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Masculine and Feminine Writing Features in “To the Ladies” by Lady Mary Chudleigh

The issue of identifying and understanding the possible gender differences in linguistics, specifically in writing styles between males and females has been an area of interest to many researchers for a long time. Even without their knowledge, males and females write differently even when expressing the same ideas and this realization has led to widespread research on this area. Virginia Woolf is one of the leading modern thinkers to explore this topic in the last century. The available statistical data show that men and women, irrespective of the context, write differently, whether phonologically or pragmatically. For instance, according to Argamon et al. (2003), “Females seem to talk more about relationships than do males, use more compliments and apologies, and facilitative tag questions” (p. 322). These differences in writing styles based on gender could thus be grouped into “universals”, which then could be used to analyze various texts, whether fiction or non-fiction. Based on this understanding, the aim of this paper is to analyze the poem, To The Ladies by Lady Mary Chudleigh, specifically to highlight the various female and male sentences in the text and ultimately prove that female sentences dominate this poem.

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Female and Male Sentences in the Poem

Female Sentences

The first criterion used to identify female sentences in this poem is that they have “female markers” in terms of first and second-person pronouns. From the poem, the following sentences have such pronouns

When she the word has said obey
And all his innate rigor shows
Like mutes, she signs alone must make
And fear her husband as a God
But what her haughty lord thinks fit
Value your selves, and men despise
You must be proud, if you’ll be wise (Chudleigh, 2020)

While these sentences seem unrelated when grouped together, they are strategically placed in the poem to convey an important message. The pronoun “she” in the first sentence supports “obey”, which comes, in the end, to emphasize that women are expected to be submissive. Similarly, “his” in the second sentence is closely followed by “innate rigor” again to show the different roles that men and women play in society. This pattern is repeated over all the other sentences with the aim of evoking emotions. For instance, the “she” in “Like mutes, she signs alone must make” is specifically meant to evoke emotions same as the case of “her” in “But what her haughty lord thinks fit”. In the first scenario, the author wants to emphasize the untold alienation of women in society, especially in the one place where they should feel loved – their marriages. In the second case, “her haughty” lord is used strategically to promote the same agenda concerning the place of women in society. They are supposed to be submissive to their husbands occupying lower ranks in society. The use of first and second-person pronouns falls under epistemic modality. The poet is concerned with encoding relationships between herself and the reader, and these personal pronouns are the most effective tools for achieving this goal.

The other criterion used to identify female sentences is the grammatical complexity of the sentences. Such sentences are flexible and they elaborate frail details with impressionistic descriptions. Some of these sentences include

Wife and servant are the same
But only differ in the name
For when that fatal knot is tied (Chudleigh, 2020)

These sentences are elastic, flexible, slippery, and at the same time, they elaborate frail details. For instance, the usage of the term “fatal” in the third sentence to describe how the act of tying a knot or getting married adds no real value to the sentence. However, the author is using an impressionistic description, which in this case, is self-conscious to pass her message about the issue. To women, tying the knot, according to the impression created in this sentence, is tantamount to committing suicide. While marriage could be problematic at times, even to the point of breakage, the overgeneralization of this problem points to the femininity of this sentence in the sense that the author is to some extent becoming sentimental. It points to the epistemic modality of female sentences whereby facts (marriages could fail) are reported with the subjective evaluation of the speaker probably based on her personal beliefs, knowledge, experiences, or understanding. Perhaps the poet had failed or painful marriage and this experience informed her view concerning the institution of marriage. Alternatively, the author could have witnessed the endless pain caused by some marriages, and letting these experiences shape her view amounts to epistemic modality.

