Connections

In Past and Present, Carlyle poses an interesting argument about the position of men in the middle of his anti lassiez-faire position. “Life was never a May-game for men: in all times the lot of the dumb millions born to toil was defaced with manifold sufferings, injustices, heavy burdens, avoidable and unavoidable; not play at all, but hard work that made the sinews sore, and the heart sore.” He says this essentially only about men. That men have never had it easy, face injustices, and it is hard work that not only molds them, but tires them. He completely leaves out women, which in a way I believe makes sense for this time period. The audience of this essay is clearly, well-educated high society men, so of course, he doesn’t include women in this narrative. But, In Margaret Fuller and Mary Wollstonecraft, a different arugment is made.

On the flip side, Margaret Fuller and Mary Wollstonecraft is about the condition of women during the 19th Century. At one point she states: “On one side we hear that woman’s position can never be improved until women themselves are better; and, on the other, that women can never become better until their position is improved – until the laws are made more just, and a wider field opened to feminine activity. But we constantly hear the same difficulty stated about the human race in general. There is a perpetual action and reaction between individuals and institutions; we must try and mend both by little and little — the only way in which human things can be mended.” She gives us the other side of the narrative during the 19th century, exposing the basic injustice against women during this time of inequality. 

Where I see a connection is in the line, “But we constantly hear about the same difficulty stated about the human race in general.” Although these texts are on two very different sides, writing about two very different things, there is a commonground of the theme of difficulty presented. Eliot starts to pose it in a way of using “human” instead of gendering the struggle, to acknowledge that there is injustice within the system that can only be mended a small bit at a time.

1 thought on “Connections

  1. Sara Devoe

    After reading “Society in America” by Harriet Martineau, I noticed many similarities between her views on government and that of Carlyle’s. Although they stem from different layers, they both have very radical opinions about how government should be modified. For example, Carlyle believes government should always be changing with society, just as clothes do. This a radical idea for the time, since most do not have as strong opinions on government as he did. Carlyle also questioned many abstract concepts such as what the difference is between vanity and success, and Martineau questions abstract concepts too, but related to the role of women.

    in “Society in America”, Martineau compares women to slaves in the sense that they have limited rights and are treated as property by men. This was a very radical view at the time of 1837. Martineau challenges the American government by acknowledging the fact that the government has the right to enslave women, even though democracy claims this is not allowed and morally wrong. Martineau argues that democracy fights for equal rights, yet America does not follow this idea themselves, even though it is the idea to which their government is built upon.

    The connection I drew between Martineau and Carlyle is that in their literature they are both extremely radical and ahead of their time in their writing. Carlyle argues for a socialist government and Martineau argues for equal rights for women and calls out the American government.

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