Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Both The Revolt of "Mother", and The Yellow Wallpaper deal with the oppressive nature of marriage for the women in the stories. The women in both stories find a way to circumvent their subordination, although one could argue that their respective methods are drastically different. Mother's revolt is largely a physical one, while the narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper finds a more mental means of escaping her situation. The main difference is that, while Mother removes herself from the home that represents her oppression (and into the new barn that represents her victory), the narrator ultimately imprisons herself within the room with the yellow wallpaper in order to achieve her revolt. In my opinion, the word "revolt" in the title of Wilkins story suggests an unfair rulership, and offers her commentary on the inequalities of marriage as fully as her story does. She does not call it the rebellion of mother, because a rebellion is something successfully quelled, and is generally the terminology of the victorious ruling class. A revolt is successful, a rebellion is quelled.

However, despite the different means of escape, the similarities behind the need for revolt are what tie the stories together. Both authors, through a very different setting and style, create a world in which women are subordinated, and ultimately reject that subordination; Mother and the narrator reach a point where submission is no longer an acceptable lifestyle. Despite their best intentions, neither woman's husband is deserving of a dominant position in his household. Father is unable to provide for his family, or keep his promises and John is unable to see his wife as a person deserving of consideration and respect. It is my belief that neither man is painted as the complete and total villain of his story, instead, through the inclusion of outside characters, both writers seem to be reflecting on society's understanding of marriage as a whole.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Soul Selects Her Own Society

THE SOUL selects her own society,
Then shuts the door;
On her divine majority
Obtrude no more.

Unmoved, she notes the chariot’s pausing
At her low gate;
Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling
Upon her mat.

I ’ve known her from an ample nation
Choose one;
Then close the valves of her attention
Like stone.

THE SOUL selects her own society,
- "her": soul depicted as female
- society is an interesting choice of words. Does she mean companionship? Or is it intended to represent a larger way of life?
- "selects": chooses consciously? or unconsciously? Is the soul aware of the choice she is making?
- The idea that a person constructs his or her own society is paradoxical when one considers the fact that the individual makes up, and is a larger part of, society.
- repetition of the "s" sound is prevalent in this line (as well as into the stanza). What purpose does this serve?

Then shuts the door;
- "shuts": negative connotation? generally a closing door is representative of lost opportunity, however in this sense it seems as though the soul desires this action.

On her divine majority
- "divine": What does she mean by divine? god-like? heavenly? Is there a deliberate move away from religious iconography here? Is "divine" satirical here?
- "majority": suggests that this soul is an exclusive one. Why? Does this soul prefer solitude? What is this soul looking for that she turns away the majority?

Obtrude no more.
- Why not "intrude"? What does obtrude connote that intrude does not for Dickinson?
- Is the company of others considered obtrusive in general?
- Is this directed at a particular person/type of person?

Unmoved, she notes the chariot's pausing
- "unmoved": literally as well as emotionally?
- "notes": depicts somewhat of a removal (as well as a lack of emotional investment) from the situation, as opposed to words like notices, or pays attention to.
- "chariot's": another reference to a god-like character within the poem. Who are these divine majorities riding around in chariots? and why are they excluded from this particular soul?
- "pausing": this word, when combined with unmoved at the beginning of the line serve to create a wall of permanence, if you will at each side of the line. They create the image of a room with a closed door as in lines one and two.
- Also, an interesting thing to note, the soul remains unmoved, as the chariot stops moving outside her door. There is an overall moment of stagnancy here.

At her low gate
- "low": as in socially low? Is this soul a person lower on the societal ladder? Interestingly, her gate is low, which typically conveys the idea of easy access to an area, however the door is closed.

Unmoved an emperor is kneeling,
- repetition of unmoved, but the difference is that here, the emperor is the "unmoved" character (suggesting a physicality to the word), where in the first line the soul is unmoved (suggesting more emotionality).
- Who is this soul that an emperor would kneel for her?

Upon her mat.
- "mat": does mat mean door mat here? as though this soul will not even invite the emperor in?

I've known her from an ample nation,
- Here, the speaker separates his or herself from the subject of the poem. Up until now, the speaker could have been describing herself in the third person.
- What does ample mean here? abundant?

Choose one
- interesting line break. Places a lot of emphasis on the word "one."
- The word choose answers my previous question about whether or not the choices were conscious.

Then close the valves of her attention
- "close": again reminiscent of the door from the first line.
- "valves": interesting choice of words. Valve is reminiscent of the valves in a heart. As in, she closes her heart off?
- What does attention mean here? Does Dickinson mean attention as in the act of noticing, or attention as in love, or affection?

Like stone.
- Again we see the line break from two lines previous. It mirrors nicely, and serves to emphasize the finality of the last stanza. If a valve is closed "like stone" there is a suggested permanence to that image. Stone is not something that changes easily, or wears down much over time.

I think the most interesting things I noticed as I was going through my notes are the many words throughout the poem that have a double meaning. I found myself spending a lot of time considering the specific meaning Dickinson was attempting to convey, and what those respective meanings would add to, or take away from, the ultimate feeling of the poem. I also noticed a lot of contrast of high and low, and almost an inversion of those ideas to the soul of the subject of the poem. Her soul rejects the divine, and the emperors at her low gate, and instead chooses her own society (one would assume based on her own merit system).