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Tess and Desdemona: Victims of Men and Civilization

Tess and Desdemona
Tess and Desdemona

Tess’s first encounter with the unnatural artifice of moral dogma coincides with her seduction into the corrupt world of Alec d’Urberville. The Christian slogan in red paint conflicts physically and spiritually with nature, and Tess is the spokesperson for nature:

THY, DAMNATION, SLUMBERETH, NOT
2 Pet.ii.3

Women’s status in society can be traced and examined through literature. There are many writers who depict the lives of women who were destroyed either by men they loved, or the civilization they lived in. Thomas Hardy, the great English novelist and poet, is one of them. In his novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles , he writes about the decline of the pure and innocent country girl Tess into the physically and mentally tortured and ill-used woman, who eventually becomes the murderess of her seducer. Hardy “never hesitated to moralize about the perversity of the world in which Tess was trapped.”

William Shakespeare, one of the most influential writers in all of English literature, was concerned with the same matter: he put civilization on trial for the criminal suppression, degradation and destruction of all aspects traditionally associated with the feminine. In his drama Othello , he describes the sufferance and ill-treatment of Desdemona, whose life, just like Tess’s, ends tragically.

These two great writers have one thing in common: they understood woman’s soul and sufferings; they had an intuitive awareness of something criminal within Western civilization. They set out to understand what happened to once admired and worshipped woman in all her completeness and what happened to the total and unconditional love for her. And they were determined to reveal that in rejecting at least one aspect of her being, men destroyed themselves and brought down Heaven and Earth in ruins. This is the key to these writers’ tragic heroes and heroines.

A. Alvarez, Introduction , in Tess of the D’Urbervilles (Penguin Books, 1984), p.21

Thomas Hardy and Victorian Morality

Tess of the d’Urbervilles , although technically a nineteenth century work, anticipates the twentieth century in regard to the nature and treatment of its subject matter. The novel questions the sexual hypocrisy of English society by compassionately portraying a heroine who is seduced by the son of her employer and who is thus not considered a pure and chaste woman by the rest of society.

In Tess of the d’Urbervilles and other novels, Hardy demonstrates his deep sense of moral sympathy for England ‘s lower classes, particularly for rural women. He became famous for his compassionate, often controversial portrayal of young women victimized by the self-righteous rigidity of English social morality. This novel caused widespread public scandal with its comparatively frank look at the dark side of Victorian morality.

Hardy lived and wrote in a time of difficult social change, when England was making its slow and painful transition from an old-fashioned, agricultural nation to a modern, industrial one. Businessmen and entrepreneurs, or “new money,” joined the ranks of the social elite, as some families of the ancient aristocracy, or “old money,” faded into obscurity. Tess’s family in Tess of the d’Urbervilles illustrates this change, as Tess’s parents, the Durbeyfields, lose themselves in the fantasy of belonging to an ancient and aristocratic family, the d’Urbervilles. Hardy’s novel strongly suggests that such a family history is not only meaningless but also utterly undesirable. Hardy’s views on the subject were appalling to conservative and status-conscious British readers and Tess of the d’Urbervilles was met in England with widespread controversy.

Tess Durbeyfield– Doomed from the Start

In his novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles Thomas Hardy deals with issues of morality in the sense of the opposition between man-made laws and Nature. These issues are explored through the experiences of Tess Durbyfield as she encounters the problems of life, and as she changes from an innocent and simple country girl into a mature and complex woman.

Intelligent, strikingly attractive, and distinguished by her deep moral sensitivity and passionate intensity, Tess is indisputably the central character of the novel that bears her name. Tess is a beautiful young woman living with her impoverished family in the village of Marlott . She is introduced into the novel as a member of the May Day procession, adorned in white. Tess symbolizes purity and virginity, while her physical characteristics equally suggest her innocence.

However, she is from the very beginning of the novel distinguished from her girlfriends because “she wore a red ribbon in her hair, and was the only one of the white company who could boast of such a pronounced adornment.” Hardy’s use of symbolism makes it clear to us that the red colour of her ribbon suggests that transgressions will occur against Tess’s whiteness and innocence, symbolized by the redness of the ribbon, that is, by the colour of the blood and passion of the man she will encounter later in her life.

