In the poem "From the Antique" by Christina Rossetti, what are some of the main themes relating to the concept of gender roles and what literary devices are being used to exemplify this?

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The poem clearly comments that women have a "doubly blank" life because of their "lot," that is, their role in life. Rossetti plays on the "doubly" concept by using the literary device of repetition by repeating "I wish" in the next line. Although the poem does not specify what about the gender role of women is so onerous, the speaker at first attributes a woman's worth to about half that of a man's, since a woman's lot is "doubly blank." The poem was not published until after Rossetti's death, but it was written in 1854. Looking at Rossetti's personal life, one can understand the depressing tone of a poem coming out of this period of time. Rossetti's father, with whom she lived, had become very ill in 1843, and the family's financial fortunes suffered greatly after that. In 1853 - 1854, Rossetti and her mother started a day school to try to support the family, but they were not successful and had to be supported by Christina's brother William for the rest of their lives. In 1854, Rossetti's father died. Also in 1854, Rossetti had applied to work with Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War, but she was not accepted. Instead, she took over providing assistance to the sick and poor in her parish. This activity would have given her a chance to see women in straits even more dire than her own. In addition, the hypocrisy of Victorian London surrounding sexual relationships would have been evident. A man could have a mistress without tarnishing his reputation, as Christina's brother Dante did, but the woman who was the mistress suffered great stigma, as Lizzie Siddall, Dante's model and mistress, did. 

Because of these hardships that made women feel the weariness of the world to a greater extent than their male counterparts, the speaker in the poem goes on to say that instead of choosing to be a man, she would rather be "nothing at all." Here the poet uses hyperbole to suggest that a woman is less than nothing. She adds two similes to reinforce the hyperbole: a woman is less than "a grain of dust" or a "drop of water." In the third stanza, she uses interesting sound devices, especially alliteration, to create an idyllic scene--a happy world that through irony emphasizes the speaker's dark mood. She continues with hyperbole, positing that no one would miss her, and ends with a metaphor, equating herself to nothing. The poem starkly portrays the alienation the speaker feels as a woman in Victorian England.

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