Feminism Statements in the Poems Women by Swenson and Ariel by Plath
Women are now increasingly using poetry to present their perception of femininity. Feminist writers are using poetry to speak on behalf women who have been silenced and destined to living a dark life in the society. This paper will provide a critical analyzes of the way two poets, Swenson and Plath uses poem to make strong feminism statements such as feminist power and women’s strength that have so far gone unnoticed. It will look into how these two poets have used the different literary elements of production to advance these themes in their poems. It will provide a comparison of these poems in terms of the literary elements each uses of these and determine who best presented these feminism themes.
The main theme in Swenson’s poem Women is feminism as relates to equal rights and opportunity for women. Swenson criticizes how men tend to overpower women as well as the way society allows this and have women learn that this how things are supposed to be. She argues that women in the society are perceived as being simple and ignorant, allowing men to use them as objects.
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In this poem, Swenson conveys the role of women in the society and makes it clear that women must have their own goals as their role is not just serving men. The ideologies that were prevailing during that era held that the position of women in the society was supporting men. Swenson strongly criticizes the representation of women as sexual objects in the society whereby their main role is supporting and satisfying men.
To advance her theme, Swenson makes perfect use of literary elements of production including structure, imagery, symbolism, metaphor and diction. She uses these elements to show how women are perceived as objects and toys of men in the society. The most stinking characteristic of this poem the way it is structured. It is structured in the form of two similar columns that are curved and read separately.
These two columns seem to highlight the stories of two females, representing womankind. The columns are joined at two points using longer lines that make it easy to smoothly read the two columns. In addition, the shape of the first column suggests a pedestal that is on the move while in the second column is the image of a rocking horse. The pedestal and the horse are the central images of this poem as they tend to objectify women. By depicting women as pedestals and playthings, Swenson tends to demonstrate the way women are seen as useless in the society.
The poem’s major symbols relates to the major imagery used in the poem. The pedestals along with the rocking horses express the idea that women serves to support men in the society. The pedestal is a position of admiration and a device for supporting a structure. Thus, it is used to portray the woman as an object of admiration and to be used by men. The lines “chafed feelingly” (Swenson 9) and the “unfeelingly” (Swenson 10) imitate the two different meanings associated with the phrase pedestal. By depicting women as moving pedestals, Swenson suggests that women should move towards the direction men want them to move.
As the poem progresses, Swenson introduces another symbol of ‘ things in the toyroom”. Here, women are symbolized as children’s toys. Towards the middle of the poem, the symbol of rocking horses emerges, “The pegs of their ears” (Swenson 7). The rocking horse indicates women’s oppression. The horse is an animal that the master uses to his own benefits. Similarly, men have exploited women in the society with their benefits to the household, the government and the society in general being largely overlooked.
The rocking horse also symbolizes the exploitation of women in sexual relationships as women are supposed to be submissive to men. The riders who are men are depicted as “the trusting fists” and this shows that the only purpose of women is to be used. At the end of the poem, the pedestal image comes up again and in the second column in this case, showing its purpose has been reversed. This implies that rather than men placing women on the pedestals, they themselves need to be pedestal to women. They need to support women to achieve their goals.
Swenson also uses diction to develop her theme of women oppression and objectification. She uses simple language to express the idea of women simplicity. The poem’s lines are simple made up of mainly one or two terms and seldom three words. These lines do not give room for discussions, justifying or even contemplating possibilities. The two joining lines (10 and 20) depict the similar experiences that women share.
At the start of the poem, Swenson states that women are ‘the gladdest things in the playroom” (Swenson 1), suggesting that women are happy to be objects. In the second line, which is the longest line in this poem, the riders are depicted as ‘egos” and women are supposed to serve them; however, here these men are seen to abandon their playthings as kids do when they lose interest in their toys.
The last six lines in every column put forth that women are supposed to be “immobile sweetlipped” (Swenson 6), happy and at all times ready to do what their men want them to do. Here, the role of women is depicted as that of soothing the men’s ego through offering them a haven from their failures. It is always said that a woman determines the success of her man. The attributes of women are exposed in the line “the legs stride away”. Furthermore, riding has a sexual connotation that would easily depict the archetypal, heterosexual, male-dominated relationship as women are portrayed as being motionless, sweet lipped and joyful.
