In the novel women are quite often referred to as inferior, so it is obviously not feminist, quite the opposite. This is established early on with Lord Henry saying that “no woman is a genius. Women are a decorative sex” suggesting that women are but playthings for men’s enjoyment – a decoration to spice up life. The main female character is Sybil, who seems weak and dependent totally on her “Prince Charming” Dorian Gray. She doesn’t seem to have any personality at the beginning, assuming only the role of the character she is playing in ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Later on whenever she became herself she was obedient to Dorian, doing whatever he wanted. When Dorian insults her acting she feels that there is no reason to live, and thus commits suicide. This shows the powerlessness of women, and how Wilde may have thought them inferior. However Dorian is obviously very in love with Sybil, when he first talks to Lord Henry about her he has nothing but praise for her: “lips that were like the petals of a rose,” – this could be seen as an extension of what Lord Henry was saying though, Dorian only really compliments her looks and her singing, and doesn’t really know her – showing that he wants her in a more decorative sense.
In the novel there are many examples of the class system, the opposite of Marxism, especially with Lord Henry’s high class friends, and then the lower class poverty in the East End. Dorian’s status was also based on his good looks and wealth, showing how the rich (not the clever) were high in society. Dorian exploits his status by controlling the poor, such as Sybil – and believed he could get away with immoral actions due to his high status. The novel suggests that life and society revolves around wealth & money, something that completely goes against what Marxism stands for.
When looking up the subjects of post-colonialist literature I found that one of the subjects is “Misuse of power and exploitation” which I found related to the novel easily. Dorian misuses his power and exploits Sybil, controlling her. The book was written during the time of the colonies, in Victorian times, so this could even be interpreted as referring to Britain controlling a large portion of the world.
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**FUN FACT** I used to have a grey gerbil that had the name Dorian. That is all.
Yeats does not appear in his poetry to be a particular feminist, yet we as readers have to realise that in those days it was frowned upon to do so. Yeats was living in a sexist and oppressive time, and seemed to realise that he couldn’t help women through his poetry, writing is not always about truth. However many of his poems suggest that he deeply admired women, and may have simply been a strong advocate for women who struggled to show his opinions in the time that he lived in. The woman he refers to most is Maud Gonne, the love of his life who didn’t love him back. His opinion of Gonne is obviously that of desire, yet also slight bitterness, as she does not love him. Gonne was very feminist, and stood up for women’s rights, and so Yeats most likely supported her views to try and win her affection. Yeats also mentions Constance Markiewicz and Eva Gore-Booth in several of his poems, revolutionary leaders who he seemed to admire deeply (at least enough to write poems specifically about them). Yeats was obsessed with the Occult, which rejected the sexist norms and was very pro equality, thus we can assume that he also took this stance.
A good source of information about Yeats and women:
To understand how Yeats wrote in a post-colonial style we must first understand definitions of post-colonialism itself. Post-Colonialism can be split into several subjects, though the subject I found that reflected in Yeats’ poetry the most is this:
Social and cultural change or erosion: It seems that after independence is achieved, one main question arises; what is the new cultural identity?
Yeats examines the idea of change very often in his poetry, especially considering change in Ireland and change in people. For example, in ‘September 1913’ Yeats compares the Ireland of 1913 to “Romantic Ireland”, and in ‘Easter 1916’ Yeats compares the “vainglorious lout” of MacBride who abused Gonne to the revolutionary hero – “transformed utterly” from what he was due to his brave and heroic actions. ‘Easter 1916’ is heavily about change, “all changed, changed utterly” and how the revolution has changed the society of Ireland.
Good sources of information about Yeats and Post Colonialism:
Thanks for reading,