Thursday, May 14, 2009

Poem Comparison:Romantic Era


Question 1

(Suggested time — 40 minutes. This question counts as one-third of the total essay section score.)

The following two poems establish controversial views of a woman’s role in society. Read each poem carefully. Then in a well organized essay, use analytical techniques such as point of view and syntax to compare and contrast the differing methods in which each speaker uses to convey their concepts.

It’s a Woman’s World

Our way of life
has hardly changed
since a wheel first
whetted a knife.
(5) Well, maybe flame
burns more greedily
and wheels are steadier
but we're the same

who milestone
(10) our lives
with oversights—
living by the lights

of the loaf left
by the cash register,
(15) the washing powder
paid for and wrapped,

A Woman’s Mission

What highest prize hath woman won
In science, or in art?
What mightiest work, by woman done,
Line Boasts city, field, or mart?
(5) 'She hath no Raphael!' Painting saith;
'No Newton!' Learning cries;
'Show us her steam-ship! her Macbeth!
Her thought-won victories!'

Wait, boastful man! though worthy are (10) Thy deeds, when thou are true;
Things worthier still, and holier far,
Our sisters yet will do;
For this the worth of woman shows,
On every peopled shore,
(15) That still as man in wisdom grows,
He honors her the more.

the wash left wet.
Like most historic peoples
we are defined
(20) by what we forget,

by what we never will be:
It's our alibi.

(25) for all time
that as far as history goes
we were never
on the scene of the crime.

So when the king's head
(30) gored its basket —
grim harvest —
we were gristing bread

or getting the recipe
for a good soup
(35) to appetize
our gossip.

And it's still the same:
By night our windows
moth our children
(40) to the flame

Oh, not for wealth, or fame, or power,
Hath man's meek angel striven,
But, silent as the growing flower, (20) To make of earth a heaven!
And in her garden of the sun
Heaven's brightest rose shall bloom;
For woman's best is unbegun!
Her advent yet to come!
-- Ebenezer Elliott

“Woman’s Mission.” Copyright © 1850 by Ebenezer Elliot, from Poems and Articles.

of hearth not history.
And still no page
scores the low music
of our outrage.

(45) But appearances
still reassure:
That woman there,
craned to the starry mystery

is merely getting a breath
(50) of evening air,
while this one here —
her mouth

a burning plume—
she's no fire-eater,
(55) just my frosty neighbour
coming home.
--Eavan Boland
“It’s a Woman’s World.” Copyright © 1982 by Eavan Boland, from AN ORIGIN LIKE WATER: Collected Poems 1967-1987 by Eavan Boland. Used by permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.



In order to create the paired poem prompt, I first needed to find a poem that would compellingly match with the poem, “A Woman’s World” by Eavan Boland. In conducting that search, I desired to find a poem that also dealt with issues concerning women and their roles in society. I also hoped to find a poem that expressed the speaker’s views on whether or not he or she thought the society’s views had changed over the past decades. With those ideas in mind, I chose a poem entitled “Women’s Mission” written by Ebenezer Elliott.

