The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft Critical Essays

Claire Tomalin


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Tomalin relates the details of Wollstonecraft’s tempestuous life in a direct and systematic manner, while at the same time enlivening the narrative with observations about the situations in which Wollstonecraft often found herself. For the young adult reader, Tomalin’s method of weaving the historical facts of Wollstonecraft’s life with insightful interpretations and explanations creates a text that is both informative and accessible.

As a subject of biography, Wollstonecraft’s life offers a vehicle for young readers to investigate society’s changing attitudes toward the treatment of women. Even by modern standards, Wollstonecraft led an unconventional life-style. In her writings, she insisted that women be given equal opportunities to develop intellectually and to pursue careers, events that would enable women to gain some measure of independence in a male-dominated society. She advocated that women should take an interest in politics and push for the possibility of parliamentary representation.

Although Wollstonecraft’s importance as a feminist leader is undisputed, Tomalin refuses to stereotype or diminish her characterization. The author’s depiction cen-ters on Wollstonecraft as a woman who knows her own mind and who maintains her sense of self in the face of difficulties.

At the age of twenty-nine, Wollstonecraft became involved with the Swedish artist Henry Fuseli, who was forty-seven years old and married at the time. The frustration that she must have experienced as the affair dragged on sets the tone for chapter 7. In an action that suggests obsessive behavior, Wollstonecraft proposed to...

(The entire section is 674 words.)