A word is one of the most powerful means for a person to express own attitude, to share information, or to show admiration. A poem is a powerful combination of words that is devoted to numerous themes, which are so important in this life, and poems about women serve as a good example of evaluation of female place and roles in this world, their duties, and their significance. My Last Duchess by Robert Browning, To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell, and The Secretary Chant by Merge Piercy are the three poems that depict one and the same topic in absolutely different ways: Browning considers women as objects, which call for admiration but still are not worth enough to mention their names, Marvell regards women as a male sexual desire, and Piercy mulls over women as machines, which are ready to perform any function.
A dramatic monologue My Last Duchess, presented by Robert Browning, opens to the reader a world, where men are eager to take leading positions only, and women have nothing to do but obey them and listen to their orders and words. Browning tries to represent how admiration, jealousy, and self-esteem are united in one man and make him happy and disappointed, weak and strong, courageous and cowardly at the same time. In this poem, the author depicts women as the objects, which may not have names and may serve as the means to demonstrate some precious good or service.
“That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall/Looking as if she were alive. I call/That piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf’s hands/ Worked busily a day, and there she stands” (Meyer 721). This piece of the poem proves that a man does not actually care about his loss, his wife’s death, and his grief. The point is that he gets a chance to demonstrate one more object that he owns now and tell about its price and value. However, this very object has many disadvantages, which do not suit the Duke: “she liked whate’er/ She looked on, and her looks went everywhere” (Meyer 722). Such absent-mindedness of the woman and the desire to be friendly with many people cannot be comprehended by the Duke. He thinks such behavior is offensive to his position and his power, this is why this woman is in the past, and the other one is waiting for him downstairs in order to enlarge Duke’s collection of expensive things. To His Coy Mistress is the attempt of Andrew Marvell to depict the role and the place of a woman in accordance with male standpoints and principles.
This poem is a kind of warning to all women against cajolery that is used by men to bed women. Andrew Marvell underlines women shyness and modesty that make all women so desirable by men. In To His Coy Mistress, women are depicted as playfully hesitant and pure human beings, who are waiting for male call to “sport us while we may” (Meyer 637). Marvell cries that people do not have much time to enjoy this life to its full extent, and women’s care about their virginities should not prevent both sexes against suffering from lack of love and satisfaction. “Had we but world enough, and time/ This coyness, lady, were no crime/We would sit down, and think which way/ To walk, and pass our long love’s day” (Meyer 636). The male character does not provide a woman with time to think everything over, the only reasonable point he presents is that she has to have sex with him before she dies.
He does not say anything about his possible grief about her death; the only thing that bothers him is the desire to have sex with this woman. On my opinion, the poems by Marvell and Browning have many things in common, because both of them are about men’s attitude to women. And this attitude is rather similar, because the Duke wants to have a woman to full fill his collection of things, and the lover from To His Coy Mistress is eager to satisfy his desire and use a woman for this. The last poem, where the role of women is perfectly described is The Secretary Chant by Margie Piercy. This metaphoric poem describes the woman’s body as the parts of office equipment. A woman spends so much time among all those equipment and secretary things that she merges with them and loses her own identity. Modern world makes any person to be strong and self-possessed in order to cope with all challenges.
However, women are the softer sex, and men forget about this truth and try to use women’s skills as well as their own. One more work of art does not depict woman as the thing alive that deserves respect and recognition just because it is near. Her head is a “badly organized file”, her breasts are “wells of mimeograph ink”, her hips are “a desk”, and her navel is “a reject button” (Meyer 570). This poem is a woman’s cry, caused by unfair dehumanization of women in business. The point is that the author starts the description of this creature from the body parts, which have to identify her as a woman. The character still believes that she was created to be beautiful and be reproductive, and now, the only thing she can do is “to be delivered/ of a baby/ Xerox machine” (Meyer 570). In this case, the author depicts a woman as a working machine that cannot just stop doing all this stuff and start fighting against such unfair treatment at work.
Sexual discrimination is an urgent topic at working places, and Margie Piercy presents one of the most sever comparisons that can be used to women. Each of the above-mentioned authors represents a kind of fight that happens between a woman and this world. In My Last Duchess, the woman is struggling for respect in her own family; in To His Coy Mistress, the woman wants to defend her right to be a virgin; and in The Secretary Chant, the woman has to struggle to prove her equality in the working place. The role of a woman in this world is great indeed, and the point that only women have the reproduction function should cause respect from male side. Nowadays, women are so unfair compared to the objects of men’s passion and desire, and the authors try to underline this problems in own poems.
Maybe, a fresh look on the old problems helps to realize injustice the vast majority of women face with and to create a world where rich Dukes would take lessons to be able to paint their wives, lovers would appreciate women’s desire to be a virgin, and businessmen would distinguish women and machines, and make the former happier even at working places.
Meyer, Michael. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature: Reading, Thinking, Writing. Boston, MA: Bedford, 2008.