In the same way, Angel is an equal symbol of purity and goodness, as shown by his name and his demeanor. A freethinking son born into the family of a provincial parson and determined to set himself up as a farmer instead of going to Cambridge like his conformist brothers, Angel represents a rebellious striving toward a personal vision of goodness . However, as we shall see later in the novel, Angel Clare is nevertheless equally dogmatic and obstinate, despite holding more liberal opinions than his father and brothers.

 

From the very beginning, Tess Durbeyfield is a passive character subject to the wishes of her family and afflicted by their sense of irresponsibility. She is the key to her father’s design to regain the family fortune, for he intends to marry her off to a gentleman who will provide for her and for her parents; however, Tess has no say in her father’s plans.

Hardy starts with the idea of the cruelty of fate with the discussion between Tess and Abraham concerning the stars; the two siblings decide that the misfortunes they suffer are due to living on a blighted star rather than any direct sense of cause and effect. This theme is also illustrated by the accident that Tess and Abraham have concerning their horse and wagon; the occurrence is a complete accident, yet Hardy instills the event with a sense of determinism, as if it were part of the Durbeyfield fate.

By going to claim kinship with the d’Urbervilles, Tess is in fact sent to find a husband; behind her mother’s request is the assumption that Tess will marry a gentleman who will provide for the Durbeyfields. It is this aspect of the visit to the d’Urbervilles that disturbs Tess most, highlighting her particular sexual innocence. This introduces the theme of sexuality and innocence that will continue throughout the novel; at this point in the novel Tess represents a particular sexual innocence, “a mere vessel of emotion untinctured by experience.” She is unaware of her own sexuality and thus cannot perceive the danger that Alec d’Urberville presents to her.

Alec d’Urberville uses several factors particular to Tess’s situation and her sense of guilt to seduce his distant relative. The “disastrous night of her undoing” takes place in the fog and thick darkness in The Chase, the oldest wood in England . Having arranged that Tess falls asleep in the nest of dead leaves, Alec takes advantage of Tess, and forever changes the course of her future life.

Hardy often uses words and phrases that depict Tess’s hurt feelings, her sense of guilt or her subordinated position in society she lives in: “she sat now, like a puppet , replying to his remarks in monosyllables.” The words: “I wish I had never been born…” describe her utter misery and humiliation.

 

In the scene of Tess’s seduction Hardy indicates one of his main themes, the inexplicable injustice and cruelty of fate:

“Why it was that upon this beautiful feminine tissue, sensitive as gossamer, and practically blank as snow as yet, there should have been traced such a coarse pattern as it was doomed to receive; why so often the coarse appropriates the finer thus, the wrong man the woman, the wrong woman the man, many thousands of years of analytical philosophy have failed to explain to our sense of order.”

Tess’s first encounter with the unnatural artifice of moral dogma coincides with her seduction into the corrupt world of Alec d’Urberville. The Christian slogan in red paint conflicts physically and spiritually with nature, and Tess is the spokesperson for nature:

THY, DAMNATION, SLUMBERETH, NOT
2 Pet.ii.3

Against the peaceful landscape, the pale, decaying tints of the copses, the blue air of the horizon, and the lichened stile-boards, these staring vermilion words shone forth . . . ‘I think they are horrible’, said Tess. ‘Crushing! Killing!”

Tess is tormented by guilt at the thought of her impurity and her liaison with Alec. She imagines her guilt to be a natural consequence of her actions, not only in the eyes of the community but also in the eyes of nature. Hardy dispels this notion. While walking in the hills:

“…she looked upon herself as a figure of Guilt intruding into the haunts of innocence. But all the while she was making a distinction where there was no difference . . . She had been made to break an accepted social law, but no law known to the environment in which she fancied herself such an anomaly.”

In contrast to Alec d’Urberville and the immediate sense of danger that he presents to Tess, Angel Clare represents a significant sense of idealism and purity. While Alec presses Tess with a forceful sexuality upon his first entrance in the novel, Angel is in a great sense desexualized; one of the milkmaids even thinks that he does not even think of girls.

Angel is a secularist who yearns to work for the “honor and glory of man,” as he tells his father in Chapter XVIII, rather than for the honor and glory of God in a more distant world. A typical young nineteenth-century progressive, Angel sees human society as a thing to be remolded and improved, and he fervently believes in the nobility of man. He rejects the values handed to him, and sets off in search of his own. His love for Tess, a mere milkmaid and his social inferior, is one expression of his disdain for tradition. This independent spirit contributes to his aura of charisma and general attractiveness that makes him the love object of all the milkmaids with whom he works at Talbothays.

