Anne Stevenson Poem The Victory Essay, Research Paper
Anne Stevenson poem The Victory ” I thought you were my victory /though you cut me like a knife” (Stevenson 1-2) the opening lines of Anne Stevenson’s poem The Victory set a tone of conflict. This poem, at its surface, expresses a mother’s thoughts on giving birth to a son. Stevenson describes the mixed feelings many mothers have upon the delivery of their first born. The final release from pregnancy and birthing pains, coupled with the excitement of bringing a live creature into this world, at firstseem a victory to the new parent. The author goes on to confute the event as a victory. Using words such as “antagonist” (5), “bruise” (6), and “scary”(13), she shows the darkerside of childbirth. The mother has felt her own life’s blood flowing that a stranger might live “The stains of your glory bled from my veins.” (6-8). That she sees her own child as a stranger is evident in lines nine and ten, where the child is described as a “blind thing” (9) with “blank insect eyes”(10). The mother portrays her baby as a bug, not even human. In the last section of the poem, two questions are asked, attesting to the mother’s internal conflict. “Why do I have to love you?/ How have you won?” (15-16). These unanswerable queries are some of the fundamental questions of our human existence. Below the topmost layer of meaning in The Victory, is an underlying theme that anyparent or guardian will easily relate to. Children are born out of the great pain theirmothers endure. They are helpless in one sense, yet they command the care of their parents. Stevenson describes the intrinsic helplessness of infants with the words “Blind”(9) and”Hungry”(14). Yet, this poem does not refer to new born babes alone. Birthing pains do notcease with the delivery of a child. The conflict described in this poem is felt by parentsof adult children as well. All parents give of their lifeblood, at least in the emotionalsense, in raising and maintaining their offspring. The Victory is a poem written as if by a
mother only just delivered of a new born son, yet the themes expressed in its lines apply toall the stages of human life. Stevenson seems to stress the pain that is felt when one lifebrings forth another, but there are many pains felt by parents in ways unphysical. “Youbarb the air. /You sting with bladed cries” (11-12) these are sharp words that bringthoughts of tangible pain. These words also describe mental and emotional pain that is feltby many parents who sacrifice much for their children. The poem does not place a guilt onthe baby nor, therefore on children in general. It seems to acknowledges the turmoil ofbirth and life as natural. The child who is born today, collects the sacrifice of itsparents and will make sacrifices for the child born tomorrow. Even though The Victory isworded to sound resentful, as though the mother begrudges her child his new found life, italso has a resigned tone. The mother accepts her lot, however painful. Even deeper into this poem is the hint of feminism. The author chose the sex of this babyintentionally. She used two references to a knife, indicating pain inflicted in a mannerunnatural. The knife has traditionally been a man’s weapon. “Tiny antagonist” (9) couldrefer to the entire male gender. “Scary knot of desires” (13) is a reference to the sex act,which is sometimes seen as male aggression. The child is the manifestation of this act. “Hungry snarl! Small son.” (14) the use of an animalistic noise directly precedes therevelation of the baby’s gender. Once again Stevenson’s choice of words reminds one of maleaggression. The woman in the poem seems to feel cheated in bearing a male child to the manwho is indirectly responsible for her condition. Why does she have to love him? Does thatsum up the plight of woman? Is it Eve’s curse that woman shall embrace man, though in sodoing she must suffer childbirth to bring forth more men? (Or daughters who shall sufferlikewise.) Is that how he has won? The Victory asks us these questions. They cannot beanswered.