anne Bradstreet’s Poetry analysis

Ann Bradstreet is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest poets. In fact, she is the first female American to have her work published in the Puritan society of American Poets (Ferszt 305). Anne Bradstreet’s writing thoroughly explored a variety of topics, including Puritanism, modesty, motherhood, romantic love, and feminism. While not openly depicting feminism in the majority of her poetry, Anne Bradstreet demonstrated this theme by multiple techniques, one of which being inspiring women and demonstrating their capability. However, back in the 17th century, the role of women was characterized as bearing children. Poetry and other art works is thought to be predominantly masculine (Myles 346). Women poets, therefore, faced significant challenges in the art industry in America and Anne Bradstreet was not an exemption. This essay, therefore, looks at some of these problems that Anne Bradstreet encountered as a Puritan in America during this period. Additionally, it goes a step further to have an insight on the way Anne Bradstreet explores womanhood in her poetry. This analysis will be based on two poems by Anne Bradstreet specifically in The Author to Her Book and My Dear and Loving Husband with a close reference to other works. To start with, it will be necessary to discuss the position women in the ancient American society or other words, the extent of the theme of feminism in Anne Bradstreet work.

In the 17th-century women’s primary role was viewed as being conceiving, bearing and raising children in the society (Bradstreet and Ellis). Most of the economic activities were reserved for the men and even venturing in art was such a challenge. Women are looked at as a weaker being in the society by and this portrayed by Ann in her poem The Author to Her Book where she reads through her book for the first time and despises it. She refers to her work as “ill-form’d offspring” of her brain implying that she could not have done the right thing when writing the poem even though she still proud of it. From the poem, Ann openly expresses her perception of the brother in – law who took a collection of her first poems and published them in a book without allowing her a chance to edit and polish them first. In this poem, Ann Bradstreet explores womanhood as part of the society that she cannot influence by any action. As much as she is the one who wrote the content of the book she was not given the opportunity to correct the mistakes that she made earlier (Bradstreet and Ellis). It is evident from this poem that women were not empowered in this community since they had no voice to participate even in the decisions that affect their lives directly. She feels demoralized by the fact that the people who took her work did so before they were mature enough to for release. The poet states clearly that the “friends” who took the book were “less wise than true,” implying that their actions were not malicious though it was a sign of carelessness (Gerhardt). They published her work, and she only gets to see the work when it was back in her hands with all the mistakes in it, and it is finally out the world in “rags” depicting the women’s disability to use resources to perfect their art. The book is referred as the child that goes out in rags, and when asked about its father she responds that it had no father. When enquired about the mother, it states that mother is poor and that is why she sent her away. This statement is an indication that she had no power to correct the mistakes in the book and is just hopeful that the world will accept it as it is since it was not her intention to offer a substandard work.

Ann Bradstreet, in her poem The Author to Her Book also depicts women as hardworking individuals in the society (Gerhardt). Despite being disappointed by the fact, her work was published while in the bad state, she still reads it and prides in it. She takes full responsibility for her work despite all the flow in it an indication of the confidence in women. This aspect in the poem explores women’s ability and show that they can also excel in the creation of products such as poetry as demonstrated by Ann Bradstreet (Brack and Hensley 655). The American society of this error did not give the women the opportunity to show their talent and capabilities, but Ann Bradstreet went against all the odds to become one of the best poets in the world.

Ann Bradstreet’s poems have explored other themes such as humility, puritanism, and feminism. However, the feminism does not come out openly, but she brings out this idea by appreciating the vital role of women in the society. Women are portrayed as the pillars of the family and marriage in general (Brack and Hensley 655). For instance, she writes about how much her husband loves her to the extent that she believes that their lives will live on even after their death “That when we live no more, we may live ever.” Women are depicted as caretakers of the society and a bonding figure as they motherhood and love that comes out from this poem is an indication of a vital role in family unity (Brack and Hensley 655). Moreover, women are envisaged as protectors of religion and family values. Ann Bradstreet prides in their love and the flourishing of their marriage and uses this to encourage other women to emulate their life and affection. She states that;

“If ever wife was happy in a man,

Compare with me ye women if you can”

Finally, from this poem, Ann Bradstreet in her poem To My Dear and Loving Husband shows that as much as women has a role to play in the conjugal love, men have a greater responsibility to show their wives love(Allison Giffen 1). Women on the hand have to appreciate their husbands’ love, and this is a critical component in fostering marriage. Women are therefore not just objects of conceiving, bearing and raising children but are partners in the daily running of the family as a whole.

