Thursday, 22 March 2012


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For years women have been labelled by the vast population of men as parental beings fit only for the home and customary sorts of past times such as sowing and cooking. This dominant discourse of being a woman has altered in response to society’s adaptations over time. Poetry in the past and in today’s world has allowed not only women but also men to convey their own values and beliefs as to a woman’s role and place in society. Three poems have been selected to expose a dominant, alternative and oppositional view of the female identity. Indisputably, these poems have arisen many hidden meanings and ideas according to the text and discourses apparent in each poem, which will be further discussed.

The first poem to begin this exposition, written by Judith Wright, entitled ‘Women to Child’ uncovers the dominate discourse of the stereotypical nurturing mother. The poem describes a women’s joy in bearing a child and also through examination, gives the impression of how mothers expect love and respect form their children by saying that she is the creator and without her the child would not be given life. So in other words, the child should be thankful and love their mother for what she has done.

‘In the Park’ by Gwen Harwood, introduces an alternative view objecting society’s values and beliefs. Love and guilt come together in Harwood’s poetry as the woman reflects back on her life. Unlike Wright’s poem, which subjects mothers being happy about having children, the woman in ‘In the Park’ is shown to be dissatisfied with her life although she is also a mother.

Finally, Ania Walwicz’s ‘Big Tease’ opposes a patriarchal society and shows how women have been misrepresented over past generations. The mother in this case shows no signs of being a nurturing, loving mother, but instead displays mothers in a resisting way, being prostitutes that dominate men by their beauty and sexuality.

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All three poems exhibit the same focus, the mother or motherhood. The poems differ in perspective offering dominate, alternative and oppositional readings to viewers. ‘Women to Child’ distinctly shows woman treasuring the sacredness of pregnancy and birth being a traditional trait of women in society. This inference is evident throughout the poem, mainly in the second stanza in which Wright is reflecting on evolution and comparing her pregnancy to God’s creation, which is often thought to be a beautiful and remarkable thing, along with pregnancy.

“There moved the…”/

“and coloured…”/

“There swam…” (LL 6-8).

“In the Park” alternates the expectations of women and reveals motherhood as a burden rather than a joy. In the first line, “Her clothes are out of date” (L 1), we judge that the woman is exhausted and trapped as she is still living in the past wearing out of date clothing. The word aimless along with dirt, (Line ) infers that the women is watching her children, thinking about lost opportunities and the aimless pattern of her life, which like dirt is an unwanted aspect in life, like dirt in the house. In this poem we still see the women as a nurturing mother quoted in lines 1-1, however the final line implies that motherhood drowns out a woman’s hopes and dreams, everything that makes up her soul has been “eaten alive”, hence reinforcing this poem alternatively corresponding society’s expectations of the dominant mother. “they have eaten me alive” (Line 14).

“My mother flirts with the tailors” (Line 5). This line taken from Walwicz’s ‘Big Tease’ poem, clearly challenges the dominant discourse of being a mother, introducing a new concept which contradicts society’s assumptions and values. Not only does this poem divulge women, including mothers as being prostitutes or flirtatious, “ She’s this big tease. Big…(LL 6-8), it also reveals women using sexuality to get what they want or to gain power over men. “She’s a pretty girl. The only…” (LL -4). This line in particular reinforces that all the woman has got going for her is her looks. No dominate discourse of motherhood is exposed, leaving the resistant message of women and mothers being opposite to what society expects of them.

Exploring poetic devices and applicable figures of speech, similarities and visible differences are obtained from the three poems. The dominate and alternative poems both use a rhyming scheme to produce a sing- song feel that is often used in children’s poetry representing motherhood. The oppositional poem uses free- verse to initiate the feeling of ideas to paper, or a train of thought steering clear of any signs of a dominant reading. Symbolism in ‘Big Tease’ reveals hidden messages that all contribute to the resistant discourse portrayed. “She wore these silk…” (LL -), implies that the woman is sexy, slutty and even a working- class girl. Also the use of repetition in the poem allows certain words to be emphasised to convey the message more clearly. Both of these factors contribute to the overall oppositional reading of the poem.

Again the use of symbolism is evident in ‘Women to Child’, in conjunction with the dominant reading. “I am the earth, I am the root, / I am the stem that fed the fruit, / the link that joins you to the night” (LL 17- 0). These lines indicate the mother showing love and tenderness to her newborn child, dominantly portraying her role in society.

Also a binary opposition is visible in lines 16 and 0 using the words light and night. This symbolises life and death as in the first two lines reveal that the child came from darkness, nothingness it was then unliving, hence night being death and in line 16, living light is used after the woman has given birth, consequently representing life. This factor reinforces the statement that mothers want their children to appreciate what they have given them, as the women is saying to the child, I am the one that brought you from nothingness. (Write in lines 16 and 0).

“Write lines 7 to 8). The small balloon in ‘In the Park’ represents the woman thinking about what life would have been like without kids if she had still been with him as she describes him by saying, ‘from his neat head’ which indicates she is taking note of his appearance, showing attraction. Alternatively she is thinking about improper thoughts, with respect to the dominant discourse of a woman, as she reminds herself of her duty as a mother by saying, ‘but for the grace of God’.

Although all three poems represent different reading perspectives, each is joined by the fact that the women in the poems are looking for other things in life, instead of living up to society’ expectations. Whether it be power over men, respect and love, or a chance to lead another life, these poems show that women have other needs in life, apart from family bonds or jobs which need to be explored and experienced regardless of society values and beliefs. All of the women are facing the battle of recognition with themselves and are being judged by doing so by society which is in this case, is thought to be just a male’s perspective reinforced by power.

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