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Book review (the lives of Margaret fuller :a biography by John matteson - Essay Example

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The Lives of Margaret Fuller: A Biography by John Matteson Margaret Fuller is an important figure in the history of American women. She was a woman who was far ahead of her time in terms of her intellectual accomplishments. Born in Massachusetts in 1810, the socio-cultural atmosphere she grew up in was not conducive to progressive thoughts…
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Book review (the lives of Margaret fuller :a biography by John matteson

Download file to see previous pages... Moreover, Matteson’s account of the individual life also contains valuable historical information, as he attempts to place Fuller’s accomplishments in its socio-political context. What follows are summary and highlights of the book, as well as an assessment of its utility as a source of American history. Margaret Fuller was homeschooled during the early years, depriving her of contact with children of her own age. It wasn’t until her teenage years that she experienced a regular social atmosphere. Timothy Fuller Jr., being a man of great energy and generally keen perception, “saw some aspects of his surroundings with extreme clarity. As he was only a man, however, there were other facets of life that he observed less readily.” (Matteson, p.1) It was this deficiency that he dreamed Margaret would fill. Further, “With his eldest child, whom her family called Sarah Margaret but whom the world would know as Margaret Fuller, Timothy eagerly shared the wealth of his powerful intellect. Almost alone among the father of daughters in his time, her sought to raise her to a level of knowledge and understanding that other men reserved solely for their sons.” (Matteson, p.2) Perhaps this unique early developmental background accounts for her lack of grace and tact in her personal relationships. Many associates of her describe her as an abrasive (if not arrogant) and a condescending personality. Despite what shortcomings she may have had in her personality, she was a woman who loomed large over the American cultural scene of early 19th century. It is this assessment that is at the heart of John Matteson’s interesting biography of Margaret Fuller. An interesting aspect of Fuller’s life which Matteson adeptly captures is her contributions to early nineteenth century American socio-cultural thought. Fuller was often handicapped by her gender at a time when submissiveness and genteelness were expected of women. Fuller’s forthright way of expressing her opinions often offended people who were entrenched in the norms of patriarchal social arrangement. She suffered personal losses in this vein, with many of her acquaintances dropping off contact in disagreement with her views. For example, eminent intellectuals of the day such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, etc took issue with her sense of superiority and a perceived lack of kindness. Hawthorne, for example, found her “exquisitely irritating”. Emerson thought of her as someone who showed “an overweening sense of power, and slight esteem of others”. Even Poe showed little empathy in his criticisms of her. In her defense, Fuller’s perceived interpersonal deficiencies were as much a marker of rigid social norms of that time as they were of her psychological makeup. It is also ironic that while personal disaffections remained, Fuller was a proponent of the ideas of these intellectuals. She found solidarity with the philosophical movement of transcendentalism that Emerson, Thoreau and Alcott were associated with. Hence Fuller was united with the leading lights of the day in terms of her thoughts on society and philosophy, although she could find no personal camaraderie. Through the events in the life of Margaret Fuller, we also learn a great deal about the history of the United States during the first half of the 19th century. This was a time of consolidation for the newly fledged nation, but there ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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