 

However, Angel proved to be not so angelic, as his name suggests. Although sharply contrasted to Alec, whose devilish symbol of existence is the pitchfork, and not the angelic symbol – the harp, Angel nevertheless transgresses against Tess, instead of realizing the suffering of this victimized woman.

At Talbothay’s Dairy Angel becomes aware of the closeness to natural rhythms involved in the agricultural way of life. He imagines he can appreciate and adjust to this new way of life, but he cannot become part of it. He sees Tess in idealized terms: “What a fresh and virginal daughter of Nature that milkmaid is!”

Angel’s fault in regarding Tess lies precisely in the fact that he observes her in her ethereal aspect, and is blind to see and accept her complete being, her real self. Moreover, Hardy often alludes that Angel sees Tess as a saint or a Goddess from some mythological world, and not as a flesh and blood woman:

“The mixed, singular, luminous gloom in which they walked along together to the spot where the cows lay, often made him think of the Resurrection hour. He little thought that the Magdalen might be at his side. Whilst all the landscape was in neutral shade his companion’s face, which was the focus of his eyes …seemed to have a sort of phosphorence upon it. She looked ghostly, as if she were merely a soul at large… It was then, as has been said, that she impressed him most deeply. She was no longer the milkmaid, but a visionary essence of woman … He called her Artemis, Demeter, and other fanciful names half teasingly, which she did not like because she did not understand them.”

Tess also represents fallen humanity in a religious sense, as the frequent biblical allusions in the novel remind us. Just as Tess’s ancestors were once glorious and powerful but are now sadly diminished, so too did the early glory of the first humans, Adam and Eve, fade with their expulsion from Eden , making humans sad shadows of what they once were. Tess thus represents what is known in Christian theology as original sin, the degraded state in which all humans live, even when – like Tess herself after killing Prince or succumbing to Alec—they are not wholly or directly responsible for the sins for which they are punished. This torment represents the most universal side of Tess: she is the myth of the human who suffers for crimes that are not her own and lives a life more degraded than she deserves .

Alec cannot accept Tess when his illusion of her ethereal being is shattered. Tess must be held to blame for not telling him, though fate, in the letter she wrote him remaining unseen and social pressure from her mother, are also partly responsible. Angel has imagined himself to be an enlightened humanist, but when he discovers his wife’s ‘immoral’ history he finds that his new attitudes have penetrated no deeper than his intellect. In the following lines, Angel clearly shows his double standard when morality is concerned:

‘In the name of our love, forgive me!’ she wispered with a dry mouth. ‘I have forgiven you for the same!’

And, as he did not answer, she said again –

‘Forgive me as you are forgiven! I forgive you , Angel.’

…’O Tess, forgiveness does not apply to the case.’

At this point of the novel, the terrified Tess becomes aware of the fact that Angel did not love her very being and that their loves for each other differ. She loves him “in all changes and in all disgraces”; whereas the love he cherished was actually for another woman in her shape. Angel is not aware that, in his moral blindness and stupidity, and in rejecting the woman who is even prepared in her love for him to be his “wretched slave”, he actually denies his right to happiness, and actually rejects that part of himself that is absolutely necessary for the health of his being:

‘I do forgive you, but forgiveness is not all.’
‘And love me?’
To this question he did not answer. 

And Tess, as she often does, verbalizes the viewpoint Hardy is expressing through her: ‘It is in your own mind what you are angry at Angel; it is not in me. O, it is not in me, and I am not that deceitful woman you think me!’

 

Obviously, the intellectual and free-thinking Angel is the ‘slave to custom and conventionality’ and the relatively ignorant Tess is the true humanist. It takes Angel a year of traveling and suffering during which ‘he had mentally aged a dozen years’ before he can throw off his strictly moral upbringing and realize the validity of Tess’s viewpoint. As Hardy puts it, “his consistency was, ideed, too cruel.” Moreover, Hardy writes that “with more animalism he would have been the nobler man…Clare’s love was doubtless ethereal to a fault, imaginative to impracticability.”

