The Book of the City of Ladies
Christine de Pizan’s novel, “The Book of the City of Ladies” serves as a defense against the general perceptions of women, which the society considers depraved. Through the assistance of Lady Rectitude, Lady Justice and Lady Reason, Christine builds an allegorical city using stories of women whom their lives disprove the universal misconceptions about females. This novel acts as not only historical, but also mythological collections of narratives praising women, as well as contrasting universal believes about them (Jansen, 2011). This essay discusses the themes in The Book of the City of Ladies.
While Christine is reading Mathelou’s book, she falls to desolation when she realizes of the harsh representation of women as immoral beings. As a result, she is visited by three ladies: Lady Rectitude, Lady Justice and Lady Reason. Lady reason relates narratives about exemplary women and their lives to aid Christine to construct a strong foundation for the city. Lady Rectitude argues about prophetesses and centers on faithful daughters and wives. Rectitude celebrates the goodness that women have presented the world and assert that women must possess equal access to education just like men. Also, Rectitude centers on the significance of chastity and condemns the menace of rape. She claims that men have a high likelihood to be indecisive in love. Rectitude asserts that honesty, generosity and integrity gain more distinction for women as compared to physical attractiveness. On the other hand, Lady Justice narrates of the women that were martyred and tortured as a result of their faith in Christianity and Jesus Christ (Pizan, 1999).
One of the key themes presented in this novel is misrepresentations vs. truth. Christine tries to shed away the distortion layers and misrepresentation in order to present an exact portrait of the fundamental, as well as true nature of women. The approach used by Christine by her line of questions offers voice to the various untruths and opinions men effect in the society in an attempt to expose them with the stories and oration of virtues. Christine address directly the issue when lady Reason asserts that in contrast to the popular belief man was not formed in God’s image as in the precise physical likeness. Lady reason asserts that all human beings, both women and men, share the replication of the essential nature of God and that there exists a spiritual similarity and likeness (Dufresne, 2012).
There are many misrepresentations regarding women that Christine addresses in her novel. Men slander women and the three ladies offer the reason and assert against such injustice. Women are perceived as naturally weak-mined, childish, gluttonous, inferior, unintelligent and incompetent of good judgment. On the other hand, authority declares that female children appear as a result of the weakness in a woman’s womb. Women are perceived as gossips, avaricious, unfaithful and inconstant. Many claims are made that the reason women dress is for attention and that marriage is insufferable since wives dislike scholarly and old husbands. Supposedly, fewer women are chaste, and women bring evil to the world. Lady Rectitude, Lady Justice and Lady Reason contradict such misconceptions with narratives about the lives of women that prove contrary to the fierce lies men tell about women. According to Reason, God never disapproved females more that He did male (Aydoydu, 2012).
Women are the subject of repression in various forms especially in the stern regulation of their morals and the roles there are expected to accomplish in society. Christine attests that women were turned to sexual subordinates, transformed and objectified to desire sources, which alternatively pleased and tempted men. Such perceptions resulted in the pervasive rape acceptance. On the other hand, Lady Justice cites many cases of holy women who underwent martyrdom. Such women were the subject of harsh physical trails and sexual abuse. Women were tortured, beaten and burned. What was constant and allowed such women to tolerate severe punishments was their extremely developed spirituality and strong connection with God. As a result, Christine argues that it is the intangible inner qualities such as generosity, virtue, intelligence and constancy that mark an individual and not the limitations, vulnerabilities and the attributes of the body (Grant, 1999).
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Christine shows the tight control that men have over the lives of women and their representations. She tries to restore and reclaim the image of her sex, turning widespread misconceptions. One of the most popular misconceptions was the dependency and helplessness of women. Christine asserts that there exists no unique quality reserved for only one sex and which is missing from the other. She is not attempting to lift up women at men’s expense; however, she is gesturing to the sex equality. Christine tries to get rid of the professed differences among women and men to highlight the virtues and present a common human experience portrait (Lawson, 2003).
Christine’s novel lays a foundation for a female-centered theology that redefines perceptions about virtue. Rectitude, Justice and Reason represent three spirits who are God’s daughters, and they help the protagonist Christine understand virtue and religion to feminists and non-misogynistic perceptions. Furthermore, the three spirits aid Christine in constructing a city where it is possible to establish a new religion. In the beginning if the text, she laments of her female form since she feels that being a woman makes her less service to God. This expression suggests that Christine’s initial understanding of religion and virtue is that it cannot encompass women since they are inferior as compared to men. However, by interacting with the spirits, Christine attains a new understanding about the virtue of women. In addition, the interaction with the spirits asserts that women can receive messages and communicate with God (Jansen, 2011).
The three spirits represent the ideas and theology of Christine about virtue. Reason helps people in doing good work and applies strong architecture to construct the city. Rectitude is a representation of right doing and right thinking and encourages human beings to do the right things, assists the innocent and the poor and protects and defends God’s servants. On the other hand, Justice ascertains that every human being gets the evil or the good that she or he deserves. The three spirits motivate Christine through creating new Bible interpretations, as well as explaining Christine’s discourse by examination of motives and faults of the men’s criticism towards women. Furthermore, the spirits encourage Christine through reminding her of strong women before her. In addition, the spirits inform Christine that there is no way in nature whereby men attack women because of their sex identity and it is not natural. This suggests that the three spirits and Christine reason that men blame women only as a result of their faults. In challenging the criticism of the nature of women as lecherous and gluttonous, the spirits offer an example of many men who spend all their fortune on drinking and leave their families and wives without food. Also, the spirits evoke the guilt that was placed on women due to Eve’s misdeed, which spurned humankind’s fall. They remind Christine of the greater good that was brought to humankind by Virgin Mary (Aydoydu, 2012).
Christine’s work can be deemed to be female centered-theology and proposes that men are not advanced because the souls of female and male are equal. The Bible asserts that a man was created in the image of God implying humankind in general. Moreover, the spirits assert against the perceptions that the bodies of women are made from the deprived substances by saying women were made from men who in turn were created by God. In this case, Reason proves that females cannot be despicable. On the other hand, the three spirits refute women’s criticism, which blames women for being child-like and servile. They inform Christine that she portrays the kindness and tenderness of women and not their weakness (Dufresne, 2012).
In the novel, Christine is successful in defending the virtue of women against hierarchical prejudices. There is something unique about Pizan’s city, and that is the concept of permanence that is connected to it. In addition, the divine women promise their helper the sustainability of the city even after being attacked and stormed. The city is bound to endure forever. It is also considered to be a stronghold for virtuous women (Grant, 1999).
The City of Ladies can also be described as the misnomer just as the majority of the envisioned worlds. The city is not meant for any female but the special ones. Rules are set by the three divine ladies, and they dictate who should enter the city. However, women with bad reputations are not allowed to enter the city. The dissolute, evil and perverted women are represented by dirty, black and uneven stones that get systematically removed early from the site during the construction process. Alternatively, there is a hierarchy related to women from every sector, time, as well as different degrees of reality are to reside in the city. The holy ladies admit that they will offer a Queen whom Christine later reveals to be Virgin Mary. This queen serves to remind citizens of how they ought to behave (Pizan, 1999).
It is vital to note the way women who adore virtue, glory and praise acquire this city. The city is like a prize and gift for the women’s virtuous comportment. In addition, the way the city is presented to the divine women; it gets accompanied by a big deal of protagonist advice that is sermon-like. The protagonist feels the urgency to counsel them into behaving well as opposed to misusing the gift presented to them. By doing this, she places herself on a higher level than the women. Nevertheless, the city is open for every deserving woman to find refuge and sanction (Lawson, 2003).
As the narrative begins, Christine appears to be inquisitive and confused. However, there is a striking difference towards the end because she changes and becomes advising and self-assured. This transformation in mind demonstrates a change contingent that is associated with the city construction. For instance, Christine held a forum whereby she asked the three divine women questions and the responses she received made her gain more insight on some issues that were not clear to her (Lawson, 2003).
According to Christine, transforming the world implied building a new world. She imagines developing a new private world meant for only virtuous women. Christine is most prejudiced on the rights of women. She asserts that all women whether noble or lower class must be well informed regarding all aspects and be watchful in defending their chastity and honor against their enemies, who are men. Female is not blunt complementary to men and thus women are not afraid of exposing their offensive behavior or criticize their constant woman-bashing (Grant, 1999).
Christine frames her question in a manner that prevents men from refuting responsibility for their persistent actions. She clearly sustains that men make decisions that are conscious and men must be personally held responsible for their offences towards and unfair grievances with women. The supporting message from Christine is directly addressed to women and indirectly appeals to men not for support but admonishment. Christine takes an approach that is straightforward and openly rebukes men. She constantly attests to the superior intellect of women and the injustice of women being denied the chance to learn. Christine tries to expose the reality of the world where she lives. She deems it to be a prohibitive place where there is female subordination, as well as ruthless control by men (Lawson, 2003).
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In conclusion, one of the key themes presented in this novel is misrepresentations vs. truth. Christine tries to shed away the distortion layers and misrepresentation in order to present an exact portrait of the essential, as well as true nature of women. Women are perceived as naturally weak-mined, childish, gluttonous, inferior, unintelligent and incompetent of good judgment. Women are the subject of repression in several forms more especially in the stern regulation of their morals, and the roles there are expected to accomplish in society. Christine attests that women were turned to sexual subordinates, transformed and objectified to desire sources, which alternatively pleased and tempted men. Christine argues that it is the intangible inner qualities such as generosity, virtue, intelligence and constancy that mark an individual and not the limitations, vulnerabilities and the attributes of the body. Christine shows the tight control that men have over the lives of women and their representations. She tries to restore and reclaim the image of her sex, turning widespread misconceptions. One of the most popular misconceptions was the dependency and helplessness of women. Christine’s novel lays a foundation for a female-centered theology that redefines perceptions about virtue. Christine is most prejudiced on the rights of women. She clearly sustains that men make decisions that are conscious and must be personally held responsible for their offences towards unfair grievances of women. Christine takes an approach that is straightforward and openly rebukes men.