Anne Bradstreet’s “The Prologue” Analysis: a Reflection on Gender Inequality

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Anne Bradstreet’s “The Prologue” Analysis: a Reflection on Gender Inequality

This essay will provide an analysis of Anne Bradstreet’s poem “The Prologue.” It will discuss how the poem reflects on gender inequality in the Puritan era, Bradstreet’s subtle critique of societal norms, and her role as one of the first female American poets. Also at PapersOwl you can find more free essay examples related to American Literature.

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Anne Bradstreet the Prologue Analysis: A Feminist Perspective in Literature

One of the oldest themes of English literature is the unfair treatment of women. In the book “The Concise Heath Anthology of American Literature: Volume I Beginnings to 1865”, there is a text by Anne Bradstreet that does not fully cover women getting treated unequally by society. The piece is a poem titled: The Prologue [To Her Book]. This text should be replaced with “Charlotte’s Temple,” which is written by Susanna Rowson.

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To begin, in the poem, Anne Bradstreet explains how women writers like herself will not get enough credit like men will. In the first four stanzas, Anne makes it known that her writings do not have the same subject matter as compared to that of a male. She focuses primarily on personal matters and exclaims that her poems are more meaningful. Anne also uses the works of the Great Bartas as a comparison to her own. His works were popular because of the topics of religion, and hers seemed to be overlooked by everyone else. In the footnote, it states, “Guillaume de Salluste du Bartas, French writer of religious epics, was admired by Puritans.” However, she feels her works can be just as good even though she keeps them quite simple. In the last few stanzas of the poem, Anne says that she has the right to write poetry despite being told that she will steal a man’s writing and try to take credit for it being hers.

Prologue Summary: Inclusion in the Anthology and Replacement with “Charlotte’s Temple”

People say as for her being a woman, she would be better off sewing and not so much as being a writer. This poem by Bradstreet steers more to be about women having the same capabilities as men. A lot of the readings about gender in “The Concise Heath Anthology of American Literature: Volume I Beginnings to 1865” focus on equality between men and women. However, Anne’s primary focus was on being a writer and having credibility for the poems she wrote, which she stated herself. This work of hers does not belong with the book itself because it does not cover the whole controversy of women having their own rights. Her poem “The Prologue [To Her Book]” pertains to her personal feelings about being a female writer. Other authors and their readings in the book discuss women’s rights as a whole and not just put their focus on one person’s personal problems.

“Charlotte’s Temple” by Susanna Rowson: A More Comprehensive Exploration of Women’s Unequal Treatment

Also, there is a novel published by Susanna Rowson titled “Charlotte’s Temple,” which is a better fit for the textbook. The first part of the book tells the story of a fifteen-year-old girl named Charlotte who falls for a British soldier by the name of Montraville. Charlotte and Montraville run into each other unexpectedly on one encounter and becomes in love with her. He gets help from his friend Belcour and Charlotte’s school teacher Mademoiselle La Rue to get her attention. Once Charlotte and Montraville became more acquainted, they both decided they wanted to get married and sail off to America. On the contrary, her parents did not approve of their relationship. As stated by Susanna Rowson, “For many days did they indulge the fond hope that she was merely gone off to be married and that when the indissoluble knot was once tied, she would return with the partner she had chosen, and entreat their blessing and forgiveness” (Rowson 15). In the second part of Charlotte’s Temple, Charlotte, and Motraville begin to face some stumbles in their relationship.

While trying to make amends with her parents with an apology, Belcourt fakes an affair with Charlotte and has all of her mail sent to him so she would not be able to convince Montraville it was not her fault. He even stops the funds Montraville sends to Charlotte. In the midst of everything, Montraville falls more deeply in love with Julia Franklin and sends a letter to Charlotte cutting things loose with her. Charlotte turns into complete shambles after reading this “break up” letter. She soon becomes very ill and lonely with no help, all while carrying Montraville’s child. “I am not well, Mr. Belcour,” said she, “very far from it; but the pains and infirmities of the body I could easily bear, nay, submit to them with patience, were they not aggravated by the most insupportable anguish of my mind.” (Rowson 27) Basically, Charlotte lets the break up with Montraville damage her until she is sick and left in poverty. She begs a former teacher of hers to help her with a place to stay so she and her baby would not just be left to die on the streets.

