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Quotes

Quote #1

How shall I describe the person I once was? At the age of thirteen I was very much a girl, having not yet begun to take the shape, much less the heart, of a woman. Still, my family dressed me as a young woman, bonnet covering my beautiful hair, full skirts, high button shoes, you may be sure, white gloves. I certainly wanted to be a lady. It was not just my ambition; it was my destiny. I embraced it wholly, gladly, with not an untoward thought of anything else. (Preface.3)

At age thirteen Charlotte is, much like a Britney Spears song, "not a girl, not yet a woman." As her body has yet to bloom, Charlotte's first ideas about what it means to be feminine have a whole lot to do with clothing. Skirts! Shoes! Gloves! You get the picture. This passage also sets up the very important distinction between gender and sex. Sex has to do with biology (Charlotte's actual body is female), while gender is socially constructed (that is, Charlotte can put on clothes and become feminine).

Quote #2

Never mind that my dress – having been worn for four days – was creased and misshapen, my white gloves a sodden gray. Never mind that my fine hair must have been hanging like a horse's tail, in almost complete disarray. With all eyes upon us as we crossed the ship's waist to the bowsprit and figurehead, I felt like a princess being led to her throne. (6.1)

Charlotte isn't able to keep up her feminine appearance (her clothes are nasty at this point), yet she stills feels like a lady. A princess, even! But why? Is it because of the big strong captain who's leading her out on the deck? (Dashing, isn't he?) What does that say about what it means to be a woman, at least in Charlotte's mind?

Quote #3

Captain Jaggery and Mr. Zachariah! Such unlike men! And yet, quite suddenly I was struck by the thought that each of them, in his own way, was courting me.

Courting me! I could not help but smile. Well no, not courting in the real sense. But surely courting me for friendship.

What a queer notion! But I must confess, it filled me with smug pleasure. (7.30-7.32)

Charlotte thinks of Captain Jaggery and Zachariah as her would-be suitors (creepy), and what's more, she totally gets pleasure out of this (creepy squared). Is Charlotte's relationship with each man about power in some way? What stops her from seeing the captain or Zachariah as her equal?

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