The White Women

I believe that back in the day that the Victorian Britain’s had a reputation for being uptight and that the women were expected to be prim, proper, and possibly act like they were ignorant.  Indeed this was just the opposite, the women were actually quite active, and however, they were far behind the men in the world during this time.  The author, Mary Elizabeth Coleridge, tries to change the feminine stereotype by presenting a much more detailed picture of woman’s nature.  She shows how women are longing to break free from the chains that society has placed upon them.   She writes that the British women in the Victorian era has an alluring nature, and warns the men not to overlook their potential.

In “The White Women,” I believe Coleridge is writing from the perspective of the Malayan people, who think the white women are “wild”.   It is kind of ironic that they are considered “wild” since the British would have considered the Malayan people primitive, while viewing whites as civilized. Coleridge emphasizes the dual nature within woman in another one of her poems, “The Other Side of the Mirror,” by describing a woman who sees her reflection as a wild women filled with anger and lacking emotions and feelings.   Although “The White Women” does not show this duality so explicitly, it seems to blur the line between wildness and purity, which are traditionally considered opposite qualities.  By emphasizing the wild nature of these women, Coleridge is able to show their independence from man while also showing their ties to nature.  I believe their wildness makes it possible for them to exercise freedom, especially from men.  She says that “they never bowed their necks beneath the yoke”, implying that they do not want to share their lives with men.

The woman’s independence is alluring and scary at the same time. They are described as “lovely,” “fair,” and “pure,” and they are also “mortal to man” and they live “in an awful glade”. The contrast not only expresses the duality of woman’s nature, but also conveys the belief that women are closer to nature than are men. The white woman’s language is “the language of the snow” and thus much purer than that of man. These women are so pure that it is deadly for man to look at them, implying that men are impurity and without them women remain uncorrupted.

Coleridge is promoting female purity and independence, and believes that lesbianism is the best way for the white woman to maintain both traits.  Since homosexuality was taboo at that time, she tries to show the conflict that exists within Victorian women because society expects them to remain prim and proper and live in submission, causing them to suppress any longings they may have.

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One Response to The White Women

  1. nicollehp says:

    We had very similar readings! I like how you brought up what was going on during the time period of the pierce. it’s easier to make sense of why she wrote what she did. I also saw her tying qualities such as independence and purity with women. Your last point out lesbianism is really interesting- I hadn’t thought about it that way! With that in mind, it seems like her views are against men. She brought up all the great qualities of women and then goes further by implying women are better than men and that they have no need for men.

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