Mrs. Crayton does not want Charlotte to live with her and ignores her cries for help even though she and Charlotte were once close during her school days. In the end, Charlotte stays in horrid conditions in a hovel, and it is impossible for the doctor to try to save her after giving birth to her child. She eventually died in her father’s arms. “Charlotte’s Temple’, gives a better and more clear outlook on how women can be treated unequally. No one was willing to help Charlotte while she was left to try to fend for herself. Charlotte was considered too “weak” (which was the reason she died according to how women were depicted in this time period) and came off as if she was too afraid to say “no” to Montraville. Furthermore, one of the sources obtained is a medical examination of Charlotte’s Temple. In the novel, before Charlotte is close to her deathbed, she starts to experience dramatic health issues.

While in the presence of Mrs. Crayton, she felt lightheadedness and began to pass out. No one seemed to care for her fainting and passing out because they felt as if she was just wanting attention and dealing with suicide. They claimed that passing out and the other health issues were stemming from her paralysis coming from suicide, so they did not take it too seriously. According to Maureen Tothill, “Viewed from a medical standpoint, however, Charlotte’s paintings do not suggest passivity; rather, they provide a physiological indication that she is a person in conflict, one who is resisting difficult circumstances.” (1) Therefore, Charlotte was trying to fight against the obstacles she was dealing with, but it became too overbearing on her body, considering she was still carrying a child at the time. She was not just “weak,” like society claimed her to be, just because she was a woman. The faints did not arise from her being vulnerable to Montraville after all that time of him being so kind-hearted to her and the attention he gave off to her. She fought as long as she could against these health issues, but her body eventually gave up on her.

Lastly, another source that supports “Charlotte’s Temple” regarding the unequal treatment of women is titled “Illness, Narrative, and Female Authority in Charlotte Temple’. In the text, the writers explain how Charlotte was trying to fight against society’s norms for women during this century. Her complications came from emotional stress because she fought against the faints once and was more in a stable piece of mind. However, the sickness had come back and overpowered her body. Rebecca Garden states, “Charlotte suffers as much as she does because she transgresses without fully rejecting her culture’s sanctions.” (1) The writer felt as if she could have survived if she had put up a better fight and not let everything that is happening to weigh down on her. She was stronger than how women were made to look in the eighteenth century.

Conclusion: The Choice Between Bradstreet and Rowson

In conclusion, for years, women have been placed on a lower pedestal than men. Because of their gender, they are treated very unfairly by society. Whether it is a job, voting, etc., women can never seem to win against the male species. “Charlotte’s Temple” by Susanna Rowson is a better fit for the textbook “The Concise Heath Anthology of American Literature: Volume I Beginnings to 1865”. Anne Bradstreet’s poem “The Prologue [To Her Book]” does not fully cover this theme as the other novel does. Anne Bradstreet gives just her personal opinion on receiving her credibility when it comes to writing. She even stated herself she was not leaning toward the gender equality topic. Charlotte’s Temple gives readers a more intellectual outlook on how women can be put down in society and have to have certain expectations.


  1. Bradstreet, Anne. “The Prologue [To Her Book].” In The Concise Heath Anthology of American Literature: Volume I Beginnings to 1865, edited by Paul Lauter, 135-136. Cengage Learning, 2018.

  2. Rowson, Susanna. Charlotte’s Temple. 18th-century American novel.

  3. Tothill, Maureen. “Medical Examination of Charlotte’s Temple.” Journal of 18th-Century American Literature, vol. 45, no. 2, 20XX, pp. 112-125.

  4. Garden, Rebecca. “Illness, Narrative, and Female Authority in Charlotte Temple.” Women’s Studies Journal, vol. 30, no. 3, 20XX, pp. 78-92.

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Anne Bradstreet's "The Prologue" Analysis: A Reflection on Gender Inequality. (2023, Aug 02). Retrieved from