Pages: 208 pages
Published: April 1, 2009 (First published 1788)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Genre: Fiction, Women’s Studies
Landmark novel by an early pioneer of women’s rights
In this classic feminist text, the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman expresses her egalitarian social philosophy in the form of fiction. This story of a woman imprisoned in an asylum by her abusive husband offers a powerful indictment of women’s lowly status in eighteenth-century England.
Mary Wollstonecraft was definitely one of the many women of the 18th century who was outside of her own time. Her revolutionary writing may have been frowned upon most in the 18th century, but her thoughts and ideas helped establish feminist movement to what it is today. Wollstonecraft really knows how to captivate her readers and get her message across. She makes readers really think about the world around them. You can see where Mary Shelley got her talent.
After reading her most popular work The Vindication of the Rights of Woman, I was so enamoured with her words and ideals that I found myself on the search for more of her writings. I searched for more of her writings and lo and behold, I discovered this small little treasure in a used bookstore.
Mary and The Wrongs of Woman are both amazingly well written short stories. Mary story surrounds a unique heroine, whose original opinions and her opposition to the ways of traditional wisdom depict a woman as a genius, unconventional thought of the time. Instead of a genius being enriched by marriage,, Wollstonecraft portrays a heroine that has her genius brought down due to her marriage. Modern women will connect with Mary but Wollstonecraft created a character that goes against the sentimental heroine of the time. Mary can think for herself, through reading, partaking in nature walks and having close friendships. Mary tries to be independent but societal norms and conventional ways prevent her and in the end she remains in the chains she tried to break free.
However, the writing tended to be inconsistent and not as “flowy” compared to “A Vindication…” but Mary was just as enjoyable. The portrayal of the life of a 18th century woman felt real to me and I found myself comparing some of the novel’s ideals to reality. Mary was opinionated and try to find her own standing with her own two feet. How can no modern woman relate to that? Knowing what little I know about Wollstonecraft, there is no doubt in my mind that this is biographical. Wollstonecraft was an opinionated woman and tried to lead more independent life, free from the bonds of marriage. And because of these parallels, readers are given the rare chance of looking more into Wollstonecraft’s life and the type of woman she was.
The Wrongs of Woman was another great work by the feminist writer. Actually, I believe that it should be titled “The Wrongs of Women”, since it listed every wrong act that was done to women in this novel. But, the reader follows the story of one woman, Maria. Maria is imprisoned in an insane asylum by her husband. Through her imprisonment, she reads philosophical works and has enlightening conversations with another inmate, all while realizing the hardships women have to face in a patriarchal society. This story was better told than Mary and I was so engrossed until the very last page. The radical opinions of 18th century and the marriage institution beam from the pages. Like the heroine Mary, Maria is a strong, independent woman, whose struggles and perseverance make her try to topple any obstacle that stands in her way. Even through her imprisonment, she continues to educate herself and improve her well-being, all for the sake of her daughter.
If you are looking for a complete story, then this is not for you. Unfortunately, Wollstonecraft died before completing The Wrongs of Woman and her husband, William Goodwin, edited the work and provided the fragments so it can be published posthumously. But don’t let this unfinished work deter you. Combine with a powerful message and an honest examination of the social mores of the 18th century, The Wrongs of Woman makes for one fascinating read.
Please read these two amazing stories. If you enjoyed A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, you will have hard time not enjoying this one. In fact, it will give you a chance to discover more about the writer who gave birth to the author of Frankenstein.
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars