, Research Paper
In the poem The Last Day of the Year, Annette Von Droste-H lshoff uses imagery and references to God to express the coming of the end of the year. The poem, however, seems to reflect the impending freedom of women from a patriarchal society. This poem s imagery and outside references suggest that it is in fact a plea for the end of the suffering of women, and that the coming of their empowerment is near. The three things that I will use to prove this point are how one year represents the time of women s oppression, how she speaks directly to men in the poem, and how she makes divine references to represent the freedom of women.
Droste-Hulshoff says in line one of this poem, The year at its turn (Droste-Hulshoff, 1). Throughout this poem, she uses the year to represent a period of time that is coming to an end. Referring to the introduction in the World Reader, Droste-Hulshoff was a woman yearning for the freedom to be herself (Caws, 2002). This forces the reader to consider that she is using the time period of the year as the time of women s oppression. She feels that the time of the oppression is coming to an end. I wait in stern silence, O deep night! Is there an open eye? (Droste-Hulshoff 5-7) is one example of how she considers the era of women s oppression at its end. Another example is the following quote: My life breaks down somewhere in the circle of this year. Long have I known decay. Yet my heart in love glows under the huge stone of passion (Droste-Hulshoff 37-42). She has felt this persecution for all of her life, but she still prospers as a individual and waits with short patience for her time to come.
At one point in this poem, Droste-Hulshoff speaks to an unidentified second party. You, child of sin, has there not been a hollow, secret quiver each day in your savage chest, as the polar winds reach across the stones, breaking, possessed with slow and insistent rage? (Droste-Hulshoff 24-31). Continuing under the assumption that this poem was created to show the iniquities of sexism, one could put men in place of you in the preceding excerpt. I believe this to be a likely case because of the references to your savage chest (Droste-Hulshoff 27) and the words speaking of possession and rage, all considered by society to be very masculine traits. This would indicate that she feels that men have women only for possessions, and that they treat them boorishly because that is all they are able to do.
There are a number of divine references in this poem as well. Each time she refers to something divine, she also refers to something coming to an end. She is equating the coming of the Lord with freedom. All that was in my head and heart now stands like sullen rot at Heaven s Door (Droste-Hulshoff 15-17). She is stating her belief, in different words, that every person is the same in God s eyes, when a woman s life is over, all regards to gender are null when standing at Heaven s gate. Another divine reference comes towards the end of the poem. Is there a moist star burning through clouds? Is it the star of love, with far light, dim from fear, a steep booming note. (Droste-Hulshoff 45-49). This is again showing that she believes that God is burning through the clouds to bring to an end the regards to one s gender. Lastly, she begs for god s mercy in the last stanza of the poem. O Lord, on my knees I spread my arms, and from my drouth beg mercy. (Droste-Hulshoff 52-54). She is at this point begging for the mercy of the Lord in helping create equality on earth as it is in heaven.
This poem was written as a plea to both society and divinity to bring the oppression of women to an end. Droste-Hulshoff uses a wonderful reference to the year as the period of despotism of her gender. She switches at one point in the poem, directly addressing her audience, to put her point directly to men. Perhaps most powerful of all are her references and pleas for God to end the suffering, and that he will have final judgement. She feels The year at its turn, the whirring thread unrolls. (Droste-Hulshoff 1-2).
Droste-Hulshoff, Annette Von. The Last Day of the Year. The Harper Collins World Reader. Ed. Mary Ann Caws, Christopher Prendergast. Harper Collins College Publishers, New York, 1994. Pp. 2002-03.