Free Anne Bradstreet Literature Review Example
Bradstreet’s poem “Letter to Her Husband, Absent Upon Public Employment” is interesting when placed in the context of the time which it was written in. Puritan society placed a great emphasis on traditional male and female roles and on the institution of marriage, but Bradstreet’s poem is actually quite physical in nature, and hints at a level of sexual intimacy that is unexpected in a poem from this period. Frequent references to heat and warmth serve to emphasize the comparative coldness felt by Bradshaw at being left alone, such as “His warmth such frigid colds did cause to melt / My chilled limbs now numbed lie forlorn.” This implication of sexual heat is augmented further by the poet’s reference to her children, which “through thy heat [she] bore”. Her description of the physical intimacy she experiences with her husband seems to be foregrounded in the poem, rather than mitigated by Puritan codes of appropriate conduct.
It is perhaps worth considering that the poem is dubbed a “letter”, and may never have been intended to be seen by a viewing public. This raises the question of how much more muted the sexual undertones of the poem would have been if it were not written for only private consumption. Actually, the poem may go some way toward revising perceptions of Puritan marital relations, demonstrating that physical love may have been a more significant part of married life than is commonly understood.
Bradstreet’s “The Prologue” discusses the position of being a female author in a world in which most authors are men. Although her words may sound submissive in the first stanzas (“A weak or wounded brain admits no cure”), she quickly goes on to reveal that she secretly harbors a determined and rebellious attitude toward her literary oppressors. Thus in stanza five she writes an explicit acknowledgement of her awareness of the situation:
I am obnoxious to each carping tongue
Who says my hand a needle better fits,
A poet’s pen all scorn I should thus wrong,
For such despite they cast on female wits:
If what I do prove well, it won’t advance,
They’ll say it’s stol’n, or else it was by chance.
Bradstreet acknowledges the gender disparities at play within society and disagrees with the activities that society attempts to proscribe for her. Further, she acknowledges the quality of her own work and the impossibility of that quality being acknowledged by men.
Towards the end of the poem Bradstreet takes on what seems to be a more sarcastic tone, following as it does her statements in stanza five, stating: “Men can do best, and women know it well.” At this point in the poem it seems as though Bradstreet is almost mocking male self-aggrandizement and satirizing the expected submissive role of women. Bradstreet extends this sentiment by closing the poem with the most ironic statement of all, saying “This mean and unrefined ore of mine / Will make your glist’ring gold but more to shine.” In writing a well-crafted poem discussing the impossibility of female authors, and then closing that poem by saying her own work only glorifies the work of male authors, Bradstreet creates an ironic and humorous ending; the apologetic tone is belied by the earlier stanzas and her true feelings of defiance are revealed.
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