Lady of Shallot

In 1832, just years before the death of William IV and the crowning of Victoria, the heavily modernized societies pushed forward, searching to define who they were and what they stood for. With such a rapid economic expansion, citizens were becoming whiplashed by the unthinkable poverty and immense national success. This unpredictable society, constantly engaged in social changes and bright innovations, was later stabilized as Queen Victoria stepped into her role in 1837. Becoming the face of British continuity, Victoria knew she must command firmly, not to correct the chaos, but direct it toward further building the industrialized world. Editors of the Longman Anthology discuss how the “Victorian” period, first coined in 1851, “Signifies social conduct, governed by strict rules, formal manners, and rigidly defined gender roles” (Damnrosch Pg. 1051). This placed enormous pressure on women to selflessly remain enslaved by the household duties and spousal expectations. Of course the poor families needed a double income in order to feed the starving mouths they bred, but the well-born or well-married women were not so “lucky.” This shackling predetermination led to the feminist revolution, aided, not only by the oppressed women, but by journalists, artists and poets like Lord Alfred Tennyson. In his poem “The Lady of Shallot,” Tennyson exaggerates the affluent women’s condition by imprisoning a Lady in her castle, placing a curse on her for if she disobeys, and forcing her to weave year round, completing her womanly duty. These literal actions portray the hidden emotion of the wealthy and able women during the Victorian period, furthering the campaign of the feminist movement. “The Lady of Shallot” exemplifies how playing along with the guidelines of society can entangle the individuality of the person and halt progression.

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