Feminine And Feminine Characters Of Tennyson 's Poem, And The Lady 's Death

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It is not only the language of Tennyson’s poem that reveals how these portrayals of both feminine and masculine bring meaning to the poem’s characters, but prominent symbols of the poem such as the mirror, the river and the Lady’s death which emphasise the nature of these binaries being conveyed. Let us first draw our attention to the mirror which from the Lady’s introduction in Part II, seems to be her connection to the outside world. The mirror is where “Shadows of the world appear” (48) and is how the Lady looks upon “Camelot” (50) from her isolated tower. Loneliness and isolation is thought to be a prominent theme of Tennyson’s poem, and how the concept of the Lady being “nameless” (Colley 370) is what leads her to a “shadow-less realm” (370). When focusing on the portrayal of the female figure in the poem, this concept of loneliness connects to the evasive nature of the ‘pure woman’ with many aspects of her remaining hidden, such as expression of sexuality. As she keeps to herself in her tower, she continues to remain as an anomaly to the outside world. Although the mirror connects her, it still only shows her “shadows” (48), Tennyson is using it as a symbol of the Lady’s disconnection and how allows her to remain as an unseen figure. When the mirror “crack(s) from side to side” (Tennyson 115), it seems that the Lady’s true isolation has broken, and begins to undertake what Plasa refers to as a move from “spaces identified with femininity (to) masculinity” (250). Another prominent symbol of Tennyson’s poem is the river. It is woven throughout the poem, first being used as a means to connect the Island of Shalott to Camelot, demonstrating that the river in a way is what carries not only the Lady in her boat but the story forwa... ... middle of paper ... ...n is commenting on women’s place in patriarchal Victorian society, and how this results in isolation and loneliness, the Lady of Shalott’s tragic death and subsequent viewing seems to be a critique of those who try to free themselves from this constraint of gender norms. Furthermore, the poem’s influential depiction of the passive female is one that has undoubtedly been echoed throughout literary works and popular culture, influencing and perpetuating this dangerous idea that a woman’s body is not completely hers in her agency, and ultimately exists for the male gaze. While many feminists seek to defy this one-dimensional stereotype of the hyper-feminine woman, this idea remains prevalent through numerous works in literature that only through true passivity of the female body will women finally be able to be what we should always want, the masculine’s “lovely face”.

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