Sunday, December 18, 2011

Reading Response: Maria or the Wrongs of Woman

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In the end of Maria or the Wrongs of Woman, Maria is allowed to submit a statement of her behalf to the court. In this statement she attempts to justify her behavior by showing the unjust treatment she received by her husband. Maria also attempts to make a convincing social critique on the institute of marriage at the time. She feels that the laws and customs of marriage serve to enslave women. She as a woman had to overlook the faults and infidelities of her husband, and she tries to prove that he was indeed unfaithful to her. Maria finds that the witnesses refuse to come forward to corroborate he claims. In her statement she charges that marriage puts an undue burden on the weaker shoulders of women by placing them in a totally dependant position. She believes that there are certain extreme situations that should legally allow a woman to divorce her husband. She then goes into detail about her husband’s attempts to use her to borrow money from her wealthy uncle and how he eventually tries to sell her to one of his friends.

In her arguments to the court she speaks of the virtues of women which consist of submission, chastity, and forgiveness. She is particularly angered by this set of traits that society considers essential to every virtuous woman. She states that she has pardoned her husband for what he did to her but she resents the fact that in the eyes of the law and society as well, she is still expected to love him and be faithful to him, even after he had deprived her of love and affection.

The arguments that she makes to the court are quite convincing. Although there are some flaws in her statements, for the most part her arguments are convincing because they are well thought out and passionate. She believes strongly in what she is saying because in her eyes she is a living example of the oppression that women endure at the hands of their husbands. Maria is also very well spoken and this is evident in her writing which happens to be quite eloquent. The most plausible argument in her statements is the idea that women are reduced to nd class citizens. “I yet submitted to the rigid laws which enslave women, obeyed the man whom I could no longer love. Whether the duties of the state are reciprocal I mean not to discuss” (pg 10). This quote outlines the sentiment that expressed throughout Maria’s statement. By looking at the description of her life with her husband, this description of marriage is valid in the life of Maria and many of the other women of the time.

There are some flaws in the arguments that Maria outlines in her statement to the court. She is very emotional and passionate in her writings as I have already stated but she lacks evidence that will vouch for her in court. Emotional arguments do not stand up very well in court without evidence to support it. She stated that she was unable to find witnesses that would agree to say that her husband had indeed cheated on her. She also describes how her husband had attempted to sell her to a friend; unfortunately she allows the incriminating note to be burned, leaving Maria without proof of this claim. This is the least plausible aspect of her arguments to the court. She desires the court to sympathize with her situation but she is unable to provide evidence to support the claim that Mr. Venables is the monster she believes him to be.

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Maria in her argument successfully outlines the subservient place of women in society. Knowing women’s place in the legal system at the time she was in a place where she had to be extremely prepared to defend herself in court. I believe that it was wise for her to appear in court at the time because no one would have been able to tell the story of her life better than her. The fact that she lacked evidence to support her claims was damaging because in the eyes of the judge she did not support her claims with her passionate and highly emotional statement, “If women were allowed to plead their feelings as an excuse or palliation of infidelity, it was opening a flood gate for immorality” (pg 1). No matter how eloquent her statement to the court is, she is unable to escape the fact that she is a woman. The burden of proof is almost doubly hard on her in proving herself innocent. She is unable to exonerate herself in court but the fact that she was able to speak for herself in court does serve as a victory for women. The arguments of her statement echo the sentiments of women at the time who are without a voice.

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