Swenson employs an open form of structure. The poem is distinctive, no set rhythm, has no restrictions, avoids traditional patterns and is unpredictable. No doubts the jarring pattern of the poem helps is advancing its theme. Swenson pays attention to the visual display of letters and words line. She uses a white backdrop to display her writings. The words and lines are arranged to form a curve shape that tends to depict the body of a woman.
The structure of the poem mimics a rocking horse, a curve shape and a ladder that seems impossible to climb. By forming this shape, Swenson reinforces the theme of her poem by suggesting that women are perceived as valueless in the society and they do not have the ability to overcome these obstacles to achieve success.
`Swenson also uses irony to reinforce her feminism theme. At the start of the open, she says that women cannot be equated to objects and their role is not just to support men. Another use of irony is evident in line 4-6 of the poem where Swenson refers to women as old-fashioned and present them to be happy to be used by men as toys. This poem was written at a time when women were struggling to separate themselves from conventional roles and speaking out their frustration with societal limits.
Thus, there is no way they would have been happy performing these roles as the poems presents. The characteristics of the rocking horse represent the desire of women to be restrained, committed, appreciated for their attractiveness and willing to serve. Definitely, this representation is false and this shows another portrayal of the ironic tone of the persona.
Plath used poetry as a device to express the cultural concerns of women in the society as relates to the conflicts women were experiencing to transit to the modern society. In the poem “Ariel”, the woman persona goes through a great ordeal but there is hope of being reborn or transformed. The God’s Lioness transforms into a white Godiva, whom Plath depicts as being strong, decisive and enlightened. Here, the woman is shown to have improved herself and thus depicting her as her own savior. In short, Plant is expressing the idea that it is only women who can manage to bring to an end the issues that are affecting them in the society.
Women must first take control over their problems as they look for the support of others. At the start of Ariel, the woman speaker is portrayed as mounted in a horse that is motionless. This is similar to an incident in the Swenson’s poem where women are depicted as immobile. In the second stanza of poem, the neck of woman persona is shown as a curve. This tends to evoke the figure of the woman as the shape of Swenson’s poem is seen as a curve.
Both poems use the symbol of a horse but in Ariel the rider is a woman while in Women the rider is a man. Plath intends to reinforce the idea of women being strong to overcome the obstacles they face in the male-dominated societies while Swenson presents the idea that women are weak and thus unable to properly address the issues affecting them in these communities. At some point in the Ariel, the horse starting moving suggesting that the woman has started having control over her life.
Plath uses the body as symbolism when she says that the protagonist tries to run away from her own body. It means she wants to free herself of feminine duties. In lines 28-31, the suicidal flush is seen as a symbol of rebirth and new life. The woman persona in Plath poem is complex and multiple. She is portrayed as a woman seeking to understand, find out and cope with the issues she is facing. In the poem, the woman persona assumes different forms that are subject to analysis.
At the start of the poem, the audiences are first introduced to the woman protagonist as God’s lioness. As the poem progresses, the protagonist is again introduced to the readers as White Godiva. The woman describes herself as “I am the Arrow” (Plath 33-34). This shows Plath’s artistic expertise in capturing the changeability of identity in a single piece of work. She also makes use of endless collection of images in the cruel journey of a continuous identify rediscovery. The God’s lioness transforms to an arrow and tries to confront the realism of the arrow in anticipation of reclaiming her identity. The female character is at the center of Ariel and who is ever transforming.
Just like Swenson, Plath also seems to convey the idea that women should not conform to ideologies of the patriarchy societies. In the same way Swenson did, Plath shows that women are not happy with the idea of being confined in the traditional world and thus they are doing everything possible to gain freedom. Plath uses the images lioness and a horse to symbolize physical powers, energy, and respect in a normal chain of command. The woman image that the lioness depict is silenced when the woman seek to gain independence. The statement “The cry of the child melts in the wall” (Plath 33) shows that the woman persona is seeking for more private space.
