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1. Background of the Paper

A. Basic Information

1.1 Title of Paper

Fern and Fuller: A Comparison

1.2 Student’s Name

1.3 Statement of Topic and Purpose

The paper is a perspective on the writings of Margaret Fuller

Ossoli and Fanny Fern who are nineteenth century women writers .
These particular literary works are selections from Woman in the
Nineteenth Century (1845) of Margaret Fuller and Aunt Hetty on
Matrimony and Working Girls of New York, both taken from by Fanny
Fern’s, Fern Leaves from Fanny’s Portfolio (1853).

B. Thesis statement

Woman inthe Nineteenth Century (1845) by Ma and excerpts from

Fern Leaves from Fanny’s Portfolio (1853) were written with women and

the conditions they had to contend with in mind. Despite these parallels,

these writings have stark differences in the tone and other aspects that in

no way lessen their relevance or that of their authors

II. Summary or description of the work

This paper analyzes the stated works of both writers in the context of
tone, content, purpose, and to whom it catered to. Specifically, comparison
and contrast of both writers’ works are included. Quotes from other critics
are also indicated to not to support or contradict the opinion of this writer but
to add variety in terms of perspective.

III. Conclusion in the General Context

The conclusion delves relatively more on the idea that what these
women have written are bold and exemplaryconsidering the times they lived.
Critical Paper

Fern and Fuller: A Comparison

Fuller and Fern both articulated the gender iniquity that was pervasive during

the nineteenth century. Their writings bore opinions that were far advanced

in a society that confined married women in the hearth and in the silence of

familial decision-making. Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845) and

excerpts from Fern Leaves from Fanny’s Portfolio (1853) were written with

women and the conditions they had to contend with in mind.

Despite some parallels in the subject matter, these writings have stark

differences in the tone and other aspects that in no way lessen their

relevance or that of their authors.

In Aunt Hetty on Matrimony and in The Working- Girls of New York Fern

painted a picture of despair laced with pessimistic undertones. Aunt Hetty on

Matrimony describes love as a farce, matrimony a humbug, and husbands as

domestic Napoleons or Neros. The folksy aunt’s outburst may be humorous in

a sense but the message is unmistakable: men are a selfish and conceited

lot and women hold the losing end of the marital rope. Yet even if this be

explained to women, Aunt Hetty is still pessimistic; “ . . .what’s the use of

talking, I’ll warrant that everyone of you will try it(marriage), the first chance

you get!” (Fern 876), In another descriptive piece, she decried the

abominable routine and working conditions of New York working girls of the

nineteenth century, “Young ? Alas! It is only in years that they are young”

(Fern 878). Some of Fern’s contemporaries cited her for her goody-goody
inanities. The first three-quarters of Fern Leaves may be too lachrymose for

modern taste but the last quarter contains humorous and satirical pieces, and

in the second series the proportion is exactly reversed. Fern was known to her

contemporaries for her non-goody-goody wit and humor expressed in the

“noisy, rattling” style—full of italics and exclamation points—that her brother

deplored (White.)

This may be so but Fern’s depiction of women’s working conditions and the

constricting matrimonial situation appealed to both sexes. Far from being a

source of entertainment, her pieces also brought to the fore contemporary

gender issues that are usually relegated to the side in a male-dominated


Fuller for her part wrote in the first person and is more direct in her approach

to women emancipation. “Am I not the head of my house?”, cried an

anonymous husband in her critical, Woman in the Nineteenth Century.“You

are not the head of your wife. She has a mind of her own.” She retorted.

Fuller presentedwomen’s issues in a manner that befits a good crusader.

She illustrates a situation and posits a resolution for it. Fuller cited some

instances where married women are put at a disadvantage. She is

particularly passionate on women and their claims of property which is not at

parity of her husband. In general, her idea of women emancipation is that for

a woman as a nature to grow, as an intellect to discern, as a soul to live freely

and unimpeded, to unfold such powers as were given her (Fuller 38). Fuller’s

discursive exhortations is not only addressed to men but to women as well.

She did not entirely put the blame on women who landed in prison for their

crimes of thievery for vanity’s sake, but also reminded women in fashionable
society that part of the blame was theirs. She explained that given the

chance women could help or lead in such fields as governance and even

seafaring. She believed that opening avenues for women in education and in

other spheres of life is promoting self-reliance among women.

