Feminism in Coleridges Christabel Essay
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Feminism in Coleridges Christabel Christabel is a dark poem which tells the story of a baron, his daughter, and a seductress known as Geraldine. Christabel has usually been associated and interpreted according to its supernatural and mystical qualities. However, there are also aspects of the story that allow the possibility of analyzing Christabel according to its depiction of gender roles and culture. This theory is important to "Christabel" because it is a useful tool in analyzing the interaction between men and women, as well as women and their surrounding culture.
These stereotypical gender roles are illustrated in part I of "Christabel." Sir Leoline is in a position of authority and plays the role of the…show more content…
It is hard to determine which character fits which role. Is Sir Leoline still the self simply because he is male, or is he defined as the Other because he has lost his power? Likewise, is Geraldine the Other because she is female or does her description change because she has obtained power? These questions do not seem to have a concrete answer from the text alone.
The battle between culture and women is very symbolic in the text. Once again, the castle stands as an indisputable symbol of culture and society. Its reach is far and wide, and the castle itself is strong. It is proof that man's power is an insurmountable force in the world that can control nature and the woman in anyway it wants, or is it? Geraldine is a strong symbol of nature and womanly powers in the poem. She appears out of the woods looking weak and fragile, but she is able to use this to her advantage. She is able to infiltrate the castle and take control. The purpose of this is to show that although culture may be able to hold down the threat of women, it can never suppress it completely. Women may appear weak and powerless, but as soon as culture turns its back, they can strike and show who is really in control.
This lost of control by culture may not necessarily be seen as positive by Coleridge according to the conclusion we have of Christabel. In the end of Christabel, it seems that powerful Geraldine has polluted her. The
Christabel has two parts, written in 1797 and 1800, with the second part a distinct falling-off from the preceding. In the first part, the maiden Christabel, rather unwisely for a defenseless young girl, goes into the woods at midnight to pray for her betrothed knight, where she discovers the beautiful but evil Geraldine, who claims that she has been abandoned by five would-be rapists. At once, the idea of sexual violation comes into the poem. Christabel takes pity upon Geraldine and brings her to the home that she shares with her father, Sir Leoline. Geraldine, like evil spirits traditionally, cannot cross the threshold of the castle, so poor, duped Christabel carries her, in an ironic inversion of the marriage ritual.
Christabel brings Geraldine to her bedchamber and tells her guest about her mother’s having died when she was born. They undress, Geraldine revealing her magic and mystery in an undescribed horror visible on her chest and side. Naïvely, Christabel sleeps with her visitor. In the conclusion to the first part, the narrator acknowledges that Geraldine now has Christabel at her mercy and that only the unlikely aid of the spirit of Christabel’s mother can save her. Geraldine probably is a lesbian vampire, as is most persuasively argued by James Twitchell and Camille Paglia in Harold Bloom’s collection of essays on Coleridge.
The second part of the poem concerns the day after the previous waking nightmare. Sir Leoline...
(The entire section is 448 words.)