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Women Writers, Oct. 2.

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McMaster University
Grace Kehler

October 2, 2012 Caroline Norton continued. Logical Fallacies of the Law - “legal fiction of man and wife” and “legal fiction” o Page 8: women have no legal position - legal fiction holds her to this o Page 28: the legislatures with never go through with the legal fiction  Calls attention to:  The farce of the marriage, the deeply logically inconsistent fact of the legal systems treatment of married couples as a single unit, even though they are not.  Complete enmity when a couple have separated  Hooks into the prey-predator metaphor found overall in her letter to be applied directly to the law.  Law is not evidentiary; should be based on witness, testimonies etc. She points out that the laws concerning the married couple actually refuses epistolary and physical evidence. o Caroline’s evidentiary letters from Norton’s lawyer and Melbourne, evidencing Norton’s avarice in convicting Melbourne. The law had no interest in this, then was based on whim and caprice. o Chiasmic meaning: allusion to the fictional nature of the law - Reference to Scottish law, page 16: o Various forms of cleavage between facets of the law; inconsistent between Scotland and England.  Repeated implication that the country is logical incoherent, falling into an anarchic state.  Exemplifies various points at which the country cannot represent itself for its lack of coherency. o The Civil VS. The Sacred: women are bound by ecclesiastic law, men bound by state law. The marriage is a civil bond for him, and a sacrament for her.  Implications:  Moral responsibility implied through religious ties for women; otherworldly consequences. Men’s only responsibility is to the state. o Both in the standard of virtue and the state of marriage: needs to be applied to either both or neither. o Morality is used as a weapon against women; not only are men exonerated by the law, but also are they exonerated through social convention.  Norton’s defence of the civil:  Tends to adapt a conservative point of view, arguing from the point of virtue – does end up upholding the ideology of separate spheres.  Looking to talk about a position in which both the wife and mother have been demeaned to the point where there is no redress, no way back to a point of trust. o Many times she gave in to Mr. Norton’s performance of repentance  If a woman has contracted necessities and cannot pay the tradesperson, the tradesperson is unable to pursue her or her husband because she does not exist.  One form of adultery (on behalf of the woman) is considered beyond pardon, which does not hold up for the man.  Women had to get the sanctioned by the Lord Chancellor: who phrased an adulterous man as “a little profligate”.  The effect of the phrase’s repetition: the more context it is applied to, the more it is repeated, the more the absurdity is highlighted.  A deep satirisation of what is considered to be a small crime makes its inequality more present.  Continues, giving ludicrous examples of men who were socially and legally shamed for cheating at cards; applies the quality of sacredness to the cards. The fallen man in early 19 century society is anyone who appropriates the property of another or makes illegal gains for himself; the social and legal upheaval has no comparison to adultery.  The trivialization of the familial, the dismissal of women in charge of children and deep attention to card games.  The perversity of the law is exposed, perhaps even its inability to comment on the moral based upon this perversity.  The law speaks as a voluptuary, diabolical, allowing freedom from restraint for a part of the population; Norton paints the law as an inciter towards self indulgence. Condoning fickleness, passions that Wollstonecraft claimed to be that of the Easter tyrant. o Develops notion of tyranny as a debaser of the nation itself:  Bad laws foster corruptness.  Makes man and the law out as tyrants, using the language of revolution.  The law as a tyrant erases selectively the wife and the tradesman,  Im
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