I chose to read and analyze “Trees of Gold” by Rebecca West, and I will admit that this was a very difficult piece to sift through. I read it about ten times over before I finally understood her point of view. West has a very rich prose, based on imagery, metaphor, and an almost dreamy tone. But I finally latched on to her feminist argumentation, and the word most used to convey that: “beauty.” She never capitalizes it or puts any other obvious kind of importance on the word, but it is always at the heart of her most passionate arguments.
The only time she addresses the women’s movement directly is when she is traveling on a train with three men from different countries. When the subject came up, she decided “to lay at their feet a declaration that things being as they are I want a vote.” In response, they looked at her “as one might gaze on a rebellious chocolate-cream,” as if she wasn’t even human. She then had to “explain that [she] was not a luxury but a journalist.” Then, moving away from that conversation, she describes a burnt and decimated field they passed through, that she personifies as struggling for life, and struggling against the limestone mountains they were adjacent to. The mountains, however, she describes as “so beautiful that it strained this consciousness to perceive them: one could not fully grasp its beauty because of the limitations of this humanity. To enter into it one would need to be a mountain.” It was then that I realized that both the mountains and her use of ‘beauty’ was really a metaphor for life itself, or the better life that men were allowed to experience while women were treated as objects, because women at this time in history were virtually nothing, and to be feminine was to be quiet, subservient, and malleable. This change she describes from the ugly to the beautiful, both here and in her last image of the “trees of gold,” really means the ascension of women into equality. As she so eloquently says, “life itself is nothing: it is the trimmings that matter, the pride and honour and beauty.”