A Puritan Woman’s Challenge:
The Balance between Love for a Husband and the Devotion to God
In the poem “A Letter to Her Husband, Absent Upon Public Employment,” Anne Bradstreet addresses the importance of her husband’s presence in her life and the emotions she experiences when he is gone at work. Clearly demonstrating education unfamiliar to women in the 1600’s as well as passion not commonly found in her time’s literary works, Bradstreet successfully portrays the connection she feels between her and her husband and the consequences of such a connection. Using earthly, physical and scientific comparisons, Bradstreet shows that her husband is the center of her world, but also attends to the fact that it does not mean he has officially replaced God in her life. In the beginning of the poem, Bradstreet immediately addresses her husband’s significance as her “head, [her] heart, [her] eyes, [and her] life” (1). He is her “magazine, of earthly store” (2) which suits her physical and emotional needs. Changing the mood to the somber state-of-being due to his absence, Bradstreet creates an image of the winter season, where she “mourn[s] in black” (7), with “fridged colds” (10) and “chilled limbs now numbed [that] lie forlorn” (11). Referring to the leafless trees and longer periods of darkness that accompany winter, she also relates to the zodiac sign, Capricorn, which represents the winter months. She mentions distance from the sun and this can be interpreted literally, as the sun is further from the north during winter, but also metaphorically, as she is further from her husband – the “Sun” (8). In contrast to this frigid state she describes, Bradstreet rotates back and forth to her experiences when her husband “return[s] … from Capricorn” (12) and is no longer “gone so far in’s zodiac” (8). Diving deeper into the metaphorical reference to zodiac, she explains he is her “Sun” (8), as important to her as it is in the zodiac – representing the life force and...
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