During the time period of Anne Bradstreet, women were not considered very intelligent. They did not have a high role in society, and were often regarded with low respects. Traditionally, women stay humble through out their entire life, while never attempting to differ from the societal boundaries set for them. However, Anne Bradstreet’s eccentric personality leads her to deviate from these societal norms, which is also reflected in her innovative poetry.
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Looking into Bradstreet’s humble and belied attitude, one can tell that she was regarded with little respect, due to the social norms of her time period. Commonly, females were not considered a highly educated gender. Their expectations in life were to care for the family, work household tasks, and provide children. However, Bradstreet’s freedom early on in her life was extremely unordinary for a female to receive. Her parents had her educated with tutors, and soon Bradstreet found joy in reading works of poetry by great artists, such as Shakespeare and Cervantes (Perkins, 41). Many women at that time were unable to receive such a close formal education, as they were not permitted to attend any levels of higher education at a college or university. Therefore, many women stayed uneducated, and were rather humble. Bradstreet imitates this humble attitude at the beginning of her collection, by acting like an uneducated woman attempting to write a few lines of poetry, “To sing of wars, of captains, and of kings, Of cities founded, commonwealths begun, For my mean pen are too superior things.” (Perkins, 43), while in reality she is extremely well educated and does not fit the impression she is giving in her opening stanzas.
Delving further into her prologue, a sudden change of attitude can be found. Her façade of an uneducated woman trying hard not to break from the societal norms is immediately wiped away as her harsh and deeply involved anger and frustration explodes. Just a few stanzas before, she writes in a humbling attitude, “From schoolboy’s tongue no rhet’ric we expect, Nor yet a sweet consort from broken strings, Nor perfect beauty where’s a main defect. My foolish, broken, blemished Muse so sings.” (Perkins, 44). Then suddenly, she breaks out into fury and claims that society has done her wrong, “I am obnoxious to each carping tongue Who says my hand a needle better fits; A poet’s pen all scorn I should thus wrong, For such despite they cast on female wits. If what I do prove well, it won’t be advance; They’ll say it’s stol’n, or else it was by chance.” (Perkins, 44). Authors in the past would never create a false impression of their ability as Bradstreet did. If they ever achieved such a high sense of accomplishment, those authors would have boastingly displayed their works. Bradstreet differs from this mindset in that she does not choose to boast her accomplishment at first, yet uses her proficient skill later on to censure the societal norms of that time. This fallacious attitude surfaces as a result of her eccentric personality, and leads her to write poetry in such an innovative manner as to deviate completely from past societal norms.
In the colonial times, marriages were frequently arranged, and families were seldom built on true love. Therefore, to have a woman truly express love for her husband was rare. In 1628, at the age of 16, Anne marries Simon Bradstreet (Perkins, 42). For a woman to pick out her husband, for a man to meet a woman’s standards is truly unique. This selection exhibits Bradstreet’s eccentric attitude towards life: instead of letting the husband come to her, she takes control. Deviating from the social norm, Bradstreet writes about her love for her husband. This innovative depiction is extremely rare due to the fact that the majority of writers were male. She describes in detail how she feels about her husband, “If ever two were one, then surely we. If ever man were loved by wife, then thee; If ever wife was happy in a man, Compare with me ye women if you can.” (Perkins, 48). For a woman to feel love towards their husband was rare; for a woman to openly express her love in such a passionate form, “I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold, Or all the riches that the East doth hold. My love is such that rivers cannot quench, Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.” (Perkins, 48), could only come from an eccentric woman such as Bradstreet. With a breakthrough of this magnitude, Bradstreet introduces an innovation never before realized in poetry: the depiction of love for a man from a woman. Poetry in the past had been written solely by males, and there was much depiction of love for a woman from a man, but this new perspective provides an innovative view on poetry. This new type of poetry gives a prime example of how Anne Bradstreet chooses to deviate from the societal norms of her time.
Anne Bradstreet, born as a scholar, privately tutored, lived the life of an educated woman; a true rarity of her time. She exercised free will all her life, and her poetry reflects this aspect. Anne Bradstreet’s eccentric personality and innovative poetry sets her apart from all people of her time.
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