Poetry can be described as one of the oldest forms of literature because many poems can be dated several centuries ago. Additionally, poetry most likely predates writing, which makes the genre even more interesting. Everyone who loves poetry has a selected list of poems that mean the most to them. Others are so interesting that one cannot help but feel excited to share with others. In this case, I find two poems interesting and recommend that everyone should read them. poems are “Marks” by Linda Pastan and “To My Dear and Loving Husband” by Anne Bradstreet. The two poems are written by female poets, and each has a different perspective on the married life. Their contrast led me to think about feminism and how feminists have used poetry. Therefore, I present an argument that reading the two poems will leave everyone feeling that feminism is a matter of personal experiences and attitudes towards family life and gender roles.
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The two poems drew my attention because of the persona’s attitudes towards family. In “Marks,” the persona is a wife and a mother whose duties are under scrutiny by both the children and the husband. For example, she states in the first two lines that “My husband gives me an A for last night’s supper…” (Pastan). The son believes that with more effort, she can achieve the “above-average” grade, while the daughter gives her a pass. Nobody seems to think about the trouble the character has gone through to give what she has to the husband and children. The only solace is, perhaps, from the daughter, who believes in a single pass/fail classification.
Receiving marks for her efforts should be enough to frustrate a woman, especially when there is no notion of what the rest of the family is giving back. Does she rate her husband in any of the duties he has done for her or the family? More importantly, what has the husband done lately for her and the family? These questions carry a feminist perspective, and any woman asking such questions might feel included to give her family up alongside the gender roles to that she has been subjected.
On the contrary, the persona in the poem “To My Dear and Loving Husband” is a happy and contented woman who appreciates and loved her husband unconditionally. The compassion in her tone is evident in how much she is satisfied with her situation as a wife. She says that she would not compare her love with all the riches of the world. However, the persona has not hinted anything about her role as a wife or mother, which is a major contrast with Pastan’s poem. In Bradstreet, the persona feels that there is no way she can ever repay her husband for the love which should hint that the woman is happy with her situation. The feelings are manifested in these lines “Thy love is such I can no way repay; the heavens reward thee manifold, I pray” (Bradstreet). She has no complaints whatsoever and all she thinks is the love of her husband.
My understanding is that feminists have used poetry to promote feminist principles and ideas. According to Faulkner, feminist scholars are often interested in theories, experiential knowledge, and embodiment (5). The embodiment in both poems offers sharp contrasts that would leave any feminist rethinking their ideas and principles. The idea derived from the poems is that there are two opposing views to feminism and the application of its theories. Queer theory has been described by Few-Demo and Allen as interrogating the privileges statuses created by the traditional construction of gender, sex, masculinity, and femininity (329). For Pastan, the queer theory is manifested in the construction of the gender roles of a woman as the persona is depicted as subjected to scrutiny by both the husband and children.
Pastan’s poem is one written from a feminist view where an embodiment of an oppressed woman is presented. The use of poetry to give voice to a gendered experience is manifested in this poem. The poet cannot be critiqued in any way because the objective has been achieved. In other words, she has expressed that the gendered oppression has to come to an end as the persona seeks to quit her family and their grading of her efforts.
The ideas from Bradstreet contradict Pastan’s works because the embodiment manifested is that of a grateful woman appreciating her husband. I can argue that feminists would not want to allow this poem to infiltrate their collection of feminist poetry. It is important to acknowledge that while both poems discuss family relations one of them appeals to feminists and one does not. Indeed, Bradstreet presents a case where a man can be loving and caring, which calls for a reciprocation of the same from the woman. Reading Bradstreet’s poem reveals that it is possible for women to feel loved and appreciated by their male counterparts without the issues of gender and gendered roles emerging. The persona in Bradstreet’s poem does not have to think about society and how it constructs her gender and roles in a relationship. Is there a way to convince the persona in this poem that women face oppression from men? Or could an argument be made that she has made the right choice in a partner who treats her in the way all women should?
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Therefore, multiple questions can arise from using a feminist perspective to examine the two poems. Possibly, I am the only person who displays these tendencies when reading and interpreting the poems, which is why everyone has to read them and see what ideas come to mind. They present an opportunity to rethink feminism and related theories, not because I disagree with feminists but because of the possibility of an alternative view.
The interest in the poems does not end with the application of feminist thoughts. Assuredly, the audience will get a chance to appreciate the literary devices, including the poetic language adopted by both poems. Comparing the devices in both poems can be exciting for anyone. For example, the tone in Pastan’s poem is one of frustration with married life, an extreme situation that the persona contemplates quitting the family. On the contrary, the tone in Bradstreet’s poem expresses compassion, gratitude, and content with married life. Imagery in Bradstreet’s poem can be described as conflicting because gold and rivers contrast rarity and abundance. Most importantly, her expressions symbolize that the pleasures and wealth of the world are not what keeps a union but the simple aspects of life are enough. Metaphorically, she prizes her love more than gold and feels it is mightier than the rivers because they cannot quench it. This is the poem that has more literary devices observed from the language and form adopted by the poet.
By contrast, Pastan keeps her language and form simple and focuses exclusively on sending the message. However, it is possible to highlight metaphors, which include marks or grades she received from her family. The marks metaphorically illustrate how the performances of a mother are always under scrutiny instead of receiving appreciation for the efforts. A rebellious tone can be manifested by line 12 when the persona states “I’m dropping out” to indicate that she has had enough of the criticism. However, suspense is created because the decision of dropping out could mean more than one course of action. Questions that arise include how she drops out: does she leave her family and, if so, on what terms? Therefore, there are more multiple ways that a reader can have fun with these poems.
In conclusion, reading the poems “Marks” by Linda Pastan and “To My Dear and Loving Husband” by Anne Bradstreet will leave some readers believing feminism is a matter of personal attitudes and opinions. This is because one cannot help but consider what they both mean to the feminist discourse. The argument is that feminist scholars have used poetry as a tool to express their ideas, principles, and experiences. The poem “Marks” is used as an example because the ideas contained in it have feminist connotations. Contrasting such a poem with another that expressed the opposite attitudes and experiences is exciting. Besides applying feminist principles in interpreting the poems, the reader is encouraged to read the poems because they offer an exciting opportunity to explore the literary devices.
Bradstreet, Annie. To My Dear and Loving Husband. 1981. Web.
Faulkner, Sandra. “Crank Up the Feminism: Poetic Inquiry as Feminist Methodology.” Humanities, vol. 7, no. 3, 2018, pp. 1-25.
Few-Demo, April, and Katherine Allen. “Gender, Feminist, and Intersectional Perspectives on Families: A Decade in Review.” Journal of Marriage and Family, vo. 82, no. 1, 2020, pp. 326-345.
Pastan, Linda. Marks. W.W. Norton & Co, 1978. Web.