If we consider the figurative meaning of Clare’s laying Tess in a stone tomb while walking in his sleep, we can suppose that he will unconsciously cause Tess’s spiritual death, in addition to her physical ill-treatment previously caused by Alec. This image of tomb and sacrifice occurs frequently in the novel, emphasizing her tragic role of a martyr. Tess is constantly being victimized, either by her parents, or by the society she lives in, or by the man she loathes. Above all, she becomes tortured by the man she adores and for whom she was prepared to lay down her life if necessary. Hardy emphaticaly writes: “Tess hoped for some accident that might favour her, but nothing favoured her.”

On seeing converted Alec, the destroyer of her innocence, Tess can hardly believe that “he who had wrought her undoing was now on the side of the Spirit, while she remained unregenerate.”Agonized by the unfairness of life, Tess exclaims to Alec: “Whip me, crush me…I shall not cry out. Once victim, always victim – that’s the law!”

It took a lot of time for Angel to begin to “discredit the old appraisements of morality. He thought they wanted readjusting. Who was the moral man? Still more pertinently, who was the moral woman?” But the time he took was long enough for Tess to die spiritually, to lose her strength for fighting the harsh conditions of her life and to finally succumb to Alec, who, once again, manipulated her innocence. “Her husband, Angel Clare himself, had, like others, dealt hard measures to her, surely he had! She had never before admitted such a thought; but he had surely!”

It is too late when Angel realizes that “his had been a love ‘which alters when it alteration finds’”, alluding to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, which beautifully defines what true love is. Tess is already numb with pain, for “his original Tess had spiritually ceased to recognize the body before him as hers – allowing it to drift, like a corpse upon the current, in a direction dissociated from its living will.”

 

And it is also too late when Angel, upon realizing that Tess has killed her torturer, says: “I will not desert you! I will protect you by every means in my power, dearest love, whatever you may have done or not done!” However, it is a sad thing to notice that, when the two of them dead awaken, they realize that their time to live and love is too short.

By killing Alec Tess freed herself from the man who twice separated her from her lover, and allowed herself and Angel a few days of happiness together. But in Hardy’s view this kind of happiness, between two enlightened people who take upon themselves responsibility for their own moral conduct, cannot be but short-lived.

It is on the ancient, heathen altar of Stonehenge that Tess is finally sacrificed to spiritually-empty modern society. In the Christian world of moral justice Tess could find neither happiness nor peace; however, on the pagan “ Temple of the Winds” Tess finally feels at home and refuses to go any further.

It is not a mere chance that Hardy picks this holly place in nature for Tess’s true home. As Tess explains, one of her mother’s people was a shepherd on this area. That place ‘belonged’ to her mother’s people. We should pay attention to the fact that Hardy makes a shift from the male and guilt-ridden Christian world to the pagan world in which women had their rightful place. That’s why we can draw a conclusion which is best summarized in the famous statement of Robert Graves’, that “there is one story and one story only.”

 

Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being

 

Thomas Hardy in his Tess of the D’Urbervilles often makes allusions to Shakespeare, probably because Shakespeare’s works were to him “the source of endless shocks of recognition and discovery. No one before Shakespeare had intuited so well the existence of invisible mental confinements” as well as “how we enter them and what we become as their victims and makers”.

Ted Hughes, in his Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being, “compares the development of Shakespeare’s cannon to an investigation of a crime, the criminal activity the poems, sonnets and the plays uncover being the systematic denial, rejection and destruction of the feminine within our culture.”

Shakespeare takes us beyond our limited experience of life and the moral blindness we live in to show us the lives of other people at other times. He stirs us intellectually and emotionally; he deepens our understanding of our history, our society, and our own individual lives. He gives us lessons in the art of loving and shows clearly the mistakes of our civilization that we sometimes fail to recognize. The main goal of his tragedies is to reexamine the wrong moral choices of his heroes and characters and show the consequences of their errors.

In his great tragedy Othello , Shakespeare set out to examine the “enormous pressures operating within society to ‘prove love a whore’” As a play, Othello encompasses many things but more than anything else it is a study of loss of faith in, and rejection of the Female. The play presents us with Iago as the dominant force which causes Othello to see the infidelity of his young and beautiful wife, Desdemona, with his favorite lieutenant, Michael Cassio.

 

Othello portrays himself as a tested, honorable warrior, and indeed is such. However, this view of himself will prove troublesome when he is hard pressed to recognize his jealousy and his lust; his inability to reconcile himself with these two aspects of his personality means that his punishment is almost certain. Othello’s lack of self-knowledge means that he will be unable to stop himself once Iago begins to ignite his jealousy, and set into motion the less palatable aspects of Othello’s personality, which he himself cannot recognize.