The poem Ariel portrays a woman riding on her horse in a rural area at the dawn of darkness. The display of the thighs, the hair and the heels of the woman as she rides the horse is meant to show strength. The woman is portrayed as enjoying the ride she is shown as viewing herself as a dazzling of glow on the ocean. Here, Ariel is similar to the Women whereby the woman characters are also depicted as being smiling when men are riding them. Here, the woman is slowing moving from the darkness at the start of the poem to some light.
Although the woman is shown to hear the cries of a child through a wall, she ignores it. While Plath presents her woman character as being active, Swenson’s women characters are depicted as being passive. The woman persona in Ariel, rides herself from the darkness to the light as depicted by the strong red eye that symbolizes the sun. Riding the horse is seen as a way in which the woman persona achieves transformation. The woman transform into the White Godiva, who is seen to ride the horse when naked and no men gaze is invoked.
This is implies that men do not gain pleasure from seeing the body of a woman; this is in contrast to the Swenson’ poem where men are depicted as gaining satisfaction from viewing women’s body. Swenson uses irony to depict women as being happy to be treated as objects by men while in real sense they are not happy, Plath prefers to present a more real depiction of things. The woman in Ariel for sure enjoys the ride plus all of its connotations of control, including sexual control.
Plath has written the poem in the double voice narrative that contains a woman voice as well as language filled with feminine and sexual imagery. To describe the persona in her poem, she uses the striking phrase ‘God’s Lioness”, “Godiva” and “arrow” to present the theme of domination and liberation. Thus, at the start of the poem, the readers are introduced to a strong and composed persona, referred to as “God’s lioness”.
The woman speaker is the protagonist in this poem is depicted as a woman who will survive tribulations and finally be rewarded. She is represented as being vigorous and dynamic, voracious for change and able to achieve liberation. This poem tends to suggest the characteristics that are associated with masculinity and femininity. At one hand the poem tend to express the feeling of weakness and inability of the female rider who is supposed to fight for power over her horse.
On the other hand, this poem presents the concept of control, force and power as being linked to the traditional male characteristics. The woman persona in this poem wants to transform and become an arrow that is endowed with force. At some point, she is depicted as having managed to become that arrow but only for a short time. Throughout this poem, there is a constant fight for power between the weak woman persona and the male powerful forces including the sun and the horse. The woman protagonist in this poem wants to abandon her feminine and cultural duties.
Just as the poem Women, the Ariel is a short and simple poem. She uses a rhythmic scheme to construct her words and lines. Plath makes skillful use of tone and rhythm scheme to advance her theme of the woman liberation. The readers can notice the change in tone and rhythm scheme in all the stages that the woman persona transforms into another body. Plath uses a unique language full of feminine notions.
She uses metaphors to express the idea that the woman speaker can only get out of the confined world when she manages to reach the final destination of her journey. Plath suggests that in the new world, the woman will be free from the ideologies of the dominant male group. In short, the woman will have achieved liberation. In an interesting twist of things, Plath in fact manages to have control over the circumstances, resulting into transformation. The woman in Ariel does not permit the dominant male group to control her as she takes control through escaping. As seen throughout the poem, it is definite that Plath is obsessed with the notion of control as even the poem ended in a state of gaining control signified by the death or abandonment of traditional life.
In conclusion, the two poets have made strong feminism statements in their poems. The two poems tend to suggest that the existence of patriarchal systems in the communities is to the root cause for all women’s problems. Swenson and Plath have adeptly used literary elements to present the perceptions of feminism that were common during their era. They have expressed the notion of women objectification, women’s autonomy and finally women’s liberation. They have show how women are treated as objects and thus dehumanized.
Through the use of imagery, symbolism and metaphors, they have managed to portray the characteristics associated with masculinity and feminism in the society during their era. In these two poems the woman speakers are depicted as being rebellious, refusing traditional social roles and fighting for their liberation. The two poems have a similar ending; at the end of the poems the woman characters are depicted as having achieved liberation. No doubt the use of imagery, symbolism and metaphors is the best way to effectively express feminism ideas as they help the reader get the clear view of feminism in the society.