When I first compared the poems, the titles were quiet similar and gave me the immediate sense that each poem would deal with some central theme of women and their affects on others in their society in either a positive or a negative way. The titles also imply that women are important to their societies, regardless of differing opinions and through the aid of each poem; the speakers would eventually reveal just how significant women truly are. It is also interesting that both of the poems began with similar ideas, for instance, in “A Woman’s World” the speaker says, “…we are defined …by what we never will be: star-gazers, fire-eaters” (lines 19-23) and the speaker of “Woman’s Mission” also discusses the lack of opportunities there are for women to win the “…highest prize … in science, or in art” (1-2). Essentially, both speakers take note to the prevalent disadvantages women are faced with because of the lack of opportunities they have to better themselves, and the division between women and men’s capabilities is solely based on their gender.
From these two poem comparisons, a range of essay can be crafted because of the speakers’ point of view. In Boland’s poem, it is quite clear that the speaker is female with the numerous occasions in which the speaker includes herself as a part of the society she comments upon, for instance, the speaker says, “…it's our alibi… we were never on the scene of the crime” (24-28) The use of “our” and “we” denotes that the speaker is female and by knowing this about the poem, a person composing an essay on this topic will be able to understand that the speaker has more of an intimate connection between the restrictions women were placed under because she probably had a firsthand experience with those types of situations. However, a person writing an essay may run into difficulty in determining the gender of the speaker in Elliot’s poem because the speaker does not formally connect himself or herself to the poem’s content. However, one could speculate the speaker’s gender identity based on lines such as, “'she hath no Raphael!' Painting saith; 'No Newton…” (5-6) and a person could then conclude that the speaker is a male because he uses the term “she” has no Raphael, rather than we have no Raphael, but continuing down the poem, the reader would notice that the speaker now says, “…wait, boastful man! though worthy are thy deeds…” and the reader could then conclude that the speaker is female because the speaker speaks directly to a man and comments on how worthy “thy” deeds are. In all, with the speaker’s gender identity known, it aids in understanding the speaker’s point of view and emotions. At the same time, without knowing the speaker’s identity, the writer will struggle in creating an argument that supports or opposes a particular view, but if a writer were to determine that the speaker of Elliott’s poem is a male, it will make for an insightful and original essay if the writer were to focus on how the possible male speaker sounds more hopeful of a coming change than the female speaker of the Boland’s poem.

The prompt is written in a way that allows for various essays to be composed because although it asks the reader to discuss the idea of gender roles in society, the words “…differing methods…” gives the writer freedom to establish a range of different ways the speakers convey their ideas; such as through tone, point of view, and the poem’s structure. There is also a lot of imagery and symbolism in Boland’s poem and the use of Old English in Elliott’s poem adds to the poems’ complexity, however, since the prompt guides the readers in different ways to decompose the poem and to analyze all of its ideas, the prompt is helpful but yet challenges the readers to look beyond the more obvious techniques and to find ones that make each poem unique. As more writers strive to exceed expectations, a broader range of easy will appear.

The prompt not only allows for various essays to be composed, but it is formulated in an AP style with the usual directions of the length of time a reader should spend on this portion of the exam and the caution one should take in reading through the poems because this portion is quite difficult. Also the section’s layout is quite accurate because the poems are aligned next to one another which visually aid the readers in understanding the more subtle aspects of each poem. For example, by placing the poems side-by-side, one can notice that the punctuation marks used in Boland’s poem increases as the poem continues to explain the idea of how important women are to their society. As the speaker sums up the poem, the reader may see one idea that a sturdy community is built upon the help women provide underneath the surface as the men stand in the forefront. With the accumulation of such ideas, the amount of punctuation increases to emphasize how a strong poem is also build upon the use of various punctuation. With Elliot’s poem, various punctuation marks are used throughout the entire poem and it is significantly shorter, which shows how the speaker was more hopeful from the immediate beginning of the poem and kept the poem precise to the idea that women play essential roles and one day soon everyone would know that. All of these observations can be seen and later expanded on because the poems are placed side-by-side.
Footnotes are also provided to aid the readers throughout the poems because the smallest piece of information such as the date could signify one writer to compose his essay based on the Romantic Era in which the poems were written and how this era could affect the poem’s views. While another writer could see the footnote of Elliott’s poem coming from “Poems and Articles” and this writer could be familiar with Elliot’s work and immediately understand the speaker’s point of view based on previous similar ideas introduced in other pieces.

The prompt’s more general ideas and guidance toward useful techniques allow the writers to compose various types of essays because the prompt challenges the writers to go beyond the general requirements. In addition, the structure of the section and the poems themselves allow the writers freedom to express many different ideas because both poems use an abundance of rich symbolism, imagery, and historical references, giving a writer the ability to incorporate any of these elements into a unique piece.

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