Ann Bradstreet Essay, Research Paper
Analysis of “The Author to Her Book”Jonah Knobler——————————————————————————– Anne Bradstreet, doubly accomplished as both the first American poet and one of the first English-language poetesses, was, above all, a woman of contrasts. Born into prosperity in England, Bradstreet left her refined world behind for the raw, untamed New World of the American colonies. Although she came of age surrounded by affluence, she moved to New England, where such “pelf” was scorned. Thus, Bradstreet was the product of both the old wealth of English society and the new, strict Puritanism of the American wilderness. Having lived in two different worlds and experienced two different lifestyles, it is not surprising that Bradstreet was frequently ambivalent and given over to self-conflict. In “The Author to Her Book,” Bradstreet is awash in indecision and internal conflict over the merits and shortfalls of her creative abilities and the book that she produced. This internal struggle between pride and shame is manifested through an elaborate conceit in which she likens her book to her own child. Anne Bradstreet’s bivalent attitude is expressed through the comparison of her unwillingly published book of poetry to a misbehaving and embarrassing child. Although the poem deals mainly with her writing, as evidenced by the title, she repeatedly speaks directly to her work in apostrophe, as if it were her own son or daughter. Bradstreet refers to the addressee of the poem as her “ill-formed offspring” and her “brat.” She indicates that this “offspring…after birth dids’t by [her] side remain” and refers to herself as its “Mother.” These word choices – offspring, birth, Mother – all serve to build up Bradstreet’s metaphor of her writing as her child. Bradstreet is the figurative “Mother” of her brainchild – her book of poetry. Just as a mother brings a child into being, Bradstreet brought her poems into the world. Bradstreet uses this extended metaphor to emphasize her mixed feelings toward her work, relating the complexity of the creative process and her opinions of it to the well-known chaos and conflict of the parent-child relationship. She feels abashed that her private works were published without her consent and before she was fully finished editing and correcting them. Thus, Bradstreet relates the embarrassment she feels due to her as-yet-unperfected work to the shame a parent feels due to a malformed, ill-tempered child. Her imperfect literary creation is paralleled by the figurative creation of an equally imperfect human being. In this manner, the resentment and humiliation Bradstreet feels due to her flawed literature being exposed to the world is compared with the readily identifiable feelings of resentment and humiliation instilled in parents by their unruly or errant progeny.
In contrast, Bradstreet also uses the metaphor of her poem as her child to express the commitment, pride, and affection that it stirs in her. She utilizes the universal, instinctive, emotional constant of parental love to characterize the creative process and her feelings toward her creation. Just as a mother tries to raise her child as best as she can, teaching outward manners and propriety, Bradstreet tries equally as valiantly to further the “outward” improvement of her poems through “rubbing off a spot” (erasing an error) and “stretching [their] joints to make…even feet” (fixing the meter of her poems). However, just as a parent is never wholly satisfied with his or her child and always wants perfection, however unreasonable, Bradstreet strives in vain for unattainable perfection in her poems. Despite Bradstreet’s perpetual inability to accomplish her quest of perfecting her works, she still feels a semblance of “affection” and pride, at last voluntarily sending it out into the world to “roam” among “vulgars.” The corresponding and final piece of the metaphor is a mother’s unconditional love of her child, regardless of the child’s faults. A mother loves her child regardless of whatever shortcomings the child may have, and Bradstreet cannot help letting the true love she has for her “child” show through her perfectionist, self-deprecating fa ade. Through her deft use of conceit or extended metaphor, Bradstreet weaves an intricate web of parallels between parent and author and between child and book – both relationships of creator to creation. This metaphor takes the complex but well known dynamic of the mother-child relationship and equates it with the lesser known bond between an author and her writing, thereby attaching a human face to the otherwise esoteric creative process of generating poetry. This anthropomorphism allows the reader to relate emotionally to Bradstreet’s situation through the clever and successful comparison of her feelings to emotions with which the reader is already familiar. Ultimately, through her detailed metaphor, Anne Bradstreet ensures her poem’s success by inextricably linking the triumph and tragedy of authorship with the pain and pleasure of creating and nurturing human life. Anne Bradstreet, though indubitably a woman of many contrasts, creates in “The Author to Her Book” one of the most interesting comparisons in American writing. ——————————————————————————– Back to Jonah’s Writing Page