Margery Kempe

The piece of Margery Kempe's story that is presented in Available Means gives an interesting example of how women are expected to act about their work. She herself cannot write, and so she must get someone else to write her story down for her. She frames this in such a way as to imply that the writing only came about through the grace of God, thereby creating a spiritual endorsement of the work. If God had not wanted Margery Kempe's story to be written, then it wouldn't have been, therefore it is the will of God that it be written.

Kempe's preface to The Book of Margery Kempe does not come right out and state that, but it does imply it by detailing the difficulties that she encountered in trying to get the text written. She cannot outright state it, since her pen is not the one doing the writing. She must work around the male scribe in the telling of the tale in order to present what she believes to be true.

In order to justify her right to have her story told, she gives proofs of her talking to God, appealing to the male authorities of the church as well as female mystics. It is as if it is not truly her choice to speak out, but rather the will of God, for how else could the words of a woman be worthy of record? Through the hand of a man, and the translation from Old English of yet another man, still, her story survived.

In class, one woman mentioned that she had, in a previous class, read the whole Book of Margery Kempe, in Old English even. She told us that there were themes of sexual assault and harassment in the book, including Margery's rape by her husband. By retreating into religious life, did Margery gain some safety? Is the choice always between safety and freedom?

Margery was still persecuted, even after retreating into a religious life. "[The Lord] would speak to me and tell my soul how I would be despised for his love" (45). People didn't believe in her closeness to God, and her former friends became her enemies. The long road to transcribing her story only emphasizes its importance and her right to be heard.

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