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In these two literature works, the authors have described life stories of the protagonists and then proceeded to portray the actors looking into their early life challenges. In the story by Westley and Davis titled The History of Mary Prince the main protagonist undergoes life as a childhood slave, and later faces life as an adult slave and that is when she realizes the difference it makes to be a slave and the suffering that it holds. Moreover, even when she perceives her masters change from one to another, she hopes for a better life that is futile, and that is when Prince realizes that she quits working. In the second literature which is a poem by Christina Rossetti, The Goblin, the persona talks of two characters Lizzie and Laura who are sisters, but Lizzie emerges a hero after resisting the conviction of the goblin men. In this discourse, the research tries to prove that, even though analysis have explained that the two literature works are about female courage, it is clear that the protagonists are just acting out of desperation and through that effort they emerge victoriously.
The first story which is written by Westley and Davis reveals how Mary Prince’s background is filled with challenges as a child of a slave, but later her life becomes worse as a slave woman. Literature analysts like Ryan have explained that Prince’s story is an illustration of women’s courage because there are very few women slave narratives and this hence stand out as a unique story of a revolutionary woman(Ryan 07). Moreover as Andrews dictates that women were rarely given the opportunity or even requested to tell their stories, and hence he says that they were never, “encouraged to write their stories or even dictate their life experiences” (Andrews 22). Hence at this point the analyst is trying to explain and convince the readers that, the fact that Price took a step to tell her story at a time when women slaves were not given the opportunity to tell their stories is an act of courage.
Such an argument may be true by context of the narrative, but when events that takes place in the narrative are evaluated, the image brought forth is that of a woman who give up her job because the slavery conditions are too harsh. She talks of how she is beaten up and how she is molested and in the end she looks back into her life and what she is seeing is too much suffering that she even throw in the towel. In fact a further look into her moves suggest that she joined a movement against slavery as a way of getting at peace with her inability to cause some change to happen. These are some of the reasons why Ryan argues that Price does not show any idea of a courageous woman. Similarly and in depth analysis of the poem by Rossetti shows that even though Lizzie resists taking the goblin men because she does not want their evil fruits. However, in the end, it is seen that she is helpless even when she has resisted the goblin men’s fruit, she is still wrestled and overwhelmed and consequently, she only succeeds not to eat but she is pinned down by these men.
An observation on the poem by Rossetti also tends to exemplify the heroic part of the women through Lizzie whom after realizing that the goblin men had duped her sister and left her with a strange malady, she decides to go and confront the people. The goblin men persuade her to eat the fruits as revealed in these lines, “ Though the goblins tied her up and caught her, and even when they Coaxed and fought her. They bullied her and persuaded her, Scratch her, pinched, mocked and torture her,” Lizzie never opened her mouth or even gave the gobbling a chance to feed her their fruit (Rossetti 22.3-10). Then later, when she was able to go, the juice of the fruit on her face healed her sister miraculously but painfully. This again is another tale that is analyzed as the courage of women.
Ryan, however, argues that what is happening to these two women in the two different stories is that they are overcome by their adversaries the only thing that helps them is that they endure long enough to survive for another day, but they do not change their society (Ryan 32). In other words, the argument that Lizzie and Prince are heroes from the narrative can be disputed. Evidence has it that these two women were already overwhelmed with their status quo and only through chance they succeed. The intervention of chance can be seen in Westley and Davis’ story about Prince. This was the point when Wood declined to offer Prince her opportunity—which would permit her to come back to her family in Antigua without being re-subjugated—the Anti-Slavery Society appealed to Parliament in June 1829 to constrain Wood to concede her manumission (Salih 34). What this means is that her courage is made possible by chance which cannot be compared to heroic stories of people who make things happen instead of things happening to them. Another illustration from the works.
Ryan, however, argues that the courage of these two characters cannot be ignored due to the actions that arise in their lives. In that light, this perception is strengthened by the fact that in the story, ruler counterpoints the physical and passionate toll of her every day work with agonizing subtle elements of the beatings she continues on account of her lords and also their spouses (Ryan 32). It is further revealed in the story that the as the change of ownership is taking place Prince’s strength is seen because she is patiently waiting and she is hopeful that she will get better treatment. However, she is disappointed because she simply finds herself “moving from a butcher to the other”(Salih 10). Further when Prince explains that her beating is like education: “she made be comprehend the difference between the smart of the cart-whip, the rope, and the cow skin when used on me by her hands” (Salih 6). All these are scenarios that portray the heroic nature of the protagonist.
Similarly in the poem, The Goblin, the moves made by Lizzie, how she survives the threats, the molestation and the punishment from the goblin men reveal her courage. Additionally, Ryan claims that the courage of these female characters is shown through the acts of resistance is confirmed by Salih. While Lizzie resists the temptation of the goblin men, Prince resists the wishes of her masters for example she seeks to marry against the wishes of the Woods, she even refuses to do the duties accorded to her when she feels ill. Consequently, she leaves the Wood family and this is where she says, “I took the courage and decided that I would not be treated this way, but I would go and trust the Providence” (Salih 20).
A dispute to this perception is however forwarded by Ryan who explains that these characters cannot be declared heroes, they may have shown endurance, but the lack of courage is watered down by the fact that the protagonists seem to be helpless and overwhelmed by their adversaries and it is only persistence that sets them free. The argument put forth by supporters of to the theme of courage can thus be challenged because endurance may not mean courage, it may at times be considered as a lack of options (p. 32). The final move to quit working as a slave does not reveal her strength; it would have been more compelling if she decided to create change right from where she was. Similarly, in the poem by Rossetti, the protagonist Lizzie, does not show courage but endurance, she did not have any option but to survive what the goblin brothers did to her, and out of lack of choices she laid her life and did all she could to resist the trolls. As earlier described, she was mistreated, mocked, molested and even punished but she never fought back. This is a reflection of what any desperate individual would do when overwhelmed.
In conclusion, the two works of literature one being a narrative by Salih and the other a poem by Rossetti have shared a common theme of courage, and even though these two authors have created their female protagonists as courageous, the circumstances under which their courage is portrayed does not support the claim. The two characters under a close examination are helpless in the hands of their adversaries, and it is only by chance that they emerge victoriously. The characters seem to have no other options left but to endure their suffering, which is contrary to the depiction of them as courageous.
Andrews, William L., "Introduction," in Six Women's Slave Narratives, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., xxix-xli (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988);
Rossetti, Christina, Poetry Foundation, The Goblin. Poetry Foundation. Chicago, USA, 2017.sourced from: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/44996
Ryan, Michael. An Introduction to criticism: Theory, Culture, Society. Oxford : Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. Print.
Salih, Sara "Chronology," in The History of Mary Prince,., xxxix-xl London: Penguin, 2000. Print.
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