"To the Ladies"
by Mary, Lady Chudleigh
Located in our poetry anthology on page 22 and online: http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Texts/ladies.html
The lines I looked closely at are:
"Wife and servant are the same,
But only differ in the name:
For when the fatal knot is tied,
Which nothing, nothing can divide,
When she the word Obey has said
And man by supreme law has made...(1-6)"
In this poem there is a lot of tension between the patriarchal society and the role of women. In line one a wife is metaphorically compared to a servant. Therefore the wife has no say in anything because even though she may be a lady, she is in no position of authority, her only task is to 'serve her husband. This is a very 'male' view of the time period that this poem was written in 1703. Line two continues with the only actual difference between a wife and a servant being the title of 'wife.' In line three of the poem, explicitly says 'fatal knot is tied,' which is an obvious reference to being married, however there is a paradox of a wedding, tying the knot, to being fatal. Marriage is normally associated with a positive light, a new beginning, but in this poem the speaker is saying that once your married there is no way out, and marriage is a death of any freedom. Line four the speaker points out the permanence of marriage, obviously now if the marriage is as bad as the speakers, divorce is an option. But for the speaker in the poem the only option is death itself. In line five the poet emphasises the word Obey with a capital O and the word being italicised. Obey is a very strong word the OED describes it as basically taking orders from someone in authority. The woman in this marriage has no say in anything what so ever, her only function is to take orders. Line 6 enforces the fact that men are in complete control over women. This poem is about a women in a bad marriage warning other women of the consequences of saying obey and I do... You will lose complete freedom over your life, everything you do will be because it is what your husband wanted. The rhyme in the first 6 lines is a,a,b,b,c, d.
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I really do agree with your analysis of this section of the poem however, there was one thing that stuck out to me. Did you happen to notice that it was she who said obey and not he? I think this deserves a lot of attention. In the way the rest of the poem seems to portray the woman's lack of power, don't you think it should be HE who says obey? This made me view it in two ways. First, I think that by saying Obey, she could in a sense, be questioning the man's word (as in, "you want me to obey?") and in that she acknowledges the expectations people have of her. The other way I viewed it was that she has been dragged so low in her ranking of human that she is admonishing herself as a woman to obey. Either way, I think that it adds to the hopelessness of the poem and only furthers the reader's understanding of why she views her only escape as death.
- Amy DeLuzio
I really liked your interpretation of the text! I agree with everything that you said. I thought it was interesting that Chudleigh did a great job at forewarning women about the consequences of marriage but she neglected to address the effect of NOT getting married. Its interesting how she despises marriage and says, "you must be a brave and wise women" but she does not offer help to all of the brave women who decide to venture out into the world by themselves and decdide not to wed. There is no post to women giving them an alternative as to where they will live, how they will make money or any other issue that may be imperative to surviving during 1703. It just seems that Chudleigh is so quick to shun marriage but does not offer an alternative and is not eager to assit those of who have gottem themselves married and want out...I know, I don't sound like a strong feminist but I am...I just thought it was interesting how she neglected that in her literary work.
Shut up ho
Actually AmyD, with regards the word "obey" the poet is referring to traditional marriage vows where the bride promises to "love honour and obey" where as the groom promises to "love honour and cherish." So, no HE shouldn't be saying obey, as it is a promise on her part, not a command on his part.
"wife and the servant are the same" In a much as I don't argue the point and other analysis but i think the writer is mocking with the system of the time when wives were like servant,in a way addressing the weaknesses of the society to realize the value of men and not women! looking at their roles, still do not mash, because it can't be possible that the role of the wife is that of serving her husband like that of a servant serving his boss. Again i think the writer is satirizing with the system and time.
u shut up hoe
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