The Times That Try Men’s Souls rendered the issue of social injustice that manifested itself in gender inequality. Chapman stresses that, now that a significant social change is on the horizon, the time has come to address the gender problem: “the women have leaped from ‘their spheres’” (Hollitz 270).
The fact that America was witnessing a drastic change in the relationships in the society in the 19th century served as the basis for the feminist movement to commence. Therefore, the necessity to address the concerns associated with the needs of women, in general, and African American women, in particular, appeared. Herein lies the reason for the poem to be written; the voices of African American women had to be heard at the time when the principles of equality started being developed in the American society.
The poem raises a range of questions about the way in which the feminist movement was born, the links between feminism and abolitionism, the problems that African American women were facing at the time, etc. However, by far the most intriguing aspect of the problem concerns the social norms that existed in the 19th century and the way in which these norms were subverted. Indeed, while the difference between the oppression that African Americans experienced and the one under which women, in general, and Black women, in particular, were, do not seem comparable. Nevertheless, the poem points quite graphically to the fact that the two types of oppression mentioned above have several points of contact that need to be explored deeper. Therefore, the poem suggests taking the issue further and asking whether the current racial issues and gender-related biases have anything in common. The answer may be quite surprising, and it may shed light on the means of managing the inequality issue successfully.
Frame of Reference
The Times That Try Men’s Souls cannot be considered outside of its era. While it would be wrong to claim that the poem is a product of its time given the progressive ideas that it incorporates, it still tackles the dilemmas that were part and parcel of the reality of the 19th century. For instance, the atrocities of slavery are mentioned in the poem quite explicitly. However, by incorporating the elements of a feminist thought into the poem, Chapman makes it topical to the modern reader as well.
The Most Powerful Line
The entire poem is shot through with the pain that the author experienced. Therefore, it is very hard to pick the line that makes the point in an especially strong way. Nonetheless, one must give the author credit for summarizing the struggle of feminists in the following line: “In vain do our knowing ones try to compute/ Their return to the orbit designed” (Hollitz 270). It renders the hopelessness that women felt as they saw that their demands for equality were not heard and dismissed as irrelevant and not worth consideration. The poem strikes with despair that can be heard in every line, demanding for social justice and making a legitimate point even in the present-day world.
Hollitz, John. Thinking Through the Past. Vol. 1. Cengage Learning, 2014.