Although fiction has several underlying themes, poetry does as well. Poetry’s theme might even be a quite a bit more challenging according to the length of the literary work compared to that of a work of fiction. The theme is rarely pointed out. It is up to the reader to find the theme. Likewise Fiction, themes in poetry can also vary from each individual. The theme of woman and their roles in life throughout history have had a huge impact on literature. There are so many works that represent woman, whether it be positive or even negative. Furthermore, two extraordinary poems share a very powerful theme. In “Homage to My Hips” by Lucille Clifton and “Her Kind” by Anne Sexton, the theme of the oppression of women is apparent in both unique yet similar poems. Clifton and Sexton both have their woman mention what is expected of the typical woman in their societies. However, they both find their identities after all.
Starting with “Homage to My Hips” by Lucille Clifton, this poem humorously yet powerfully indicates the theme. Symbolism is used throughout the whole poem regarding her hips. Her hips symbolize power. This woman in this poem is comfortable in her own skin despite society’s point of views and expectations. In this time, society’s tradition of the perfect woman meant that she was often thin and small-framed. Although the woman does dispute that there is anything wrong with her shapely body, she does not put down society’s idea of perfect. Instead she glorifies her own body and speaks of how much she loves her curves. However, her words do not come across egotistical as they do dignified and proud. “, They don’t fit into pretty little places” (Clifton 4-5). These lines broaden how society typically views “pretty”. Her voluptuous hips do not “fit” into society’s standards. Those hips won’t hold her back from accomplishing what she wants to accomplish no more than society would a skinny girl. Although she compliments her curves gracefully with several more attention-grabbing lines, the last three lines of this poem particularly stand out. They also set the tone with strong, in-your-face sensuality. “I have known them to put a spell on a man and spin him like a top (Clifton 13-15)! Readers currently have no doubt in their minds that this is a good reason why the woman’s hips remain a great asset for her and the men she encounters. This use of imagery painted a vivid picture in reader’s minds and that’s what its purpose was for. Overall, the woman accepts the fact that she is not a petite, or small framed woman. Her body as well as her attitude becomes significantly attractive and most men would concur. So, despite tradition of the typical petite woman, she embraces her own beautiful identity.
In the second poem, “Her Kind”, Sexton uses a great deal of expressive representative imagery to prove how brutal society’s opinions and strong stereotypes can be. However, in this woman’s case, it is not the tradition of a woman’s “perfect” body image. Instead she sarcastically mentions the roles of the traditional housewife and furthermore, how a woman should behave. Sexton portrays the woman or herself as a witch, “lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind, a woman like that is not a woman quite” (Sexton 5,6); This line is basically saying that because she does not have the same views as that of a typical housewife, she is not a real woman, or viewed as one to the public. When the poem mentions her being braver at night, this is the only time in particular that she feels comfortable going out in public because she will not be scrutinized since no one is able to see her. The woman wants to exceed the chains she is bound to in life. That life is the life of an ideal woman and housewife at this time. “In the second verse, the housewife consumes cooks and rearranges – a good suburban mother” (Pollard 4). The woman’s tone towards the end of the poem comes across rather complacent but towards the end it becomes very reasonable. The woman actually identifies herself with a witch throughout the poem, but especially at the end. The final words of “I have been her kind”(Sexton 16) represents the problem that she too like a witch, feels like an outcast. This woman’s point is that women need to let loose a little bit and break the boundaries given to them by society. She is implying that we only have one life to live and that living that life oppressed in unfair sanctions is not truly living after all. In the end, if that is what makes her so different, then so be it. When it is her time to die, at least she will know that she did everything she wanted to in life. According to Clare Pollard, In “Her Kind: Anne Sexton, The Cold War and the idea of the housewife”, “she is women, but not, unknowable, melting away boundaries” (Pollard 5). So, going along with the theme, she does not follow the boundaries so strictly anymore because she has a life to live.
In conclusion, the role of women back then was definitely more oppressed than they are today. Throughout history, women have been placed into sub-cultured categories and criticized extremely often for everything that they had done. Thankfully, times have changed. Although we are still oppressed in some ways, I can’t imagine what it would be like to grow up in a society that ridiculed women so harshly. It seems like a woman’s only purpose back then was to serve their husbands and to care for the children, nothing more. Women were common slaves, to put it bluntly. However, in the two poems, the roles of women are significantly and variously disputed. In “Homage to My Hips, the woman embraces her beautiful body regardless of what society thinks. And lastly, in “Her Kind”, the woman refuses to be restricted from doing what she wants to do in life, even if society alienates her. The most important thing is that they both embrace their identities and disregard what people think.