The Caged Bird

Lovelaces letter to Belford, gives an all around violent, cruel and tortueous visage of his attitudes towards women. Though we see these sentiments from Lovelace throughout the novel, I believe his letter dated May 3rd (pg. 318-319) gives a summarization of his general character. “We begin, when Boys, with Birds; and, when grown up, go on to Women; and both, perhaps, in turn, experience our sportive crutely.”  To Lovelace his perserverence of Clarissa is nothing more than a glorified hunt. She is prey, and he views himself as the hunter.  Lovelaces discourse on the capture and breaking of the bird, explain how he plans to deal with Clarissa.  Though he believes that he will eventually be able to break Clarissa, as he had the bird. The bird, “that is all soul”, meets with one of two ends.  This passage foreshadows Clarissa future quite well.

“How, at first, refusing all sustenance, it beats and bruises itself against its wires, till it makes its gay plumage fly about, and overspread its well-secured cage. Now it gets out its head; sticking only at its beautiful shoulders; edly perched, with meditating eyes, first surveys, and then attempts, its wired canopy.  As it gets breath, with renewed rage, it beats and bruises again its pretty head and sides, bites the wires, and pecks at the fingers of its delighted tamer. Till at last, finding its efforts ineffectual, quite tired and breathless, it lays itself down, and pants at the bottom of the cage, seeming to bemoan its cruel fate, and forfeited liberty. And after a few days its struggles to escape still diminishing as it finds it to no purpose to attempt it, its new habitation becomes familiar; and it hops about from perch to perch, resumes its wonted chearfulness, and every day sings a song to amuse itself, and reward its keeper.  Now, let me tell thee, that I have known a Bird actually starve itself, and die with grief, at its being caught and caged. But never did I meet with a Woman, who was so silly.”

This passage is filled with the cruel assumption that woman are to have their spirits broken.  We also saw this type of psychological breaking in many of the other novels that we’ve read this semester. Olaudah Equiano and Mary Prince are both packed full of this type of spiritual breaking.  Subjectivity based on race and gender are prominent themes in all of these works, but it also is not a subject that is relicated only to the past.  We still see the powerful try to control those they view as weaker than themselves, based on social, academic, religious, and racial aspects.

In Olaudah Equiano, Mary Prince, and Clarissa we see the use of the body to break the spirit. In all of the literary peices, the characters a subjected to abuses upon their bodies in an attempt of those holding power over them to break them on a psychological level.  It seems a cruel and dispicable way to treat any living being. Through his rant on the bird, Lovelace gives a great deal about his character away in a few short pages.  We see an evil side of him that holds no sentimental capability beyond that of the “hunt”.





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