A Work of Artifice by Marge Piercy

Topics: Woman, Plant, Bonsai Pages: 2 (410 words) Published: May 21, 2011
A Work of Artifice by Marge Piercy

The bonsai tree
in the attractive pot
could have grown eighty feet tall
on the side of a mountain
till split by lightning.
But a gardener
carefully pruned it.
It is nine inches high.
Every day as he
whittles back the branches
the gardener croons,
It is your nature
to be small and cozy,
domestic and weak;
how lucky, little tree,
to have a pot to grow in.
With living creatures
one must begin very early
to dwarf their growth:
the bound feet,
the crippled brain,
the hair in curlers,
the hands you
love to touch.

This poem describes a bonsai tree, but uses the tree as a metaphor. It is describing something else. I think the poem depicts a woman who is treated in an unfair way, especially by not giving them freedom or rights. The bonsai tree represents a woman and the gardener is a man. The gardener is a man because it is described in line 9-10, “Every day as he whittles back the branches”. In the line 9-10 “Every day as he whittles back the branches”, line 3 “could have grown eighty feet tall”, and line 17-19 "With living creatures / one must begin very early / to dwarf their growth" consist of preventing the growth of a woman. The bonsai tree is dwarfed by cutting roots and branches, and by training branches to grow in certain directions by tying them with wire, so it explains that the gardener does not let the tree (woman) reaches its full potential in life. He keeps cutting her down and not letting her grow.

This poem is also probably about symbolism of Chinese women because I think bonsai is well known as Chinese tree and the poem mentions “the bound feet”. It is like mentioning a story of foot binding in China. It tells that Chinese women were forced into submission by men and how bad they were treated in their relationship. In the line 22 "the hair in curlers", it is probably about a reference to the stereotyped life of women. This illustrates social subordination of women and the restrictions...
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