Feminism in My Last Duchess and It’s a Woman’s World Analytical Essay

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Literature plays an important role in reflecting values and norms, as revealing the cultural ethics, the certain types of social ‘facts”, processes of class struggle, and the gender distinction issues. Moreover, the political, economic, social, and psychological changes contributed in the emergence of new type of literary theory which is called Feminism. In the medieval Europe, women were forbidden the right to study, to own property, or to participate in social life. However, in early 20th century, women began to demand their rights and ask for the rules about equality, liberty, and natural rights be applied to both sexes.

The Women’s Movement opened doors for females in literature. And a lot of writers from both genders started to show their perspectives in women’s right and demonstrate female’s issues through their works. In this article I will compare and contrast two poems “My last duchess“ by Robert Browning, and “ It’s a Woman’s World” by Eavan Boland in terms of exposing the reflection of the period in which they were written, revealing the role of the female in both poems, and explaining the limitations of women in such patriarchal society.

Firstly, the historical background of both poems traces back to the period in which women were imprisoned in their domestic world, while the society was governed by men. Although the both Browning and Boland were living in different periods of time, they were affected by feminism that started roughly from Browning’s time and continued up to Boland’s time and forwards, dividing into three waves or periods. Browning wrote “My last duchess“ in 1842, the period that coincided with the first -wave feminism which was in 19th century.

This wave, actually, demanded the equality and property rights for women, and opposed the ownership by their husbands, and that what exposed in Browning’s poem when the speaker depicted his controlling over his wife considering her as property of possession. The Duke keeps his wife’s portrait hidden in his gallery after he murders her and arranges to marry from another woman. Correspondingly, Boland wrote “It’s a Woman’s World” in 1980, the period that concurred with the second-wave feminism in 20th century. This wave criticized the idea that women could find their achievements only through homemaking and childrearing. And that what revealed in Boland’s poem when she depicted the exclusion of women from public life, and called for a need to change the situation.

Secondly, the role of the females in both poems embodied in the idea that women should be existed just to fit the regimes put from men, and please their patriarchal society. It doesn’t matter if a woman was Duchess or if she was a regular female, they all suffered from the rules and distinctions that put them in the second step beyond men in their community. However, the women have a slight different roles in both poems. In Browning’s poem, for instance, although the woman was a Duchess, she could not gain any important role through her position.

Furthermore, her husband” the Duke” ends her life by killing her because she smiles and blushes at other people. Even though her blushes are entirely innocent, the Duke jealous of the attention his wife shows to others. From this point, we can notice how women were weak creatures, thus they controlled by men and regarded as a possession to them in Victorian era. In contrast, the women that Boland depicts in “It’s a Woman’s World” were ordinary ones, and their roles were limited to household chores, such as cleaning and cooking.

They become nearly dead actually, because they were neglected from the major and personable activities in their society. Through her poem, Boland lamented the rules that put women in such a role that barely changed since the very beginning of history and criticized the lack of integration of women into public life in Irish society in particular, and throughout all western countries in general.

Thirdly, the limitations of women in such patriarchal society is clearly demonstrated in the two poems. It was obvious that women were facing a harsh position in their society. They were forced to accept their miserable situation which puts them under male’s control, tied their progress in society and damage their lives. In “My last duchess“ , for example, the Duchess was enforced to be tied in her marriages life, and she could not evaded herself from her husband’s control. Her limitations and silence stimulated the Duke to end her life without any sense of guilt.

However, in “ It’s a Woman’s World” the limitations of women portrayed in having no chance to contribute to anything rather than family serving. Boland, through her poem, demonstrates that although technological advances have dominate society, the role of women has partially changed and the women all still tied to their trivial domestic activities. Furthermore, females in Boland’s society were have no social contributions, no voice in their community and the only thing they can do is humming just below the surface.

To sum up, in this article I have analyzed “My last duchess “ by Browning and “ It’s a Woman’s World” by Boland from the feminism angle. This paper clarified the reflection of the period in which the both poems were written, exposed the role of different women through two different communities and explained the limitations of those women in such patriarchal society. Indeed, literature, be it poetries, novels, stories etc., contributed in reflecting the miserable situation of females in patriarchal societies and played an important role in giving women their current rights.

However, the most noticeable and unusual aspect in Browning’s and Boland’s is the brilliant depicting of women’s suffering in such dominant- male community. Thanks to Browning and Boland, and thanks to all people who in one way or another try to change the old traditional perspectives on women and give them importance that they deserve and they have nowadays.


Cite this paper

Feminism in My Last Duchess and It’s a Woman’s World Analytical Essay. (2021, Jun 18). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/feminism-in-my-last-duchess-and-its-a-womans-world/



How Does My Last Duchess relate to the Victorian era?
The Victorian era was a time of great social change in England. "How Does My Last Duchess" is a poem that reflects some of the values of the time period, including a focus on social status and power.
How is the Duchess objectified in My Last Duchess?
She is objectified by her being presented as a possession of the Duke's and by the Duke's jealousy over her being adored by others.
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