Lines 19 - 20) This clearly shows that society held a belief that women who were not pure and fell pregnant outside of matrimony were undeserving of participation in social activities and as punishment for their sins; they were prohibited from doing so. The girls response from her parents - “O what o...

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