Cavendish just wanted everyone to be happy

Question 1: What role do the animal-people play in Blazing World?

I got sick of studying Milton, so I started Blazing World and I read the entire thing in one weekend, which is a lot more than the recommended reading. I was fascinated by everything in it, partly because it’s such an early example of science fiction and partly because Cavendish was ridiculed for her writings, assuming those silly women can do any kind of thinking. Blazing World takes on the idea of women in positions of power, and I believe also criticizing monarch rule in general, since the Empress chooses to keep her people happy and free of war and during Cavendish’s time, she experienced violence during the English Civil War around this time. It got me thinking though, since animal people seemed like a strange stylistic choice. I tried researching this and ended up down a weird rabbit hole of hardcore vegan fringe blogs, but I understood it to be a commentary on how the monarchy treated the lower classes — like animals. But I’m not Cavendish, maybe she was a hardcore vegan?

Question 2: Why was Cavendish so pro-women-in-charge?

I mean, this is kind of a dumb question but I mostly just wanted to talk about her background. Cavendish grew up as the youngest of eight children, in a wealthy family, raised by a single mother. Her mother actually refused the help of men after her husband died, and I’m sure Cavendish saw her as a role model. She watched politics being dominated by men, and thought that maybe she had ideas that could change how things worked and had ideas about how to prevent wars, such as the English Civil War that ended with people killed and impoverished. The problem was that she was a woman, and they weren’t considered to be politically equal just yet. It bled over a lot into her writings, since she didn’t write about love and marriage like most women were expected to, but explored new ideas that weren’t just new for women, but scientifically new. She really pushed the limits for what was acceptable for women to talk about, she was ridiculed for it, and now hundreds of years later, we celebrate her work.

4 thoughts on “Cavendish just wanted everyone to be happy

  1. I’ve only had a chance to read the first half of Blazing World so far, but I am finding it to be an interesting read. I actually didn’t question the choice of animal-men as anything other than some whimsical aspect of another world. I really like that you dug into this! Changes my reading a bit with the idea of it symbolizing how the monarchy treated its lower class subjects.

  2. I am so glad you dug into and enjoyed Cavendish! And yeah, she’s on the syllabus to be a foil for Milton. Milton is a successful, culturally-lauded while still divisive, egotistical, overly verbose, politically and religiously active man writing an epic about the nature of the world. Cavendish, on the other hand, is a woman writing about many of the same themes but shut out of dominant cultural conversations because of her gender. And Milton’s opinions have been weighted more heavily for centuries not because of their validity but because of gender.

  3. “I got sick of studying Milton.” I feel you. I didn’t study Milton very well, hence I’ve forgotten whatever I read by him, but honestly I don’t even like thinking about having to read his work. I didn’t read Cavendish’s recommended reading or look up anything on her so your post is pretty interesting. I like that she took charge and did what she wanted in terms of what and how she wrote about things. It’s cool that she grew up with her mother refusing the help of men and deciding that she had more value and sense than the men around her thought she should or did have. It’s really interesting to think about.

  4. While it may be weeks later, I also got so sick of Milton that I moved on to Cavendish. So happy I did. As to why she chose animals, your guess is as good as mine. I think part of it, which is kind of obvious, is that humanoid animals are super mystical and mysterious. It really highlights the “other-worldy-ness” in the story. Maybe it’s because she views animals as purer of heart than humans? She could also very well be a hardcore-vegan, as this story really gives animals the same rights as humans. Who knows! A lot of great things to think about from this post.

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