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Cultural Attitudes Towards Women Demonstrated In Poetry

1268 words - 6 pages

Cultural Attitudes Towards Women Demonstrated in Poetry The role of women in western society has varied across the centuries. One way to examine attitudes towards women of a given time period is to read literature from that period. Poetry, for example, is able to reflect how a society viewed and treated women at a given time. I believe that the poems "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell, "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" by Adrienne Rich, and "Barbie Doll" by Marge Piercy all demonstrate the cultural attitudes towards women held by society in the times that they were written."To His Coy Mistress" was written in the mid-seventeenth century, when women were valued for their beauty and their ability ...view middle of the document...

He describes: An hundred years should go to praise Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze; Two hundred to adore each breast, But thirty thousand to the rest. (lines 13-16; p. 144) He is complementing her body, saying it would take a hundred years to praise it's beauty. This is emphasizing the value placed on a woman's beauty. Later on, the speaker says: Time's winged chariot hurrying near; And yonder all before us lie Deserts of vast eternity. Thy beauty shall no more be found. (lines 22-25; p. 145) Once again, he demonstrates the importance of a woman's youth and beauty in this society. The speaker is reminding her that she doesn't have a lot of time to chose who she wants; the more time that goes by, the less valuable she'll be to men. This is why she should be with him right then.A poem very different from "To His Coy Mistress" is "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" by Adrienne Rich. It is very clear that these two poems were written in two very different centuries. "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" was written in 1951, the beginning of feminism. Women were being taught to empower themselves and to rebel against a patriarchal society. However, even though the feminist movement was going on, there were still plenty of women being dominated by their husbands as there are even today. This poem is about a woman who is dominated by her husband and she realizes she is trapped. This woman uses her knitting as an outlet for her silent suffering. Symbolism is used to demonstrate the dominating situation. The tigers in this poem symbolize Aunt Jennifer's free spirit; they are free to "prance across the screen" (line 1; p. 313) and "they do not fear the men beneath the tree" (line 3; p. 313). These "men beneath the tree" are hunters; they symbolize Aunt Jennifer's husband who has hunted and killed her free spirit. Aunt Jennifer realizes that she should not fear her husband, just as the tigers have no fear for the hunters; however, she still does fear him and she feels "the massive weight of Uncle's wedding band" (line 7; p.313). The wedding band symbols the marriage that she is in and how her husband has placed heavy restrictions on her freedom."Barbie Doll" by Marge Piercy depicts the social pressure put on women in western society, even as young girls, to...

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