‘The Seduction’ and ‘Cousin Kate’ are similarly concerned with the predicament of women in society. They are both poems which end up in a negative position, and are following the trails of a young girl, wanting to be loved, in some way. They also similarly carry the theme of betrayal. In ‘The Seduction’, the girl is betrayed by the teenage magazines promising her the romantic love story she always wanted and, in ‘Cousin Kate’, the young girl is betrayed by her cousin, who steals the man she loves. These are the predicaments that both the girls have.
Both poems contain lines which question their actions, ‘Why did a great Lord find me out?’ and ‘For where, now, was the summer of her sixteenth year?’. This shows the regret that they had in that period in their lives, and also how betrayed they feel and the problems they have now of losing their childhood.
‘Cousin Kate’ tells us the story of how she was seduced, used and cast away, much like ‘The Seduction’. As ‘The Seduction’ begins, it uses a lot of imagery to prepare the reader for what may happen. ‘Far past the silver stream of traffic through the city, far from the blind windows of the tower blocks’. The ‘blind’ windows portrays an image of not seeing, and that because something ‘bad’ may happen, no-one is meant to see or hear anything. Also, when the poem refers to the girl knocking back the vodka, it shows an uncertain situation, ‘He handed her the vodka, and she knocked it back like water’.
Both girls at the start of the poem are virgins but lose their virginity and fall pregnant. The girl in ‘Cousin Kate’, is referred to as a ‘Cottage Maiden’, this shows us that she was a female virgin. In ‘The Seduction’, we do not actually know she is a virgin as we are not told in the poem, but it could be assumed she was as she was so drunk and nervous at the time, ‘She giggled, drunk and nervous…’, and she felt that her life had been ruined by her pregnancy. This is another predicament that women in both times had, as in ‘Cousin Kate’ contraception wasn’t used, and in the ‘The Seduction’ the girl didn’t want to ruin her dream. Both girls regret their actions, they cry and describe themselves as ‘unclean’ and ‘sickened’.
It is obvious, when reading the poems, that both the young men did not feel any emotion towards the girls. The ‘lord’ in ‘Cousin Kate’ used his power and money to entice the young maiden, because it was thought men had much more authority than women in that time, so she had the problem of not really being able to stand up for herself. The boy in ‘The Seduction’ used alcohol to turn her into a drunken, nervous object in his eyes, and a ‘little slag’ as he refers to her. This shows a lack of respect for the girl.
Although the two poems are almost a century and a half apart, I have found that there are many similar predicaments in society for both the girls. They are looked down upon by society and this makes them feel more ashamed, ‘And better now, to turn away, move away, fade away’, and ‘The neighbours call you good and pure, Call me an outcast thing.’ The girl in ‘Cousin Kate’ knows that sex before marriage was unacceptable in her decade, and the ‘neighbours’ therefore reinforce this fact.
The ‘neighbours’ also show their disapproval in ‘The Seduction’ with their whispers, and that she fell pregnant with a boy unknown to her. She so much longed for the romance in her magazines, like most girls at that time, that she did not really make a conscious decision about who it would be with and whether it would actually be romantic for her. However, she didn’t care that night because after all ‘ how would you know, if you never took a chance.’ The girl fell in love with the idea of love and not with the boy.
In ‘The Seduction’, there is a lack of care and knowledge of each other, whereas in ‘Cousin Kate’ it seems, at the beginning, almost the opposite. The ‘lord’ ‘Praised her flaxen hair’ and ‘filled her heart with care’. This fairy-tale romance, which you could say was the image described by the magazines in ‘The Seduction’, soon disappears with the next verse describing how he seduced her with his money, ‘He lured me to his palace home’ and how he turned her into one of this objects, which he changes ‘like a glove’. We are, at this point, made to feel sorry for the girl for the way the ‘lord’ has treated her and just ‘cast her by’.
Although the image in ‘Cousin Kate’ is one of unhappiness, there is one thing which brings joy to the young maiden. This is her child. She is proud of him as he is the one good thing that came out of her ordeal and she also has something which the lord wants and which even all of his money and power will not let him have. The irony of this is that he had a chance, but his selfishness and greed counted towards the loss of his own son and heir to his throne to wear his ‘coronet’. The maiden is very angry with her cousin and this is revealed when words like ‘Your love was writ in sand’ and ‘Spit into his face’ appear. This also shows a hint of jealousy. Also, I think she wants to get her cousin back by gloating about her gift of a son, the one thing which her cousin cannot have herself.
The opposite is happening in ‘The Seduction’ and the girl is very upset by her discovered pregnant and gloating is the last thing she wants to do. She reacts by ripping up all her magazines, ‘And she ripped up all her My Guy and her Jackie photo-comics’ and by breaking the heels of her shoes which shows us she is trying to erase all thoughts of that night. She makes an effort at the party to look good and act mature, but after her discovered pregnancy she reverts back to wanting to live an ‘innocent’ life again, and to escape the predicament that she is in ‘So she cried that she had missed all the innocence around her’.
She believes that her life has practically ended, that she cannot go on and anything would be better then her current situation, ‘Better to destroy your life in modern, man-made ways, than to fall into this, despicable, feminine void’.
One thing above any other which makes you recognise that ‘Cousin Kate’ was written in the Victorian era is the language used, for example ‘Woes me for joy thereof’. If the writer was to use the modern English language it could mean, I am so sad that I was joyful about it. The characters described as a ‘lord’ and a ‘Cottage Maiden’ used in the poem are also a clue to which decade it was written. Likewise in ‘The Seduction’, language like ‘little slag’ was quite common in that era.
Where the poems are set is also very relevant. The Maiden lived in a cottage, and Cousin Kate worked ‘among the rye’, whereas ‘The Seduction’ is set at a friends party. But even so, the problems they both experience are similar.
I have greater sympathy with the young girl in ‘The Seduction’ and I believe she was in a greater predicament also. Not only was there huge pressure from all the teenage magazines she was reading to have sex, but there was probably pressure from her friends, as I know that there is today, and the poem was not written that far from today.
Not only was there great pressure before she had sex, but the shame and feelings that she was put through from society was extreme, and this, in my opinion, should not have been placed upon her. Although similar things happened in ‘Cousin Kate’, I don’t think they did to the same extent, and, at the very least, the ‘Cottage Maiden’ was left with something to treasure and that she was proud of. Although abortions were not a regular occurrence, I still think she was in a better position to keep the baby. Whereas, in ‘The Seduction’, I think she would have been forced to have an abortion, or if she had kept the baby, she would have been under great emotion and also financial difficulties.