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Anorexia

By caravelli77 Feb 02, 2014 1551 Words
Anorexia, what exactly is the meaning of this harsh word? It reveals the sense of fear, the feeling of depression, the act of starvation; all combined to illustrate a disorder of self-destruction. These are the disturbing factors that are intensified in Eavan Boland’s “Anorexia,” as the author travels through the troubling aspects of a woman’s eating disorder. When the poem is first read, it seems as though the words simply depict a woman struggling with the disorder of anorexia. However, once read more in depth, a reader may conclude that Boland’s poem bears much more meaning. Through the figure of the body, Boland demonstrates how exposed a female can become to the physical standards of the woman, the presence of the male character, and the lack of control within the female position. The true intention of “Anorexia” is to illustrate the vulnerability of the female identity. ​In the poem, the narrator does not feel her appearance would be described as beautiful. She does not see herself as woman should nor does she display the same grace as others seem to; a distorted image is all she sees. The reason she sees herself this way is because society has set a standard that she feels she does not meet. The poem implies that society commands for a female to appear womanly and proportionate; beautiful and perfected. Every curve, every feature, and every ounce of flesh is considered just as valuable as the actual character of a woman’s being. The standards of the woman lie within a foundation that insists only when a woman is attractive can she be valued. This assumption in turn creates an unrealistic expectation that a female individual must consistently live up to. This is the expectation the speaker of the poem is struggling with. Boland incorporates the elements of an anorexic disorder to closely encounter the true sufferings of the female’s vulnerability. Boland skillfully masters the use of imagery to sharpen the narrator’s feelings of a deformity. She feels she is repulsive and unattractive to the eye of every individual, specifically her own. “My body is a witch” (2) the speaker directly comments. The narrator truly believes she carries no worth not only as woman but as a being within society. The extreme expectations that are increasingly set upon a woman, such as the image, begin to create a sense of low self esteem within a female. In result, she begins to push the true reality to the side. The female figure begins to experience an immense amount of pressure on the physical characteristics of the body that the more meaningful aspects of a person become completely avoided. No reflection is ever perfect and no image is ever enough. The female then becomes entirely exposed to the tortures of inaccurate standards that society has made and she then feels as though the only way to meet the so-called standards is to starve herself to assume the image she so desperately wants. In the poem, an eating disorder appears as the narrators only escape. She must conform to the standards of society no matter the consequences. For this reason she begins “torching / her curves and paps and wiles” (4-5) and “vomiting her hungers” (13-14) to erase her identity for another. However, it is not simply her physical attributes she eliminates but also a segment of her being. Boland includes the fierce imagery of “burning” (3) her body and “torching / her curves” (4-5) to signify the loss of existence as well. Because the female becomes so terribly exposed to the power of societal standards, the character becomes vulnerable to the world and ultimately weakens; only to fall prey to her absolute destruction. Boland incorporates a biblical allusion within the poem to interpret the female’s vulnerability to men. In depicting the speaker’s struggle with anorexia, many references to the biblical story of Adam and Eve are mentioned. In the bible, it is said that God first creates the man, Adam, to walk His hand made earth. Once the man is composed, God decides to create Adam a partner and forms the woman, Eve, out of the bone and flesh of Adam’s body. Boland brilliantly uses the relationship between the body of Adam and the creation of the woman to emphasize the never-ending bond between the female and the male in the poem “Anorexia.” The speaker claims she has become as “thin as a rib” (19) for this is the part of the body she once was made from. The rib refers to the one of Adam, the part of his body of which woman was created. The statement therefore symbolizes the male’s possession over a female. She may act as her own individual and attempt to remove herself from the sense of superiority, but the bond between the two will forever remain the same. ​The speaker recognizes this attachment and acknowledges that it is unavoidable. She even begins to long for the relationship because she understands that it is her set position as a woman within society. The speaker fears the sense of “claustrophobia” (22) but begins to crave for the “sensuous enclosure” (23) of the male figure. She sees anorexia as the only means of achieving this. The female must strip her body of flesh and become “sinless” and “foodless” (30) to be considered worthy of a males presence. The speaker truly believes once this is done her pain will finally diminish and allow her the ability to “slip back into him again,” (31-32) “him” referring to Adam’s God made body. With the biblical references pertaining to the body of Adam, Boland attempts to elaborate on the vulnerability a female possesses in recognition of the male. Society demands that the male figure dominate the female not only externally but internally as well. She will always be considered dependent on the male and therefore will always be a subject to direct. ​Finally, Boland creates the sense of disassociation between the mind and the body of the speaker to illustrate the absence of control within the female position. In the poem, the point of view of the speaker constantly alternates between the use of the first person and the third person. Boland intentionally does so to exert the idea of separation. It seems as though the mind and body of the speaker develop their own individual thought process. At times it appears that the body itself is the narrator which happens to speak in the first person: “I vomited her hungers / Now the bitch is burning” (13-15). The body seems to be commenting on the actions of the woman dealing with the anorexic disorder. Yet the statements do not present themselves just as commentary; rather, they appear to be a sense of direction. The speaker can no longer control her own set of mind and simply allows her personal embodiment to take over. It is now the body who tortures the female, not the female who injures the body. The mind of the being no longer has a place with the existence of the body. The poem emphasizes the process of “burning” (3) and “torching” (4) the body to demonstrate the embodiment’s position of supremacy. The body is now the one in control and the mind freely obeys. ​Boland develops this distorted division to detail the subordinate position of a female in society. Women can expose their mind, body and soul to humanity but the female’s vulnerability to power simply leaves them as abandoned victims. The speaker’s attempt to perfection only brought her agony. Her figure, along with her identity remains dismembered and separated. The speaker’s attempt for self control simply brought her loss. She continues to feel displaced and worthless; “She has learned her lesson” (18). Boland incorporates this regretful statement to exhibit the failure many females may experience. The desire for self control and individuality lies within the hopes and aspirations of every woman’s being. Yet, no matter how strong the desire, it seems as though the female identity will always fall prey to the society’s control. By depriving a woman of her own self control, as done in the poem “Anorexia,” the female no longer has a voice; no longer has an identity. Her mind betrays her. Her body possesses her. She is stripped away from every sense of value she once inhibited. In the end, the female identity loses its sense of guidance and is simply left for “the fall / into forked dark” (42-43). ​Boland skillfully illustrates the vulnerability of the female character within the poem “Anorexia.” The author exposes the female identity to the unrealistic expectations of the woman to express the horrid and torturous standards that society lays down upon female individuals. Boland also incorporates biblical references to the body of Adam to demonstrate the female’s boundless vulnerability to the male figure. The disassociation of the mind and body of the speaker symbolize the weakness the female identity encounters from the lack of self control she obtains. Boland deeply administers every one of these aspects to allow the reader to understand what is between the lines of the text. It is the female’s prolonged vulnerability to society the author wishes to emphasize; along with the awareness that the female identity will always fall victim to exposure.

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