As much as Ann Bradstreet was one of the best female poets in the Puritan error in America, her journey to this success was not smooth (Allison Giffen 1). She faced some challenges especially because she was brought up in a male dominated society where women had no chance for personal development. In the Puritan society, women were not allowed to pursue knowledge or to express their feelings and views in public. Ann Bradstreet lived in a harsh religious community that majorly looked down upon women who tried to be independent. The religious prejudice and oppression of women were on the challenges that Ann Bradstreet faced as Puritan poet (Allison Giffen 1). However, despite all these problems Ann defied all odds and expressed her feelings especially the love she had for her family, beliefs, and life in the poem To My Dear and Loving Husband. This expression of feelings was actually against the Puritan religion which required that the love between women and men be depressed to allow one to show full devotion to God (Hilliker 435). However, Ann Bradstreet wrote in her poem To My Dear and Loving Husband that, “Of ever two were one, then surely we” an indication of her devotion to the spouse. Such religious restrictions were great impediments to the development and empowerment of women in the Puritan society.

Another significant challenge to Ann Bradstreet as a poet in the puritanical society in America was the community view about the women (Hilliker 437). This society saw women as weak individuals and the being that they were not allowed to pursue studies and leadership positions. This claim can be evidenced by Ann’s poem The Author to Her Book in which she gets annoyed after reading the book that contained the collection of her first poems. She states the book was an ill-informed offspring of her brain (Shields). Being acutely aware of the public perception of women in her error, she admits that she did not intend for her work to be published. However, her brother in law takes the book to New England to be published. She refers to the book as her child an indication that she is proud of her work and creativity even though she is not sure of how the public will perceive the document (Shields). As much as the book was published without having a chance to correct the mistakes in it, she is still satisfied by the fact the world will be able to get to know her feelings. She can only count on the fact she has successfully told the world her feelings, but Ann accepts that she had no power to decide on how her ideas should be presented.

Ann Bradstreet also suffered from the lack of empowerment especially the financial part of it. Women in the puritan society were living a life full of poverty. In the poem The Author to Her Book, she uses the book symbolically indicating that she had no ability to influence how, when and where the book was being published (Myles 362). Moreover, she admits that she could not have liked to let the book go the world in its current state, but she was forced to let go due to poverty (Richardson and Stanford 696). She says that when the books get out there, it might be asked if it has a father and its answer will obviously be negative. When asked if it had a mother, it will respond positively but will have to explain that due to poverty she allowed it to let go and see what will become of it. She only remains hopeful that the poems do not fall into the critic’s hands considering that the society was suppressing women’s intellectual capabilities (Myles362). Finally, it will be unfair to complete this discussion without mentioning other poems that Ann Bradstreet used to stamp her authority as a poet in the Puritan society. Specifically, the poem The Prologue she openly expresses herself showing that she is a good poet despite being a woman. Ann states that; “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” (Richardson and Stanford 696). This statement is clear despite the criticism that she might have stolen the words in her poems from men, but she indicates that she strong enough to stand against the people that stand in her way.

In conclusion, it is evident that Ann Bradstreet grew up from a male-dominated society with high religious prejudice against women. The women were viewed as weak organisms that could not be creative to write poems and actively participate in literature. This is evidenced by the critics that were poured into Ann’s work. Moreover, women had not been empowered, and this made Ann allow her book to be published without proper editing just to help alleviate poverty. Despite all the challenges faced by women poet in Puritan community, Ann Bradstreet still managed to defy all the odds and expressed her feelings to the public. She was able to depict that societal restriction cannot have dominion over-determined women. The poem To My Dear and Loving Husband indicates that women can express their feelings freely and conjugal love is nothing to hide.

Works Cited

Allison Giffen. ““Let No Man Know”: Negotiating The Gendered Discourse Of Affliction In Anne Bradstreet’s “Here Followes Some Verses Upon The Burning Of Our House, July 10Th, 1666”.” Legacy27.1 (2010): 1. Web.

Brack, O. M., and Jeannine Hensley. “The Works Of Anne Bradstreet.” The William and Mary Quarterly 25.4 (1968): 655. Web.

Bradstreet, Anne, and John Harvard Ellis. The Works Of Anne Bradstreet In Prose And Verse. Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1962. Print.

Ferszt, Elizabeth. “Transatlantic Dame School: The Early Poems Of Anne Bradstreet As Pedagogy.” Women’s Studies 43.3 (2014): 305-317. Web.

Gerhardt, Christine. “Robert Boschman. In The Way Of Nature: Ecology And Westward Expansion In The Poetry Of Anne Bradstreet, Elizabeth Bishop And Amy Clampitt.” Anglia – Zeitschrift für englische Philologie 130.1 (2012): n. pag. Web.

Hilliker, Robert. “Engendering Identity: The Discourse Of Familial Education In Anne Bradstreet And Marie De L’incarnation.” Early American Literature 42.3 (2007): 435-470. Web.

Myles, Anne G. “Queerly Lamenting Anne Bradstreet.” Women’s Studies 43.3 (2014): 346-362. Web.

Richardson, Robert D., and Ann Stanford. “Anne Bradstreet: The Worldly Puritan: An Introduction To Her Poetry.” The William and Mary Quarterly 33.4 (1976): 696. Web.

Shields, David S. American Poetry. New York: Library of America, 2007. Print.

Stanford, Ann. Anne Bradstreet, The Worldly Puritan. New York: B. Franklin, 1975. Print.

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