The folllowing sample essay on Cousin Seduction discusses it in detail, offering basic facts and pros and cons associated with it. To read the essay’s introduction, body and conclusion, scroll down.
The poem “Cousin Kate” by Christina Rossetti tells the story of a young maiden who is attracted to a lord who tempts her with his riches and then uses her. The lord is then attracted to another women Kate. He abandons the pregnant girl for Kate. But Kate refuses to have anything to do with the lord unless they are married and so the lord marries her.
They then try for a child but are unsuccessful because Kate is infertile. By this time the maiden’s son has grown and so when she hears of the couple’s news she boasts of her son.
The poem “The Seduction” by Eileen McCauley describes how a girl meets a boy at a party where they dance and talk all night. He then takes her to a riverbank where he takes advantage of her drunken state and sleeps with her.
They do not speak with each other again after that night and three months later the girl discovers she is pregnant. She loses her friend sand is rejected by society as a result of her actions that night. “Cousin Kate” is set in the countryside where the maiden grew up and was hardened by the sun and air. She was contented with her cottage mates, which showed her youth and innocence.
The scene then changes when the lord lures her to his “palace home”.
Because she is plucked from her poor life to live in luxury this gives the story a fairy tale feel to it. Although the story has quite a sad theme the settings for this story reflect the fairytale ending. “The Seduction” is set in the city late at night to start with it’s silver stream of traffic, it then moves to Birkenhead docks and the Mersey, green as a septic wound. The descriptions of these places are not pleasant or nice to imagine which encourages people to expect a sad or at least unpleasant story.
The settings are quite depressing to imagine and they help to emphasize the despair that the girl is feeling in her dilemma. The fact that everything appears to have gone wrong for the girl matches perfectly to the idea of a filthy city. Both the girls are young although we do not know exactly how old the cottage maiden is, we do know that the girl in “The Seduction” will miss the summer of her sixteenth year. The girls are so young because it encourages the audience to feel more sympathetic towards the girls and their dilemmas that have occurred.
Cousin Kate” is written in the first person, who gives the effect that, the maiden herself is telling the story, which makes the story feel more personal to the listener, they feel more involved. Because the poem is written in the first person it seems more like a story and so people will not necessarily take on board the message behind it. Where as The Seduction is written in the third person because the author hasn’t personally experienced the event, but wants to relay the event to the audience.
Because the poem is written in the third person it possibly encourages the audience to think about the issue described and how it may be affecting people around them. There are several similarities between the two girls, even though the poems were written 100 years apart. Both the girls recognized their loss of innocence after their experiences. The girl in “The Seduction” cried that she had missed all the innocence around her, which shows that she is full of regretful for the events that had happened.
The maiden describes her self as “an unclean thing that might have been a dove”, doves were a symbol of purity so this shows that she realises the mistake she made, and that if she were to have waited a little while longer then the other villagers may have still viewed her as pure. They are both aware that they have been lied to and used but the maiden feels that the Lord has used her whereas the girl in “The Seduction” feels that she has been cheated by the promise of it all from the magazines. The people who live around them reject them both.
They call the maiden an outcast thing and the girl is told she always looked the type. Both the girls are ashamed of what has happened to them and feel that they lived a shameful life and have fallen into a despicable feminine void. There are also several differences between the girls and the poems. The girl in the seduction does not feel jealous, neglected or superior and she does not have any mixed feelings, whereas the maiden has all of these. She is jealous of her cousin and feels neglected when he chose her and cast the maiden by, and she feels superior to her cousin when she has her fair- haired son (her gift).
In “The Seduction” the poem has 15 stanzas, there are 4 lines to every stanza but the 9th is 8 lines. This is because it is the most important stanza, and should have the greatest effect on the audience. In “Cousin Kate” there are 6 stanzas each with 8 lines, this is to keep the rhythm of the poem flowing. The most important part of poem is the ending and so it can still have a dramatic effect without having it’s structure changed. Both the lord and the boy are simply after the girl’s bodies.
