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Romanticism Essay

Romantics privileged rejection of social constraints, change

and freedom of thought. Discuss this statement with
reference to M.W and one related text.
Romantics opposed the social constraints on individual self-determination
and free thought, advocating for reform in such paradigms to better late
18th and early 19th century Europe. Mary Wollstonecrafts essay A
Vindication on The Rights of Woman (1792) challenges traditional
convention, urging for the physical and spiritual emancipation of all
individuals through reason and education reform. Shelleys poem Masque
of Anarchy (1819) also criticises ascribed social identities under
hierarchal rule, exposing how his political ideals of liberty and
egalitarianism are undermined under unjust and abusive forms of
authority. Both texts argue for the elevation of the individual in society
and their liberation from social and political restraints, reflecting Romantic
ideals of idealism and individualism.
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman exposes how oppressive rule can
hinder social advancement by undermining the egalitarian notions of
equal opportunity and individual freedom. Wollstonecraft aligns herself
with the values of the French Revolution; Liberty, equality and
fraternity, echoing the early Romantic ethos of individual free will over
conformity to tradition. Wollstonecraft condemns the metaphorical
wretchedness that has flowed from hereditary honours, riches and
honours, immediately establishing how hierarchal power systems
compromise the human capacity for the Enlightenment ideals of reason
and virtue. The absolutism all power intoxicates man reinforces the
corruptive nature of social power derived from birthright and wealth on
reason and morality. According to Wollstonecraft, hierarchal figures
constrict the the attainment of either wisdom of virtue.
Individuals bound by power structures cannot exercise
independent thought, which she highlights through the figurative
description of the military in moved by demand, like waves of
the sea, for the strong wind of authority pushes. The emotive
language of servility in absolute monarchies destroys all strength of
character further reinforces that a blind adherence to authority cripples
any ability for self-determination, therefore, undermining an individuals
intellectual independence. However, with the capacity to rise above the
state in which sensation produced brutal ease, man is urged to
symbolically emancipate himself from slavery...under the bondage of
ignorance. The empathic tone in let their faculties have room to unfold
and their virtues to gain strength highlights the ability to mankind to
improve their virtue and exercise reason to improved human experience.
In the pursuit of a truly egalitarian and fair society, Wollstonecraft asserts
that the more equality there is established between men, the more virtue
and happiness will reign, emphasising the importance of equal

opportunity to advance society through allowing all individuals to attain

virtue. As literary critic Sue Chaplain responds in Defining Romanticism
(1990), Wollstonecrafts social ideals are epitomised by a political fervour
that strove to challenge the bounds of tradition and power in the name of
a more democratic franchise. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
upholds the power of man to triumph over corrupted traditional power
structures in the pursuit of individual liberty and virtue.
Wollstonecraft extends this logic to women likewise, by
restricting women to be metaphoric gentle, domestic brutes,
she argues women are not allowed to have sufficient strength of
mind to acquire virtue

Likewise, Shelleys A Masque of Anarchy urges for the liberation of the

individual from corrupted forms of hierarchal governance to achieve free
will. Angered by the violent suppression of political reformists in the
Peterloo massacres of 1819, Shelley criticises the corrupt and immoral
suppression of suppression of individualism under the British monarchy.
The biblical allusion of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse in
Last came Anarchy: he rode on a white horse, splashed in blood
which highlights the present oppressive state of society, offering
a false sense of freedom and challenging the revolutionary ideal
of Liberty. The self-indulgent and dismissive rule of this tyrant is
established through metaphor the prison halls of wealth and fashion
where some few feel such compassion, juxtaposing with the plight of the
people who groan and toil and wail. Like Wollstonecraft, Shelley
condemns the suppression of individual spirit and free-will in his
metaphor, tis to be a slave in soul, to hold no control over your own wills
. However, repetition in common wants and common cares which sows
the human heart emphasises the unification of the masses as guided by
their common desire for freedom and virtue. Ultimately, in the simile Rise
like lions after slumber... Shake your chains to earth like dew, he calls
upon the people to uprise against the oppression of tyranny and establish
a new society based on Liberty, justice and freedom. Both
Wollstonecraft and Shelley call for political reform of society based upon
renewed their Romantic values of freedom and individualism.
A Vindication conveys the Romantic ideals of the perfectibility of the
human experience.
As we are images of God, We all have the ability for virtue and to
exercise reason and to better ourself
All have the power to improve ourselves and by extension our
Whilst Wollstonecraft echoes the Enlightenment ideals of the
improvability of virtue and reason, she remains a Romantic stance by

promoting education reform as a vehicle for social advancement. She

advocates universal access to education to slowly sharpen the senses,
form the temper, regulate the passions and to shape the human mind.
She reasons that as Divine beings created under with the capacity to
understand and influence our experiences, all humans, and women by
extension have the ability to look into herself and cultivate her dormant
faculties. If education is reformed so that it is no longer a privilege
limited to the wealth aristocracy, she suggests in her absolutist
statement, reason is the simple power of improvement, that mankind
will be again to rise above a state of brutal ease. Indeed, the positive
connotations of intellect to attain sovereignty... to render a rational
creature useful to others, conveys the significance of reason and
education in allowing the individual to fulfil their civil roles. The
detrimental effects of refuting female education are that they have their
attentions naturally drawn away from the interest of the whole
community, and thus, are unable to contribute usefully to the betterment
of society. Wollstonecraft argues through the oppressive images of
entrapment in slavery chains the chains the soul...under the bondage of
ignorance, that a lack of education will degrade society as it hinders the
possibility of acquiring Divine perfection. Thus, Wollstonecraft embodies
Romantic thinking in advocating for universal access of education as a
vehicle for social change and the betterment of society.
Shelley affirms the Romantic values of idealism embodied in
Wollstonecrafts essay, suggesting that society is dynamic and can be
continually improved with human reason and experience. The metaphor
father time is wait and gray with waiting for a better day, exemplifies
the disillusionment of the British after continual successions of brutal
hierarchal rule. However, Shelley envisions a contrasting society with
clothes, and fire... for the trampled multitude, with imagery of fire and
warmth emphasising the possibility of an improved human experience.
The wistful tone in freemen never Dream that God will damn forever,
reinforces his view that society and human experience can continually
progress towards a more liberal and fair environment. Both Shelley and
Wollstonecraft suggest notions of societal advancement through catalysts
of individual development. Shelley presents the importance political
thought which can propel progress in society demonstrated in the
imagery of enlightenment through knowledge in, Science, Poetry
and Thought are thy lamps, similar to how Wollstonecraft bases
her argument on the Enlightenment ideals of rationality and
Ultimately, he urges his people to stay strong in the face of adversity, to
Stand calm and resolute, with folded arms and steady eyes, for the
British people to unite in their strength and fight for a better future.
Wollstonecraft and Shelleys rejection of social constraints that repressed
individual freedom of thought, and call for changing the social constructs

of patriarchy and monarchy thus embody the core ideals of the

Romanticism, encapsulating its favour of individualism and idealism.