Marjorie Henry Ilsley terms The Ladies' Complaint “an outburst of temper based on [the author's] own bitter experience,” by contrast with the more deliberative and abstract The Equality of Men and Women. This is certainly true to first impressions, and there is no questioning the personal bitterness behind Marie le Jars de Gournay's treatment of male misogyny—in either essay, for that matter. Still, it is hardly slighting her as an author to recognize the impression of “outburst” as itself a skillfully contrived literary effect. The Complaint thereby complements the forceful but abstract ironies of The Equality with a satirical scorn appropriate to the actual behavior of men in contemporary society—especially of those pretenders to intellectual sophistication who concealed their personal inadequacy behind the mask of male superiority. The Complaint's opening gambit derives from Gournay's jumping-off place for an acerbic depiction of misogynist boorishness in conversation. That account continues to serve as a framework, which she now fills in with rhetorical polish and adapts more insistently to the general condition of women.
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