Othello’s speech before the assembly shows what he believes Desdemona’s love to be; he thinks that Desdemona’s affection is a form of hero-worship, and she loves him for the stories he tells, and the things he has done:

“She loved me for the dangers I had past;
And I loved her that she did pity them.
This only is the witchcraft I have used.”

More than any other Shakespearean tragic hero, he commands respect and radiates authority as the drama begins, and also embodies the values of aristocratic chivalry. Although Othello is portrayed as an extremely honorable and intelligent general, he appears incapable of detecting the falsity of the vindictive and cruel monster Iago. Through Iago’s motives, and Othello’s weaknesses, the tragedy of the play takes its course.

As already said, Othello is revealed to have many more faults and weaknesses than a man of his stature should posses, providing a reason for his downfall. From the great lover at the beginning of the play, whose soul’s joy, content absolute and the true treasure reside in his love for Desdemona, Othello sinks into decay by failing to recognize Desdemona’s true love for him.

Othello’s initial love for Desdemona and his utter happiness which he feels when reunited with her after the dangerous storm is best described in the following lines:

“If it were now to die,
‘Twere now to be most happy; for, I fear,
My soul hath her content so absolute,
That not another comfort like to this
Succeeds in unknown fate.”

Storms are always of great significance in Shakespeare; here, the storm is a symbol of unrest, and of discord to come. The storm marks the end of the peaceful part of the play, and is an act of fate; it is also a signal that Iago’s mischief is about to begin.

For Iago, women are “wildcats in your kitchens, saints in your injuries, devils being offended”; he even declares that they “rise to play, and go to bed to work”. Iago’s perception of women as deceptive, dominating, and lusty colors the way he portrays both Emilia and Desdemona; both are good women, Desdemona exceedingly so, yet he is able to convince other men that they are anything but what they are.

Iago speaks of Desdemona as being “sport for Jove,” and “full of game”; his depiction of Desdemona rings false, as does his attempt to insinuate lust into Cassio’s mind. He makes Desdemona seem like a fickle, lusty woman, which he will soon try to convince Othello of as well. Iago’s speech also plays on Othello’s insecurities perfectly; he speaks of Othello’s age, race, and manners as reasons why Desdemona will grow tired of him, which are also reasons why Othello fears he might lose her.

Jealousy, the “green-eyed monster” becomes a symbol representing Othello’s dark feelings and makes him insecure about his personal qualities and his marriage, as insecurity weakens his resolution not to doubt Desdemona. Othello doubts that Desdemona could love him, because of his misconception of himself as being uncivilized, poorly spoken, and old; and because he begins to believe that Desdemona cannot love him, he starts to believe her guilty of infidelity.

The point which Shakespeare endeavors to make, that is, that the hero’s loss of faith in the Female coincides with the beginning of unhappiness in his life is best depicted in the following lines:

“Excellent wretch!” Perdition catch my soul,

But I do love thee, and when I love thee not,

Chaos is come again

Othello soon learns, however, that to be once in doubt is to be never resolved. He demands that Iago “proves his love a whore” and thus stop his doubts that torture him. The handkerchief, the most crucial symbol and object in the play, first appears here. The handkerchief to Desdemona symbolizes Othello’s love, since it was his first gift to her. Othello thinks that the handkerchief, quite literally, is Desdemona’s love; and when she has lost it, that must clearly mean that she does not love him any longer. The handkerchief also becomes a symbol of Desdemona’s alleged betrayal; Othello takes it as the “ocular proof” of her dishonesty, which is a grave mistake.

The end of Act III, scene iii, is the climax of Othello. Convinced of his wife’s corruption, Othello makes a sacred oath never to change his mind about her or to soften his feelings toward her until he enacts a violent revenge. At this point, Othello is fixed in his course, and the disastrous ending of the play is unavoidable. Othello’s accusatory behavior, tinged with bitterness, at times very biting, foreshadows Othello’s violent rage at the end of the play. Desdemona knows that something is gravely wrong, though she can do nothing to help Othello, and lessen his anger.

