Comparing vulnerability in 'Cousin Kate' and 'The Seduction'

The two poems were written around one hundred years apart so therefore I think society would have changed in the poems. As these poems are about seduction I think the women will be the ones who are vulnerable and that the men will have power over the women. This would possibly be more the case in the older poem as women did not have such a strong position in society. Seduction means to persuade by some means someone to do something when they are unwilling.

The two poems have a lot of similarities especially in the themes of vulnerability and power. There are also many differences for example in the way that the women are affected by the seductions. Vulnerability means being open to attack or having some kind of weakness. Both the girls in the poems are vulnerable at certain stages.The first poem I looked at is ‘Cousin Kate’ by Christina Rossetti; which was written in the nineteenth century and is the older of the two poems.

It is about a poor girl who is seduced by the Lord who then leaves her for the girl’s cousin Kate. The Lord marries Kate, leaving the girl having his son.In ‘Cousin Kate’, at the start the girl is happy working in the fields and is “hardened by sun and air” which indicates she is content and gives a positive image about her. In the first verse she is neither vulnerable nor powerful but is happy with how things are going.

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By the second verse she is very vulnerable and the Lord seduces her, “lured me to his palace home”, the word “lured” suggests she didn’t want to go but was persuaded to go. After the seduction she is upset and regrets it, she “might have been a dove”. A dove is associated with purity, so she could have been a pure but now she can not. Then as the poem goes on she gains power and is very proud of her “fair-haired son”. She feels she has what the Lord can not have which makes her powerful.

The Lord is powerful at the start of ‘Cousin Kate’ and manages to seduce the maid. He then feels even more powerful when he marries Kate as she is “more fair” and younger than the maid. However by the end of the poem the Lord feels like he made the wrong decision with marring Kate. This is because the Lord needs to have a son so that he can be the heir. The Lord is vulnerable as he is weaker than the girl as she has his son, which he really wants. He “would give lands” for the son but he can not have him.Society looks at the maid who had the child out of marriage as being “an outcast thing”. The maid also regrets the seduction just after it happens as she refers to herself as “an unclean thing”. I think that society did not think it was right to have children out of marriage and now the girl is looked down on.

The settings in the poem suggest times of vulnerability and power. For example “lured me to his palace” shows that the Lord is powerful as he has a palace, and the word “lured” implies that the girl is being persuaded to go to the palace, I think she will be vulnerable. The girl starts off as being a strong character and then becomes vulnerable in the middle of the poem but by the end she is returns to being a strong character.In ‘Cousin Kate’ it uses imagery, for instance when it says “so I sit and howl in dust”. This phrase makes you think of the girl sitting in dust crying, the word howl makes us compare her crying to the sound of a wolf howling. It shows how upset she is, it also suggests vulnerability as she is upset and weak. At the start of the poem uses repetition, “Why did a great lord find me out” this emphasises that the maid wonders why the Lord chose her out of everyone else.

It also uses similes and metaphors. Symbolism is used it says “your love was writ in sand” this is an example of a metaphor in the poem. The maid thinks the Lord and Kate’s love is temporary and will soon be washed away.’The Seduction’ was written by Eileen McAuley in the twentieth Century. It is about a girl who was seduced by a river and becomes pregnant. It is all unromantic and the girl is very upset about it.The girl is drunk at the time of the seduction so this makes her incredibly vulnerable. She seems to like the boy at the start and his idea of acting mature works on her, “she had nodded, quite enchanted”. After the seduction she is very upset about the incident and this makes her weak and vulnerable. This contrasts with the poem ‘Cousin Kate’ as the girl knows what she is doing.

She just falls for his money and also the way he complimented her, “praise my flaxen hair”. It is also different as in ‘Cousin Kate’ the girl leaves the seduction on a positive note, whereas the girl in the ‘The Seduction’ she is hurt through out the rest of the poem.The boy in the poem is the powerful one. He gets his way and then he just leaves the girl. He gains his power by trying to impresses the girl he does this by talking about “football; Sammy Lee and Ian Rush”, this makes him sound intelligent. He also tries to impresses her by wearing a “leather jacket”; he might feel it makes him look older and mature. I think that the jacket is fake and cheap as it is “creaking like mad”. The boy also impresses the girl by acting interested in her, he “danced with her all night long”, the girl thinks he likes her and would want to go out with her, but all he wants is to seduce her.

This is contrasting ‘Cousin Kate’ as the Lord becomes vulnerable at the end, whereas in ‘The Seduction’ the boy is powerful the whole way through. The males in the poems use the same techniques to seduce the women, they act interested in her this is either by flattery or spending time with them. Another thing they do is attract them with their wealth; the Lord obviously has a lot of money and does not need to try but the boy in ‘The Seduction’ acts like he has a lot of money from wearing the leather jacket.In the twentieth century I think the majority of people would think that teenage pregnancies are wrong.

I think that some people would give her some strange looks and might gossip about her. This is a similar view that society in the nineteenth century had on teenage pregnancies. It says that “neighbours whisper” which is alike what the girl says in ‘Cousin Kate’ says “the neighbours call you good and pure”. This shows that society’s views on the matter have not changed much.There is a sense of vulnerability through out the whole poem. The girl is the vulnerable one and the boy is powerful. The setting emphasises vulnerability more at certain points in the poem, like when they are at the river. “Green as a septic wound” this shows how disgusting and unromantic it is.

She is very paranoid that everyone will be talking about her as at the end of the poem she mentions “neighbours whisper ‘you always looked the type'”, this suggest she is vulnerable to attack from society. The poems contrast in the way that vulnerability portrayed through out the poem. In ‘Cousin Kate’ vulnerability is shown in the middle of the poem whereas in ‘The seduction’ it is in the entire poem.In ‘The Seduction’ a lot of imagery is used. It uses symbolism, like when talking about the girls “high white shoes”. The colour white represents purity and after the seduction she “broke the heels/ Of her high white shoes” this is because she no longer feels she is pure and it also represents how she is broken inside.

Metaphors and similes are used too, “silver stream of traffic” this is a metaphor referring to the headlights of the cars but it is also a use of sibilance. This suggests she is drunk and is slurring her words together. The poem also uses enjambment, “he muttered/ ‘little slag'” this emphasises what the boy really thinks of the girl, he thinks the girl is just someone to have sex with. Repetition is used “by stupid, stupid promises” this emphasises her guilt and her realising what has happened. In addition it suggests she keeps thinking about it. The two poems use the same techniques to create atmospheres, effects and scenes; they use symbolism, similes, metaphors and rhyming.

The difference in the language is that the poem ‘Cousin Kate’ does not use techniques such as enjambment or alliteration. I think that ‘The Seduction’ makes very good use of the vocabulary skills to create a vivid picture of what is happening, the scenery and portrays emotions well.In conclusion I think that ‘Cousin Kate’ and ‘The Seduction’ have differences and similarities involving the different views and vulnerability and power. The main difference in the poems is that in ‘Cousin Kate’ the maid goes away from the seduction powerful and positive whereas in ‘The Seduction’ the girl is upset and regrets it. Another difference is that the boy in ‘The Seduction’ was powerful through the whole of the poem and in ‘Cousin Kate’ the Lord is vulnerable by the end of the poem. The main similarity is that the women are the ones that are seduced, and the men were using the girls. It is hard to say whose fault it is that the seduction took place, the easy thing to say is that it is the boys fault for seducing the girl but the girl is responsible for her actions.

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Comparing vulnerability in 'Cousin Kate' and 'The Seduction'. (2019, Jun 20). Retrieved from

Comparing vulnerability in 'Cousin Kate' and 'The Seduction'
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