5

Here is a sentence from her introduction.

I earnestly wish to point out in what true dignity and human happiness consists - I wish to persuade women to endeavour to acquire strength, both of mind and body, and to convince them that the soft phrases, susceptibility of heart, delicacy of sentiment, and refinement of taste, are almost synonymous with epithets of weakness, and that those beings who are only the objects of pity and that kind of love, which has been termed its sister, will soon become objects of contempt.

What are the "siblings" in this really long sentence? Here is the part of the sentence which I suppose should give the context. I replace "those beings" with women.

Delicacy of sentiment, and refinement of taste, are almost synonymous with epithets of weakness, and that [women] who are only the objects of pity and that kind of love, which has been termed its sister, will soon become objects of contempt.

My guess is that the pair is "weakness" and "pity." Grammatically, how is "pity" associated with "weakness"?

  • 3
    I don't see the word "siblings" in your quotes. Can you perhaps reformat your question to make it easier to read the quotes? – kimchi lover Dec 22 '18 at 2:02
  • @kimchilover The word "sister" appears in the quotes. – Rand al'Thor Dec 22 '18 at 16:58
  • This same question was cross-posted on EL&U where I provided one of the several answers, all pointing to the same conclusion - the sisters are pity and love. – Reinstate Monica Dec 22 '18 at 23:26
2

Let's see if we can break this down:

• Dignity and happiness come from certain qualities of character.

• Women should try to obtain and show those qualities.

• Some of those qualities are a strong mind and a strong body.


What are qualities which are the OPPOSITE of a strong mind and body?

Susceptibility of heart: I'm not sure if she means literal susceptibility, as in disease, or falling in love with every Thomas, Richard, and Harold who waltzes by. Could go either way.

Delicacy of sentiment: Feeling or speaking delicately, diplomatically, instead of saying plainly and honestly what's on your mind. A modern analogue would be girls who don't speak up in class because they think boys don't like "smart girls."

Refinement of taste: Not sure why this is an issue unless it means "super picky" or "snobby" or the like.


The next part is what you were asking about. Let's take it in reverse:

1. Women who are loved for the qualities which Wollstonecraft defines as "weak" (this is "the objects of that kind of love")

AND

2. Women who are pitied (possibly for the same reason)

will soon be held in contempt (considered pathetic) by men, or people in general.


The pity and "being loved for being weak" are the "sisters" or "siblings" or "two qualities which Wollstonecraft is pairing."

  • I appreciate your efforts to affirm my guess. – Adelyn Jan 24 at 19:42
1

Delicacy of sentiment, and refinement of taste, are almost synonymous with epithets of weakness, and that [women] who are only the objects of pity and that kind of love, which has been termed its sister, will soon become objects of contempt.

Mary Wollstonecraft was writing a polemic to argue for the participation of women in the public sphere, a realm at the time that was almost wholly dominated by men and which required a particular kind of education which was not available to women.

This is why she is down-playing 'delicacy of sentiment' and 'refinement of taste' and asking them to 'acquire strength of mind'. She isn't down-playing sentiment and taste per se, but only in relation to broadening the rather narrow educational horizons of women at the time.

  • Your response does not answer the question. – user143462 Jan 9 at 15:13
  • @user143462: Can you explain why it doesn't anwer the question rather than merely asserting this? – Mozibur Ullah Jan 16 at 15:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.