In this research project, I display how a variety of factors oppressive to women in a patriarchal society are responsible for the negative, snake-like reputation that women are given and that literature has upheld for centuries with a specific focus on the British Romantic Period, building upon existing scholarship. I analyze Mary Wollstonecraft’s arguments in her A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and The Wrongs of Woman, or Maria as they relate to the perception of women; furthermore, I breakdown how this negative character trope that is representative of women occurs in Jane Austen’s novel Lady Susan with regard to Wollstonecraft’s arguments and key points. In particular, I look at the arguments concerning the improper education that women received, how this improper education led to women’s reliance upon their cunning, sexuality, and perceived weakness as a form of social and economic security, and how their reliance upon these characteristics resulted in the formation of a negative reputation—incomplete in that it does not address that these characteristics formed as a result of the oppression and abuse women faced at the hands of the patriarchal society. Lastly, I discuss feminist misogyny as an ensuing result of that oppression and abuse.

Student Name: Hailie Evans

University: UW-Superior

Adviser: Dr. Hilary Fezzey