In reading Harriet Martineau’s Society in America, Vol. 1 and Thomas Carlyle’s Past and Present I have noticed a thematic similarity in their call for a truer implementation of Democracy. Despite focusing on different aspects of democracy, Carlyle talking about better treatment of the working class and Martineau about women having no political power, both authors’ identify flawed aspects of democracy that fail to foster equality. I found it interesting, however, how Carlyle’s piece was more defensive and appeared to be a suggestion for preemptive changes to keep working class people from rebelling as they did in France. Martineau on the other hand, as a feminist advocating for women’s rights is more in tune with the community she is advocating for. These gender and class differences between the two attributes to the tone of both works. For example, Carlyle being a member of the socially elite, advocating for working class peoples out of fear of sociopolitical disruption, emphasizes his perceived superiority.
I also found it interesting how in both pieces, comparisons to black people were made to further their arguments. Carlyle used a kind act of an African woman to illuminate how truly horrid the “captains of industry” were by suggesting the lowest of the low, a black woman, was better than them. Martineau takes a different approach by likening the lack of women’s rights to slavery. She writes, “It inspires the same emotions of pity as the supplication of the freed slave who kneels to his master to restore him to slavery, that he may have his animal wants supplied, without being troubled with human rights and duties.” This line is used to exemplify the sentiments on why women shouldn’t have power from a patriarchal standpoint. I find it interesting that despite her constant repetition of how it is unjust to implement laws without the consent of the governed when that’s precisely what slavery is and there’s no demand for that to end. There is very little intersectionality of issues in both pieces.