 

As Othello becomes more and more upset, without a true cause, he falls farther and farther from himself. His trance also marks his descent into the savage; ironically, he becomes the passion-stirred and wicked person, blind to tell the difference between appearance and reality. Othello refers to himself as a “horned man,” ashamed of this descent; yet it has settled upon him, and he will struggle in vain to regain his dignity. Savagery is taking over his civility, as he continues to become the cruel, jealous, passion-spurred “savage” that Brabantio accused him of being:

“Ay, let her rot, and perish, and be damn’d tonight; for she shall not live: no, my heart is turn’d to stone; I strike it, and it hurts my hand. – O, the world hath not a sweeter creature: she might lie by an emperor’s side, and command him tasks.”

Desdemona knows of her impending death, but she is too good and too devout to do anything about it. The “Willow Song” and her tale of her mother’s maid also foreshadow her death. She has resigned herself to her fate, and is not trying to fight it; she seems like a totally different woman than the one who stood up to her father and the Venetian nobles in defense of Othello at the beginning of the play.

Desdemona’s attitude toward her chastity represents what Renaissance males wanted and expected of women, and it is certainly what Othello wants from his wife. She sees it as an absolute entity that is worth more to her than her life or ownership of the entire world. Emilia, Iago’s wife, on the other hand, suggests that the ideal of female chastity is overblown and exaggerated. She argues that women are basically the same as men, and that the two sexes are unfaithful for the same reasons: affection for people other than their spouse, human weakness, and simple desire for enjoyment, or “sport”.

In his farewell to Desdemona, Othello describes her with words that suggest her brightness and innocence, yet he is determined to condemn and kill her. She is “the rose” to Othello; even when the act of murder is drawing near, Othello seems intent upon dwelling in beautiful images and poetic metaphors to hide the ugliness and wrongness of his deed. And although Othello felt only hatred and anger before, now he is forced to feel his love, along with his mistaken determination to see Desdemona die.

Othello’s confusion in his real feelings for Desdemona under the pressure of his malicious “friend” makes him transgress against the most sacred emotion in him, that is, love. Thus he speaks to Desdemona, watching her beauty while she sleeps:

 

‘Be thus when thou art dead; And I will kill thee. And love thee after .’

 

The reasons for the tragedy are all too plain to see. Othello disregards his feelings, and, instead to his love, he decides to remain faithful to his reason, which will bring utter chaos into his life. Othello is the dramatic presentation of the relationship of the rational ego to the totality of natural life. What survives after the rejection of nature, women, love, is relatedness through aggression, lust and murder. The archetypal formula of male masculine identity in the West, shown in Othello, depicts the way in which the art of loving is despised, untaught and forgotten, and replaced by the murderous law of violence.

 

Conclusion

Both Shakespeare and Hardy signaled in their works the mind’s loss of power to build the blessed unity with the natural world. Both of them showed that their male characters, Angel and Othello, came to hate the women they loved when they were no longer certain they knew them. Both of these great authors also concentrate on the loss of complete being, on the transformation of the male lover into the rejecting Puritan, and show that this negative metamorphosis brings chaos into their lives. Their bond with life becomes perverted; they become killers who destroy the living potential and bring degradation to this world.

The male characters in Tess and Othello , just like their wives, can be observed as victims to the false binary opposition embedded in the Western psyche. This false polarization implied in the Christian patriarchal world view brings utter degradation and destruction to the feminine: they observe their wives as either saints or immoral whores. Both Hardy and Shakespeare sensed the Western man’s greatest mistake of polarization in human existence which negates the full complexity of being. Not only body and soul, but also life and death, man and woman, good and evil, nature and culture are the irreconcilable opposites that contribute to the inner split from which modern man still suffers.

What should have been the central goal of life, that is, wholeness, completeness and creativity, now becomes usurped and replaced by contrary attitudes. Shakespeare and Hardy noticed that the danger to life comes from the male representatives of the patriarchal world, whose ethical blindness and insensitivity to life need to be tamed into wisdom and ability to see things feelingly. Only through a reunion with the feminine can what is lost be found again: the link with the natural world and the totality of life and being.

Thus, the wreck Adrienne Rich is diving into is the wreck of obsolete myths, the old myths of patriarchy, the myths that split male and female irreconcilably into two opposing selves. Rich’s idea is that we must write new myths, create new definitions of humanity which will not glorify this angry chasm but heal it: it is not only the artist who must make the emphatic leap beyond gender, but any of us who would try to save the world from destruction.



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