Despite some criticisms from various sectors and even from some modern-

day feminists, it is a common understanding that Fuller’s work is pioneering

in shattering the silence of the gender disparity. By textually "performing"

traditionally male forms of civic discourse such as a lawsuit and a jeremiad,

and by drawing on a plethora of familiar referents (such as Plato and John

Winthrop), Fuller demonstrated her fitness for the male public sphere. Her

performance of male discursive forms legitimized her authority, while her

pantheon of historical women and her analysis of marriage and celibacy

worked to subvert the male-dominated traditions from which those forms

emerged (Rix).

Fern is driven and pessimistic and Fuller is driven but pragmatic. Fern’s tone

evokes an emotional response through the pitiful pathos she is exposing.

She offers neither solution nor argues that the situation be resolved or

corrected. The sordidness she is efficiently illustrating is sufficient to call for

its rectification. Fuller is discursive in tone. She is arguing a point and

presenting a case for women’s rights. Hers is an intellectual appeal to

intellectuals. Woman of the Nineteenth Centuryis an erudite presentation

which tells us of a writer familiar with the classical humanities. Fuller is

discoursing to men in their terms and turf-a written intellectual piece not

alien to the so-called, “Rennaissance Man”. She is saying that empowering

women is a reasonable alternative. Point by point she directs her readers

attention on the process that she is espousing.Either subconsciously or

deliberately, the style of writing could reinforce the preceding argument that

no sphere traditionally exclusive to men is beyond a determined or

empowered woman such as her.

Fern wrote in a brief, conscise, and straightforward manner. Fuller could not

resist to expound on details and interlaced them with classical references. At

times she could prove to be lyrical particularly her comments on society’s

great Dualism: There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman

(Fuller 122).

Fern wrote to articulate the pain although such are sometimes laced with

satiric nuances. This proved to be effective and elicited some responses. The

book was described as “monstrous,” and “unwomanly”(Walker51). Naomi

Michael cited Nathaniel Hawthorne as describing Fanny Fern as writing “as if

the devil was in her” (Michael). Fuller for her part explained in detail the irony

and pathos of a the woman as a hostage in marriage. She puts in detail how

matrimonial stereotypes came into being. How woman’s emancipation be

not made a concession but recognized as a right. Such dedication makes her

arguments understandable and easier to follow. From these observations, we

could also surmise that both writers had women and men as target readers,

although with slight preferences. Fern may indeed have both sexes in mind

but as could be gleaned from the two selections, she is catering more on

women than on men. Aunt Hetty exhorted women on the perils of

matrimony. On the Working girls of New York the rude awakening was to

women although we could not discount the fact that authorities are made to

take notice of the situation. Fuller’s was a debate with men.

It would be safe to conclude that the purpose of Fern and Fuller is to portray

women and their conditions from a woman’s viewpoint or viewpoints for that

matter. In the long term concessions from the other side of the ‘dualism’

could bridge that gulf between them. As postulated by Fuller, a women’s

interest would be properly represented by women. Women are the best

helpers of one another. “Let them think; let them act; till they know what

they need. We only ask of men to remove arbitrary barriers” (Fuller 184).

In the long run the final question will be how both this women differ from the

other feminists who constituted the best that the gender has ever produced.

Second, how does their writings contribute to the advancement of women’s

rights among those exerted by suffragettes, girls and women’s advocates,

and other crusaders. Well, they both blaze a trail when considering the

times-such is unimaginable. Both women were more pioneering and thus

faced more odds than the feminists of the Roarin’ Twenties. They both have

the courage and the literary articulation to speak for women in an age where

thinking of the same were equally as hazardous as putting it in publication.


Fern, Fanny. Ruth Hall & Other Writings. Ed. Joyce W. Warren. New
Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1986

Ossoli, Margaret Fuller. Woman in the Nineteenth Century. Girlebooks. January 25, 2009

Rix, Rebecca. Margaret Fuller: Performing Civic Equality. Reed College, 1998. January 24,

Walker, Nancy A. Fanny Fern. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993

White, Barbara A. The Heath Anthology of American Literature, January 24, 2009