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The last aspect used in this analysis of female sentences is the abundant use of cohesive devices to show relevance between individual ideas, such as connectives, relative clauses, and participial connectives. For instance, in the poem, the author uses repetition to emphasize her point. Some sentences include

Which nothing, nothing can divide
Him still must serve, him still obey,
And nothing act, and nothing say,
Then shun, oh! shun that wretched state (Chudleigh, 2020)

At the same time, the author uses simile as a stylistic device; for instance, “Fierce as an Eastern prince he grows”, “Like mutes she signs alone must make”, and “And fear her husband as a God”. These stylistic devices underscore the feminine attributes in these sentences whereby the author is attempting to stress her point and create an impression that could convince the audience to see the story from her perspective. Such views thus become subjective with some twists here and there to pass a certain message across. In this case, the message is that women suffer disproportionately in marriages due to the apparent lack of power balance. The insinuation that men despise women who value themselves in this lice, “Value your selves, and men despise” is a clear indication of subjective thinking on the part of the poet.

Male Sentences

This poem has little male sentences given that it is written by a female seemingly complaining about men and the power imbalance created in marriage due to patriarchy. As mentioned earlier, male sentences are factual, objective, impersonal, and socially realistic among other attributes. One factual sentence in this poem is “Who with the power, has all the wit.” Wit in this context implies control, and it is true that those in power have the means to control their subjects and drive matters in a certain way. Additionally, these lines, “And never any freedom take, But still be governed by a nod” highlight some facts in terms of power games. Those without freedom are bound and they could easily be governed by a nod. Finally, the line, “And man by law supreme has made” is socially realistic and thus it could be classified as a male sentence.

Patriarchy is widespread and even though the quest for gender equality has made significant advances and achievements, in most societies, men make the laws. Even in the most advanced and civilized nations, such as the United States, issues of gender inequality are common. For instance, gender-based wage disparities are common even at professional levels, which is ironic because people at this stage are expected to be civilized to uphold gender equality. Nevertheless, it is not a surprise that this poem does not have many male sentences. The writer is a female and thus it would be expected the poem to be populated with female sentences.

Optional Gender Issues in the Poem

The central theme in this poem is the idea that women walk into a tragedy the moment they enter matrimony. The author is remorseful about marriage, which explains why she highlights her negative attitude using a condescending tone perhaps to warn single women not to even think of marriage. Even the title of the poem, “To the Ladies” sounds like a letter, a warning letter in this case, to women out there to be careful when thinking about marriage. From the poem, it is clear that women’s voice is stifled once they are married. As such, the title “wife” is synonymous with “servant” with the only difference being in the name, according to the author. The implicit message in this poem is that women are more than servants – they are slaves. She is governed with a nod because she is required to treat her husband as God, and thus this relationship is characterized by fear.

The poem essentially talks about gender inequality as far as power sharing in marriage is concerned. The author insists that men make all the rules, and women’s sole duty is to obey what has been set, without questions. Even at the time of making the vows, women are somehow expected to abide by the contents of such exercise, but men are allowed to be the domineering party. These arguments explain why the author advises women to shun marriage altogether because it is a wretched state. As such, the poem concludes with priceless advice to women – that they should be wise and proud enough to avoid the traps laid before them by men courting them into marriages.

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In linguistics, males and females write differently and this issue has been an interesting area of study for researchers. The available data shows that female writers are likely to be subjective using personal pronouns to establish relationships with the audience. On the other hand, male writers are likely to be impersonal and objective. This paper has shown that the poem has more female sentences as compared to male sentences. The poem is subjective in nature with the author choosing to give personal opinions concerning marriage. The majority of sentences in the poem, as shown in this paper, are based on personal view about marriage perhaps informed by painful memories, which makes them subjective in nature. Clearly, even though the author does not use the pronoun “I”, it is clear that she is the speaker in the poem. As such, male sentences are few, and even when they are used, the masculinity in them is subtle in nature.


Argamon, S., Koppel, M., Fine, J., & Shimoni, A. R. (2003). Gender, genre, and writing style in formal written texts. Text & Talk, 23(3), 321-346.

Chudleigh, M. (2020). To the ladies

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