The author, Anne Bradstreet, who is a Puritanical woman from the 17th century, views her literary work of art as a child being born. The metaphor of the piece as a child being conceived and nurtured is the overwhelming image of this poem. It is in keeping with the author’s station in life. In examining her work, the author practices the art of introspection as well as self-evolution. She reveals her emotional feelings about exposing her developing work to the withering criticism of others.
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In showing her work she is baring her innermost thoughts and feelings to the world and allowing them to be dissected and examined.
She laments the exposition of her creation to public view and she notes the flaws and shortcomings of her offspring. She is repulsed by the flaws and imperfections but she discovers the flaws are impossible to erase. (Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain) this refers to the birth of an idea from her mind. Her view of her work is that of a mother viewing her imperfect child
(Who after birth didst by my side remain, Till snatched by friends, less wist than true)
After completion, she held onto her book until encouraged by friends to release it.
(Who thee abroad exposed to public view, Made thee rags halting to the” press to trudge, Where errors were not lessened (All may judge))
This baring of her soul causes her deep anguish. She speaks of washing the face and exposing even more defects. The meaning of these lines is that a well-meaning associate encouraged her to present her book to a publisher who found many more errors with her work and criticized it even more(Made thee rags).
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The return of her book from the publisher, with critiques, embarrassed her even further: (At thy return my blushing was not small)
She attempted to improve the work, which she found troublesome, but her feelings were conflicted since she was the creator and she appreciated her own effort: (Thy visage was so irksome in my sight yet being my own, at length affection would thy blemishes amend, if so, I could)
The next phrases describe her attempts to make changes to improve her work 🙁 I washed thy face, but more defects I saw and rubbing off a spot still made a flaw. I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet, yet still, thou run more hobbling than is meet) Her efforts do not accomplish her imagined goal of improvement.
So, she resigns herself to the limitations of the work. (In better dress to trim thee was my mind, but naught saves homespun cloth I’ th’ house I find. In this array “amongst vulgar mayst thou roam.)
And her final acceptance statement: (In critics hands beware thou dost not come, and take thy way where yet thou art not known; if for they father asked, say thou hadst none; And for thy Mother, she alas is poor, which caused her thus to send thee out the door.)
She has done her best to shape the child and present it in a favorable light, and she sends her child out to do the best he can with her blessing and guidance.
The poem must be viewed in the context of a 17th century repressed Puritanical woman. Her personal views and feelings are masked by metaphors as women were discouraged from self-expression at that time. Anne Bradstreet was one of very few women authors of her time. She resorts to metaphor and symbolism to express her feelings because she is wary of more direct speech. Outspokenness was not a trait encouraged by women during the 17th century.