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Virgin Luxuries Analysis Essay

Question 1 What relationships of power are featured in “Virginian Luxuries” (Document 1)? Two relationships of power are depicted in the painting entitled “Virgin Luxuries”: sexual power and physical power. In the first panel of the painting, a well dressed white man embraces a female African-American woman, presumably a slave. The way in which enslaved woman gazes admiringly – somewhat praisingly – into the white man’s eyes and the way in which she submissively entwines herself around him illustrates the white man’s sexual power over the black woman.

In a parallel scene, a white slave owner is shown aggressively beating his slave with a cane. The white man’s expression is vivid and his stance is open and menacing. By contrast, the black man is virtually faceless, positioned with his back to the audience, and his hands held upwards in fear. These elements combined epitomizes the physical power that the white man possessed over the black slave. How are unequal power relationships reflected in Tocqueville’s distinctions between the three races (Document 2)?

In his social analysis entitled “Democracy in America”, Alexis de Tocqueville distinguishes three races of humans that reside in the United States: the white European, the Negro and the Indian. He describes the white man as one who is superior in “intelligence, in power and in enjoyment”. By contrast, the Negro and Indian as victims of white tyranny. Tocqueville describes the black oppression as one that has stripped the black man of his liberty, identity, and his power of thought; so much so, that he forgets the rights and privileges that were promised to him by the land on which he resides.

He comes to admire his tyrants more than he hates them and to enjoy his servility and “all the privileges of his debasement”. According to Tocqueville, the plight of the Indian tribes is no less fatal than that of the African-Americans, though its effects are different. Savage nations are controlled, not by physical oppression, but by opinion and custom. The Europeans chased the Natives from their land, dispersed them from their families and stripped them from their traditions.

Tocqueville argues that while the Natives were a prosperous and civilized people before colonization, white oppression made them more barbarous, savage and wretched: “European tyranny rendered them more disorderly and less civilized than before”. Tocqueville makes a notable and interesting distinction: while the Negroes’ suffering is related to their servility and racial insecurity, the Natives’ suffering is a consequence of their inflated pride and “pretended nobility of their origins. ” What future does Tocqueville predict for these groups of people and why?

Tocqueville predicts that as Europeans continue pushing the frontiers of western migration to the Pacific coast, the natives are doomed to perish: “that race of men will have ceased to exist. ” On the other hand, the Negro population may long remain slaves without complaining however once they begin to reach the status of freemen, they will revolt against white tyranny in pursuit of their basic civil rights. Based upon your own knowledge, how accurate do you believe Tocqueville’s observations and predictions were?

Tocqueville’s predictions were notably accurate: by the end of the western migration movement that lasted nearly a century, the Indian population that once spanned over all of North America was reduced to a meager 250,000 living Indians (Christine Haug, Victoriana Magazine, “Native American Tribes & U. S. Government”, Feb. 2008) His predictions on the fate of the African American population was also accurate; by the end of the 18th century, African Americans were freed from slavery and spent the subsequent century fighting for their basic rights in what became the African American Civil rights movement.

Question 2 What relationships of power are featured in “The Discord” (Document 3)? There are two distinguishable relationships of power illustrated in “The Discord”: the male and female power struggle, and the divine power. The gender power struggle is depicted in the foreground. A man and a woman, presumably spouses, tug over a pair of pants, the quintessential symbol of male power and dominance, particularly in 19th century America, where the traditional costume for women was the Victorian gown.

By quarrelling over the pair of pants, the man and the woman metaphorically dispute for authority and control in a male-dominated society. While the husband argues that the “man ought always to be the ruler”, his wife retorts that women were not born to “obey these contemptible creature called men”. There is a clear gender divide that is partitioned by the trousers: the females occupy the right side, the males occupy the left. Each spouse is supported by a crew of the same gender that comprises one adult and one child.

The adults offer zealous encouragement; the male bystander pleads the husband to “fight courageous for sovereign authority”. On the other hand, the female bystander cheers the wife: “Bravo Sarah! Stick to them, it is only us, which ought to rule and to whom the pants fit the best. ” These adults serve to echo the debates of the larger socio-political conflict surrounding the women’s rights movement. The children on either side of the gender partition represent the moral and marital obligations that each spouse owes to one another.

The young boy begs his mother ““Oh Mamma please leave my Papa his Pants! ” and the young girl urges her father to “let go! ” and to “be gallant”. In the background above the quarreling scene is a celestial and almighty figure that floats on a cloud above the rest, adorned in angel wings and carrying two trumpets blowing fire. The divine figure commands both of the quarrelers to stand firm in their arguments, ordering the man to “keep on [his] hold” and encouraging the woman to “hold fast”.

How does the Declaration of Sentiments (Document 4) reveal the nature of gender relationships in nineteenth century America? The Declaration of Sentiments draws direct inspiration from the Declaration of Independence, echoing the first words: “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary…” By using the Declaration of Independence as a template for her speech, Elizabeth Cady Stanton subliminally criticizes the underlying hypocrisy of the literature that promised all citizens equal opportunity in their pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.

She recreates the Declaration of Independence, this time proposing a resolution against the tyranny of man over woman: “ The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of absolute tyranny over her. ” Throughout her address, Stanton reveals the nature of male and female relationships as one in which the man “deprives [the woman] of the first right of a citizen”, one in which the man has taken from “her all right to property”, and one in which he “denied her the facilities of obtaining a thorough education. Based upon your knowledge of this time period, do you agree with these sentiments, why or why not? Based on my knowledge of women’s status in the early republic, I agree with the sentiments outlined in Stanton’s Declaration. The Anglo-American view of women was embedded in antiquated and conservative English customs that deprived women from their personhood.

A legal doctrine, called “feme covert” dictated that, once married, a woman’s civic duty was assumed entirely by her husband, making the woman virtually invisible in the eyes of the law. After marriage, a woman’s property, wages, and even children legally belonged to the husband. Stanton expresses her dismay of these principles in her Declaration: “He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead. ” Single adult women, though they could still perform independent legal duties (i. e. ay taxes, make contracts, own property), still faced civic and political limitations. They could not vote, serve in juries or practice law. And though they could work, their job prospects were scarce and low paying. Most importantly, however, women, married and unmarried, could not vote. In her address Stanton condemns that women are “forced to submit to laws, in the formation of which [they] had no voice. ” It is in this same Declaration, that she proposes the legalization of women’s suffrage.

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