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Cousin Kate and The Seduction

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The two poems ‘Cousin Kate’ and ‘The Seduction’ are very similar. In both poems a teenage girl is seduced by a man, resulting in them both getting pregnant. Both girls feel manipulated and used as the men are in control. ‘Cousin Kate’ was set in pre 1914 in a rural setting, and ‘The Seduction’ was set in the 1980s in the city of Liverpool. The themes of the two poems are very similar as they both have a lot to do with love, jealousy and manipulation.

In ‘The Seduction’ a third person narrative technique is used because it makes the reader feel more personal towards the character in the poem and so we can relate to it and put ourselves in the character’s shoes. The structure of ‘The Seduction’ is different to the structure of ‘Cousin Kate’ because ‘The Seduction’ is laid out in two halves. The first half symbolising freedom and the party where she met the perfect man, then the second half shows the reader what she’s like after the girl finds out she’s pregnant. This is shown in the quote;

‘When she discovered she was three months gone’

That line makes it clear that because of this drunken mistake she got pregnant, and the way that sentence is phrased doesn’t suggest it was a good thing for the teenage girl.

‘Cousin Kate’ is fairly similar although it’s written in first person narrative. I think it makes the reader understand the girl’s feelings, as it is a lot more personal. The structure is also in two halves but differently to ‘The Seduction’. In the first half the girl is telling the reader her story, but in the second half she is addressing her cousin Kate and releasing her true feelings.

This is shown in the line ‘O cousin Kate, my love was true, your love was written in sand.’ That shows her addressing her cousin and also is saying how the man was in love with her and was special, but his love with her cousin is ‘fake’ and is suggesting it won’t last. I think the poet decided to write it in two halves to make it look like a journal or a diary, therefore making the story a lot more personal.

The themes of the poems are very similar. In ‘The Seduction’ it shows the different themes;

‘She giggled drunk and nervous, and he muttered “little slag” ‘

That line shows how the boy is using the girl and had no respect to her by calling her a ‘little slag.’

Later in the poem the girl shows signs of regret ‘But then again, better to be smoking scented drugs or festering, invisibly, unemployed.’ And that shows how the girl would rather not be in her position, having to raise a child and have no career and would have to be a teenage mother which was something frowned upon by many because of the bad stigma attached to it.

The themes in the poem ‘Cousin Kate’ are very similar, also dealing with love, jealousy and being seduced as this is shown in the line;

So now I moan an unclean thing, who might have been a dove.’

This shows the reader that she too has regrets about being seduced by a man as she feels dirty and used because it was frowned upon to have lost your virginity before marriage in those days, so she feels she’s no longer pure and innocent. There is also a lot of jealousy in ‘Cousin Kate’ as her cousin was the one who married the man in the end and not her. A key example of the jealousy she felt is in the line ‘Even so, I sit and howl in dust, you sit in gold and sing.’

This suggests she’s extremely jealous because she could have been rich and happy but because her cousin married the man and not her she is poor and lonely. Although ‘Yet I’ve a gift you have not got, and seem not like to get. It is shown there that she is referring to her son who could be the lord’s only child as Kate is unable to have children. ‘Your father would give his hands for one to wear his coronet’. This suggests how the lord wants a child to carry on in the family when he dies. And when he discovers Kate is baron, he might leave her for the girl, which gives her hope.

The males in the poems are represented as manipulators and are using the girls. In ‘Cousin Kate’ it shows the male is using the girl because it says in the quote ‘he wore me like a silken knot, he changed me like a glove.’ That shows the male is using her when it suits him, and discards her like a piece of clothing, showing how he is in control the whole time and doesn’t consider the girls feelings but only what he wants. It is very similar in ‘The Seduction’, although it’s set in a different time period, a controlling male is still manipulating a girl. This is apparent in the line;

‘He handed her the vodka, and she knocked it back like water.’

By him handing her the vodka it is shown how he is in control and by getting her drunk he could seduce her. The men in both poems are definitely in control of the girls as it shown in the quotes.

‘Cousin Kate’ shows the girl has unfulfilled promises and dreams as it says ‘So now I moan, an unclean thing, who might have been a dove.’ It is clear in that quote that she could have been pure and clean and not be looked down upon by society and viewed as dirty. In ‘the Seduction’ the girl also had unfulfilled dreams and promises as is shown in the line: ‘Full of glossy horoscopes, and glamour with a stammer: full of fresh fruit diets- how did she feel betrayed, now with a softly rounded belly, she was sickened every morning by stupid stupid promises only tacitly made.’

In that quote it becomes clear that the magazines made promises to the girl that she would meet her ‘boy next door’ and the girl fell for the promises made to her and took the chance but it turned out wrong, so the girl feels cheated by the promises. And now she won’t be able to do her O levels or enjoy a summer of fun with her friends, and all this because of the way the magazines portrayed all the romances.

The descriptions of the settings enhance the theme of corrupted innocence. In ‘The Seduction’ the setting shows a poor area, this is shown in the line ‘the Mersey, green as a septic wound.’ That shows it is a dirty river, not the ideal setting for a romance. So that is also is against the stereotypes of a wonderful teenage romance that the magazine was writing about.

The word ‘septic’ implies that the river is diseased and impure and by it being described as green, it is also against any perfect setting stereotypes, as perfect setting are often described as having crystal blue waters not green septic ones. In ‘Cousin Kate’ it also shows a poor area as the girl was a ‘cottage maiden’ who working in the fields. The poems are set in completely different areas as ‘The seduction’ is set in urban Liverpool and ‘Cousin Kate’ is set in the countryside.

I think the girl in ‘The Seduction’ blames mainly herself for being manipulated because she thinks she was stupid for believing in all of the ‘My guy and Jackie photo comics’ which were about ‘All of the parties where you would meet the boy next door’. In ‘Cousin Kate’ I don’t think she blames herself that much, because she is more angry and jealous at her cousin for taking her man away from her.

However she got a son out of the romance and her son is the reason why the lord may one-day come back to her. So that’s the blessing, but she has to cope with the rumors and dirty looks people give her because she is a single mother. In ‘The Seduction’ the girls feel a lot worse because she doesn’t need a son to win back the man unlike in ‘Cousin Kate.’ Also she is more worried about what people would say and doesn’t cope with the situation as well. This is best shown in the line;

‘And better, now, to turn away, move away, fade away. Than to have the neighbors whisper that you always looked the type.’ It is shown in that quote how the girl is even considering suicide just because she doesn’t want to have to put up with people’s whispers about her. That shows the kind of society she was living in, where if a young girl did get pregnant her life would be dedicated to the baby and she could never get a job and would be viewed as foolish and unclean.

To conclude ‘Cousin Kate’ and ‘The Seduction’ are very similar because they are based around the same themes of love, jealousy, manipulation and regret. Things would be different nowadays because society has moved on from believing in Victorian morals, as there are many more single mothers in today’s society so still believing in Victorian morals would be viewed as old fashioned.

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