The Lady's Dressing Room - Poem Analysis Essay Sample

Published: 2022-05-20
The Lady's Dressing Room - Poem Analysis Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Argumentative essay
Categories: Poem
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1132 words
10 min read

The Lady's Dressing room is a poem that was written by Jonathan Swift, and it was first put to publication in the year 1732. The story of the poem is characterized by a man named Stephen who sneaks into his girlfriend Cilia's dressing room when she is out only to be disappointed at how dirty and smelly it is. For the poem's gross depiction of bodily life processes, the author Swift was criticized by literary reviewers of his time and psychoanalyzed as being a sufferer of excremental vision. Swift makes use of 'The Lady's Dressing Room" to create satire out of women's unsuccessful attempts to match a perfect image; he never used the poem to inspire misogyny.

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Jonathan Swift was driven by a feminist motive when he wrote The Lady's Dressing Room. He had the interests of women at heart, and he meant to encourage them to pursue more significant things. It did not augur well with Jonathan when all that women did was spending their time to align with normative social constructs. Being that he lived at a time when patriarchy was the order of the day, Jonathan was partly blaming women for accepting the objectification men and the society at large had directed towards them. The feminist in Jonathan Swift wanted women like Celia to take time and focus on real self-improvement and do things like getting an education and a career as opposed to always thinking how they can strike men with awe because of their makeup and their dresses (Baudot 3). The problem with women like Celia during that age in time is that they concentrated so much on beauty such that they even forgot necessary things such as personal hygiene and cleanliness of their areas of residence. In essence, the poem is a critique to the extent women go to realize the ultimate image of the female physique and the expectation of their male counterparts that the illusion is valid.

Critics of Jonathan Swift and the ideology that women are bent on the manner of dress and beauty products as opposed to more important things call him a misogynist. The reason why Jonathan Swift's poem seemed enough to warrant to label him a misogynist is because he used derogatory language as he described women. Apart from the derogatory language used to describe women the author satirically makes comments on the amount of time it takes a lot of ladies to prepare themselves. Some of the audiences did not receive the poem well because of what they said to be the author going into a lot of detail on the repulsive things Celia's boyfriend sees and finds. It is also worth mentioning that critics have perceived the poem's message to portend a want by the author to attack women. Until today it is rumored that Jonathan Swift wrote the poem (with so much misogyny) in his heart after he had experienced sexual disappointment from a prostitute. One question that critics have posed time and again is that "if Jonathan Swift is not a misogynist then why does he bitterly ridicule and disparage in repulsive detail the female body and its role, which he regarded as repulsive."

From a positive and feministic perspective, it is quite evident that the absence of Celia does more than negate and complicates the assumed or somewhat abstract misogyny of the poem. In fact, the absence of Celia leaves a void. Fully conducting an exploration of this void, I concur, is befitting to a complete understanding of "The Lady's Dressing Room." It opens up unexplored aspect of Jonathan Swift's poem; his critical interaction with both aesthetic enthusiasm and philosophical materialism and offers insights way past the satirical meshwork of the poem to portray the author's self-reflexive nature of poetic creation. More positively, Jonathan Swift can be seen as a critic of normative construct that was directing so much pressure on women to look beautiful. Jonathan was against the linking of women with the products and processes of mercantile capitalism which was a pronounced cultural motif in this particular epoch of England's initial and grand imperial expansion. Swift did not support the obsession with dress and female adornment; he lived at a time that was defined with "the commercialization of English culture" and the designation of female dress and fashion as the era's archetype for commoditization. Perhaps Jonathan Swift should not have been blamed for failing to understand that clothes were the first ever mass consumer products to capture the attention of observers during that particular period.

The female body is a thing of beauty, and as such, it was very unorthodox for Jonathan Swift to describe it otherwise. When he compared Celia's lengthy process of dressing to removing a worm from her nose, it was a bit disturbing. Critics see it as very befitting to call Jonathan Swift a misogynist and someone that was bitter towards women (Brown 2). It was appalling that he was unable to see from Mandeville onwards particular attention was accorded to the part played by apparel in this process of economic and social change. Besides, the intrinsic cultural designation of the dress was a synecdoche for commercial capitalism, and it was not supposed to be surprising since one of the first trade and industry sources of the capitalization and expansion of the economy of England was the textile industry, more so on the trade of wool.

In summary, it is worth mentioning that Jonathan Swift was borderline feminist and borderline misogynist with women. Unfortunately, though, most people of his time refused to see the logic behind his arguments, i.e., he would have preferred if women pursued greater things in life such as education and wealth. But then again if women looked to pursue these things what would men do? Jonathan Swift was living at a time when gender roles confined men to industrial revolution and mercantilism while women to maintaining the household and looking pretty. It is worth mentioning that if Jonathan had used a better language, the crowd would have been more accepting and receptive to his message. Critics perceived that Jonathan Swift made use of juvenalism and satire a lot in the poem because he was a misogynist; mainly because it was a time in England when superficiality and pretense were the norms. There is no knowledge as to whether the author's intentions were misanthropic or philanthropic. It was hard, and it is still hard for any individual to perceive Swift as well-meaning because he came off as offensive; and presented improper content in a manner that was unusually harsh.

Works Cited

Baudot, Laura. "What Not to Avoid in Swift's" The Lady's Dressing Room"." SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 49.3 (2009): 637-666.

Brown, Laura. "Reading race and gender: Jonathan Swift." Eighteenth-Century Studies 23.4 (1990): 425-443.

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