An Analysis of Lytton Stratchey's View on Florence Nightingale and

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Lytton Stratchey, one of the most famous biographers in history, is best know for his style of biographical writing in which he incorporates humor and analyses of the subjects. His essay on Florence Nightingale is no exception to this. In the essay, Lytton contends the undisputed acceptance of Florence Nightingale's “saintly, self-sacrificing status,” suggesting her accomplishments were more selfish than most would believe, motivated by a need for a life that would satisfy her “queer imaginations” and satiate the “secret voice in her ear.” Stratchey presents a Florence Nightingale whose need to fulfill a desire for an extraordinary life, a desire to be different, is the driving force behind her actions aimed at becoming a nurse. “Why, as a child in the nursery, when her sister had shown a healthy pleasure in tearing her dolls to pieces, had she shown a morbid one in sewing them back up again?” The rhetorical questions Stratchey asks serve as a indicators that Florence Nightingale actions were outside the boundaries of what was considered 'normal' at the time. His diction, that her imaginations are “queer” and “filled with suffering patients,” contradicts the “healthy,” ordinary actions of her sister. Florence Nightingale's will to realize her dream of becoming a nurse was so strong that she resisted pressure from “high society” and family to fall into her seemingly natural position in life, as a wife of some gentleman of high rank and birth order. Ms. Nightingale, with “amazing persistency,” was able to learn and educate herself, and “there was hardly a great hospital in Europe with which she was not acquainted,” despite the forces in her life acting to achieve an opposite goal. From this paragraph, the reader can glean the devotion that Ms. Nightingale had to a life of intellectual pursuit, using her “spare time so well” that she was able
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