Women in Literature

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Analyze the role of women in the following works: "Oroonoko," "Candide," and "Goblin Market."

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In all three works, women play a multitude of interchangeable roles. They are simultaneously lovers and confidants as well as fellow sufferers on the journey of life.

In all three stories, women suffer both physical and emotional trauma. In Goblin Market, Laura and Lizzie (two sisters) contend with diabolical goblin merchants. The poem's main message is that the female sisterhood is an intrinsic and necessary part of stable society. In Candide, Cunegonde is the hero's acclaimed lover and, initially, the archetype of the perfect woman. As the story progresses, Cunegonde's exposed vulnerabilities and spiritual flaws highlight her latent humanity. In Oroonoko, Imoinda is both the long-suffering and loyal wife. She retains her devotion to Oroonoko to the bitter end.

In all three works, women are fierce rebels as well as dedicated companions. In Goblin Market, Lizzie engages in a violent tussle with the goblin merchants who try to waylay her. She is described as a lone figure who stands firm in the midst of the assault, like "a beacon left alone/ In a hoary roaring sea...." Even though the goblin merchants "Bullied and besought her,/ Scratch'd her, pinch'd her black as ink,/ Kick'd and knock'd her,/ Maul'd and mock'd her," Lizzie remains resolute. She refuses to open her mouth to ingest the forbidden goblin fruit. In her steadfast act of rebellion, Lizzie becomes Laura's savior: where Laura was unable to resist before, Lizzie now resists in her stead. Lizzie's stance is sacrificial in nature, and her actions embody the selflessness of the female nature.

In Candide, Cunegonde endures rape, sexual slavery, and personal deprivation. Her physical suffering eventually destroys her outward beauty; by the time Candide finds her at the home of the Transylvanian prince, Cunegonde is a shell of her former self:

The tender, loving Candide, seeing his beautiful Cunegonde embrowned, with blood-shot eyes, withered neck, wrinkled cheeks, and rough, red arms, recoiled three paces, seized with horror, and then advanced out of good manners.

Candide marries her but derives little sexual joy from his marriage. Cunegonde has become both ugly in form and disposition. Yet, despite her changed outward demeanor, Cunegonde remains faithful to Candide and eventually develops excellent culinary skills. As a woman who has endured much, Cunegonde continues to provide value in Candide's life.

In Oroonoko, Imoinda remains loyal to her beloved even after she becomes betrothed to the king. Later, she quietly submits to death at Oroonoko's hands, resolute until her last breath. Imoinda is the epitome of grace, courage, and loyalty. She remains faithful even when she is afraid of what the future holds. As with her counterparts in Goblin Market and Candide, Imoinda is the exemplification of female nobility and courage.

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