You can tell this because the boy is not seen again after the incident and the Lord changes his women often which shows that he does not get emotionally involved in them. They go about getting the girls in very different manners. The lord flattered and praised the maidens flaxen hair. He also tried to buy the maiden with his land and offered to lift her from mean estate to sit with him on high in his palace home. He is not a faithful or honest man and changed his women like a glove; he liked to have a woman on his arm to ‘show off’ like a silken knot, the maiden feels that the lord fooled her.
The boy does not seem to be very well educated “… eating me dinner” and he does not appear to have a high position in society. You are given this impression because a man with a high status would not taste of nicotine or have a bag filled with shimmering sweet paint thinner. He does not have lands or great amounts of money to entice girls with, and so must use another method to attract the girls. The boy flatters the girl by dancing with her all night. He also bought her drinks until the girl was so drunk on vodka that she wouldn’t refuse anything.
The treatment of the maiden by the lord is often compared to that of old or discarded clothing; he changed her like a glove shows that the lord did not actually care for her. The maiden is compared to a toy, a plaything, which shows how the lord treated her, she distracted him for a little while before he saw her cousin and was then attracted to her instead. She is also compared to a dove, which is supposed to symbolise purity and virginity and so the use of this imagery demonstrates how she would have been without the lord.
Christina Rossetti also says that Kate had the “stronger wing” to show that the maiden feels that Kate stole the lord from her, she won the fight. McAuley makes several comparisons to a wedding because a wedding is a happy and romantic occasion, which is what the girl wanted, but what the actually happened to the girl was very different to how she had first imagined. She then describes the Mersey, green as a septic wound, which gives the impression that this story is not going to be a happy one. The maiden repeats closer to emphasize how proud she is of her son.
She asks, “Why did a great lord find me out? ” twice, which shows that she did not realise that she was attractive and shows that she was innocent. The girl in “The Seduction” was “truly, truly frightened” which calls attention to how afraid she really was. She also repeats herself again saying ” stupid, stupid promises… ” which shows how foolish and naive she feels she has been by believing the boy and all the teen-age magazines. She repeats herself one last time repeating, “turn away, move away, fade away” which shows how desperately she does not want to be in this situation.
Wide blue eyes” are mentioned twice, which would have been used to show the innocence of the girl before the seduction took place, after the incident blue eyes are not mentioned at all, which shows her loss of innocence. In “Cousin Kate” the main contrast is the treatment of the two women by the same man. The lord treats the maiden despicably but treats Kate with far more respect and care. This is most likely to be because Kate made him marry her first before having anything to do with him, which shows that she is more mature and is willing to offer a far greater commitment to the lord than the maiden did.
Because the maiden was willing to simply be his “girlfriend” he believed that it was acceptable to treat her in such a manner. In “the Seduction” the main contrast is state of the girl before and after the incident, and also between how her future should have been and how it now will be. The girl was happy and enjoying life before the incident “she met him at a party and he’d danced with her all night. ” And she had been looking forward to her sixteenth year with day trips to Blackpool and more. But now she is unable to do any of that.
The girl is almost suicidal by the end of the poem “Better to starve yourself like a sick precocious child. ” Showing how badly she feels about her situation. The cottage maiden was treated horrifically by the lord, and it was very cruel of her cousin to agree to marry the lord, when she new how her cousin felt towards the lord. But the maiden did have a son, and she is extremely proud of her son and appears to be happy now that she has her son with her, so her fate was not awful. The boy took advantage of the girl in “The Seduction”. She was then completely rejected by society.
She was not given the consolation of having a son to encourage her; at the time she had lost everything that was dear to her. Because of this I felt more sorry for the girl in “The Seduction” than for the maiden in “Cousin Kate” because at least the maiden had her son, the girl had nothing. Also it is easier to understand a person’s situation in a time closer to your own than it is to understand a person from over 100 years ago. It was easier for me to sympathise with the girl in “The Seduction” because one of my friends has been in a similar situation, so I had a better understanding of the situation.
In conclusion I found both the poems interesting to read and discuss and both the poems had an effect on me, as I felt extremely sorry for both the girls, as I believe that it is wrong for anyone to be treated in such a manner. Both the poems were easy to follow and to understand although they did prove to be difficult to analyse because it is hard to describe what is meant by all the metaphors and the like. Overall I enjoyed this piece of work as it was both interesting and challenging.