Mary Condela Reading Blog #2-CharlotteTemple
Strength in Shame
“Charlotte Temple” by Susanna Rowson establishes its premise on a contradictory notion. Rowson repeatedly emphasizes the weakness of women, especially regarding men. However, the point of her novel is to entreaty women to be strong against male seducers or risk being ostracized. This inherent weakness in women is described when Rowson articulates, “Her poor mother, weakened by illness and the struggles of the preceding night, was not able to support this shock: gasping for breath, her looks wild and haggard, she reached the apartment where they had carried her dying son” (Rowson 15). Although this reaction seems completely called for in these circumstances, it contrasts with her son’s masculine response of revenge. Also, the portrayed hysterical woman is shown to be selfish when she wants to end her own life and leave behind her daughter which ultimately happens. Also, the delicateness of Charlotte is shown when she is sick and weak on the ship journeying to America. Men are shown to have faults too as when Rowson describes Belcour as being a malignant man. Montraville is also shown to be too hasty in his actions. However, these faults do not label these men as deviant as women are when they make a mistake. The book focuses on a naïve protagonist who is easily led astray to depart from her own values. This slight then wrecks her life and her chance to be happy.
However, the example of this weak woman is meant to keep other women resolute and strong involving their relationships with men. This power that they must exert over themselves to resist temptation evidently is supposed to stem from feminine shame. Rowson writes, “but certain I am, that when once a woman has stifled the sense of shame in her own bosom… will spare no pains to bring down innocence and beauty to the shocking level with herself” (Rowson 25). Not only are women expected to control their emotions in order to be faultless, they are also deemed doomed once they slip up once. Also, women must not only have the strength (which is really meekness) to ward off men, but also to renounce other women. This strict way of life does not apply to men who maintain their status despite many wrongs committed. This is seen when Charlotte is stuck with a baby that Montraville has no duty to help raise. The station of women is exemplified perfectly when Rowson states, “when once a woman has forgot the respect due to herself, by yielding to the solicitations of illicit love, they lose all their consequence, even in the eyes of the man whose art has betrayed them” (Rowson 46).