…the shameful house, the night,
The feeble blood, the heavy-headed grief,…
No need to bring their damnable drugged cup,
I told you that I waked up in the grave.
EBB tends to include rape and violence in her poetry. My brain immediately made links between Aurora Leigh and her poem, “The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point,” as I read these lines immediately, as they both discuss the issue of violence against women. EBB’s stand against rape is obvious, as they are neither are described with any glints of positivism, but the individual women’s responses to the product, the offspring, are entire opposites, and in both the victim dies. Why would she have both the child and the mother die in the “The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point,” while Marian does not die a literal death and her child remains?
Having Marian only suffer a metaphorical death, a death of the self, and having the offspring live, while the slave looses both her physical life and her child are EBB’s ways of pointing to different levels of sin in society. The sin acted against Marian is a lesser sin than that which the slave fell victim to, which produces graver consequences, but they both point their fingers in blame at the upper classes.
Marian and the slave are both from the lower rungs on the social ladder, but the slave is closest to the bottom, which makes the sin made against her greater, and thus the consequences graver. The former is the victim of the upper class while the slave is the victim of specifically the slave-owning and pro-slavery society. Lady Waldemar represents the upper class, as Marian represents the lower class. The men who raped the slave, whatever specific class they were from, whether from the same class as Lady Waldemar’s or slightly lower, they were above the slave’s, and closer to the top, so that they represent the upper classes. Their exact class rank might be vague, but the slave woman’s is not. She is not only from the bottom of the rungs, due to her poverty, but she is put even lower on the pyramid, because she is black. At least for Marian, she could have climbed higher through a marriage with someone from the top. The slave woman, on the other hand, might be able to change the amount of money in her purse, but cannot change the amount of color in her skin. A sin against someone as helpless as the slave woman is graver than that against someone who could have avoided it.
The sin against the slave is also greater, because two sins were acted upon her, personal selfishness and consumer greed, thus, the two victims, the mother and the child, unlike Marian, who is victim to only one form of greed. Lady Waldemar persuades Marian to not marry Romney so that she can have him as her own, displaying the selfishness behind the seemingly ideal beauty. She was greedy to satisfy her personal needs, the sexual desires of having a husband. She did not need him for wealth, as she had enough for herself. They are also representative of the society as a whole. Like society, the men used the slave woman for their own selfish commercial purposes. The men specifically satisfied their personal sexual purposes like Lady Waldemar. Their greed was two-faced, resulting in two individual faces to be buried in graves, while Marian only looses her soul, because only sexual greed was acted against her.
For more on the rest of Aurora Leigh and other literature go to: http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/562712/genna_rhoswen.html