An Analysis of Anne Bradstreet's "The Prologue"

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Anne Bradstreet's poem, "The Prologue," portrays the struggles of being a woman in a Puritan society. She realized that in a Puritan society, women were not meant to speak their mind and have strong opinions. With this poem she acknowledges her role as a woman in society even if she doesn't agree with it. Anne Bradstreet shows her recognition of men's supposed superiority in that time period with this line: "Men can do best, and women know it well" (40). Regardless of her acknowledgment of her role in society, she uses her poetry to convey her feelings and opinions about it through honesty and humor.

Anne Bradstreet lived in a time where women were meant to keep quite and tend to the children and home. She wrote "The Prologue" during this time to express her opinion on a woman's voice in society. She wrote in an atmosphere in which women were relegated to traditional roles. When reading this poem it is clear to see that Anne Bradstreet valued knowledge and intellect because she was a free thinking. Some even considered her an early feminist. The voice throughout this poem is at times hard to determine. In the first half of the poem she is adhering to the roles of women and that men are better. But then in the second half she has a voice and wants people to hear it by saying things like, "Men can do best, and women know it well / Pre-eminence in all and each is yours / yet grant some small acknowledgment of ours" (40-42). She wants for women to be accepted as intelligent and opinionated people as well.

Thematically, Anne Bradstreet wrote about many different topics that are both extensive and varied. She wrote about things like culture, nature, religion, family, death and history (Cowell, 2008). There are reasons why Anne Bradstreet wrote "The Prologue." I believe that Anne Bradstreet's intentions were those of informing and speaking her mind. She realized that even if she had written a good poem, most people would assume that it was either stolen or that she just got lucky. Women were not given any credit for things other than keeping up the house and tending to the children. I think her point in writing "The Prologue," was to use it as an avenue of venting. She couldn't just say these things to just anyone and using a poem, a literary work, to convey her thoughts was maybe more tolerable in that society.

This poem elicits strangely varied responses regarding the tone and mood. Jane Donahue Eberwein of Oakland University proposes some interesting questions. Eberwin questions, "Is the poet humbly submissive or bitterly angry? Is she self-deprecating and self-denigrating, as some readers find, or a pre-feminist champion of her sex?" I believe that Anne Bradstreet realized her place in society, but because she was educated she still challenged the idea of a women's role in the Puritan society. The tone of the poem shows in my opinion some resentment and anger towards the assumed role of a women along with the humor she portrays so well. Also, the foot and meter of this poem is iambic pentameter.

To fully understand the atmosphere and circumstances that Anne Bradstreet wrote this poem, you need to understand the Puritan way of life and its direct effect on women. The Puritan religion believed that women should be mainly stay quiet and take care of the children and the home. More often women were taught to read so that they could read the Bible. But there were few who learned to write because it was normal to think that there was no reason a woman should know how to write. Writing was known as a man's activity and was not for the women. At times it was customary for women to be reminded in church by ministers that they were inferior to men (New England Goodwives, 2002). To be a Puritan woman during this time proposed many struggles, especially to be an educated writer.

Anne Bradstreet was born to a family that believed in her education. She grew up in circumstances that were...
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