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AS/A Level English Literature > I, being born a woman > Flashcards

Flashcards in I, being born a woman Deck (14)
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1

Context

Modernist poem published in 1923.
A time when sex, sexuality and treatment of males and females were still conservative.
Millay known for exploration of female sexuality and feminism.
Millay was openly bisexual

2

Structure

Petrarchan Sonnet- ABBAABBA octave and CDCDCD sestet
Classical form designed to encourage acceptance of the language
Octave expresses desire, problem or reflection
Sestet resolves elements presented in octave

3

"I, being born a woman and distressed"

Ironically lives up to masculine notions of women being fragile, needy and "distressed".
Strong element of social satire that is within the tradition of early twentieth century feminist authors whose writings were concerned with the lack of choices available to women.

4

"By all the needs and notions of my kind"

Playing on the stereotype of women as needy and emotional people. Ironic. "My kind" could suggest that she is representing the majority of women.

5

"Am urged by your propinquity to find Your person fair"

"Propinquity" means closeness. Introduced to the person who she addresses. "Urged" suggests she has a sexual attraction or should have one to the person, intense flirtation between the two characters. Tone is mocking and sarcastic. Playing on the typical schema of a female.
"Find your person fair" is ironic. Throwing back at a man the exaggerated and meaningless language she finds irritating.

6

"and feel a certain zest To bear your body's weight upon my breast: "

"Zest" makes it sound more exciting and enjoyable. Alliterative "B" shows heaviness or sense of discomfort. "Bear" has connotations of endurance or suffering. Links to childbearing as sex can lead to pain of labour

7

"So subtly is the fume of life designed"

The way things naturally are. Sexual feelings override the intellect and lead to women giving themselves to men

8

"To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind"

Juxtaposition of alliteration. Cluster of syllables like quickening heartbeat

9

"And leave me once again undone, possessed"

Submissive. Given in to impulse. Sense of detachment. Caesura distances Millay from the sex. Denotes ironic reflective tone of the poem

10

"Think not for this, however"

Volta. Traditional feminine passivity is reserved. Submissive and assertive (binary opposites)

11

"The poor treason Of my stout blood against my staggering brain"

Earlier sexual feelings dismissed. Impulse overpowered her and left her brain temporarily wounded

12

"I shall remember you with love, or season My scorn with pity "

Controversial and subversive for women to cut strings after casual sex. They will be remembered but not with love. Strong feeling of contempt or mockery

13

"- - let me make it plain"

Sets up final assertion. Masculine tone makes it sound unladylike

14

"I find this frenzy insufficient reason For conversation when we meet again"

Animalistic impulse that she dismisses along with lover. No intention of love nor talking. Addressee might be under impression that he would spend night with her again. Temporary insanity and no more.