Study Guide

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Appearances

By Mary Wollstonecraft

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Wollstonecraft states as a matter of fact in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman that women in her time care deeply about their appearances. But this preoccupation with appearances makes total sense, considering that society denies these women a good education and any opportunity to gain influence in the public realm. The only power these women have is to marry rich and to control their husbands using their beauty. The major problem here is that these women will never learn to improve themselves or to think more critically about their world because all care about is being pretty and popular.

Questions About Appearances

  1. For Wollstonecraft, is there anything redeeming about wanting to look pretty? If so, what?
  2. What is the biggest problem with women's obsession over their appearance? How does it negatively affect society as a whole?
  3. Who is responsible for women's obsession with appearances? How can they change this obsession?
  4. What is the best way for society to help women focus on more important things than physical beauty?

Chew on This

In Vindication, Wollstonecraft thinks that appearances are important… just not as important as the power of reason.

In Vindication, Wollstonecraft shows us that there is a fundamental difference between style and substance. Style is on the outside and substance is on the inside. Period.

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