A Flow of Meaning: The Symbolism of the Menstrual Cycle in ZZ Packer’s “Every Tongue Shall Confess”

1745 Words Nov 17th, 2011 7 Pages
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Helena Baldwin

Ms. O'Neal

English 1102

10 October 2011

A Flow of Meaning:

The Symbolism of the Menstrual Cycle in ZZ Packer's

"Every Tongue Shall Confess"

The menstrual cycle has long been considered a symbol of many different things in cultures around the world: in many African cultures, for example, it is recognized as the link to the passing on of life and as such is celebrated by many African women, and in many Judeo-Christian cultures it symbolizes uncleanliness to an unmentionable degree. In ZZ Packer's "Every Tongue Shall Confess," the protagonist, Clareese, is on her menstrual cycle for the duration of the story. Her menstrual cycle represents her impiety, femininity, and readiness for a
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The meanings of the terms "lovesickness" and "erotic melancholy" in the article stem from this definition of love, both of which define a physical desire. During this time period, as stated above, women were viewed as celestial rather than mortal and were therefore presumed not to be plagued by bodily functions. In Jonathan Swift's "The Lady's Dressing Room," Strephon, the paramour of a woman named Celia, sneaks into her chambers only to find that they are not the pristine haven he expected. Instead, he finds the squalid mess brought about by the upkeep of her glamorous appearance, which likely included her menstrual cloths. His experience is concluded with these lines:

Thus finishing his grand Survey,

Disgusted Strephon stole away

Repeating in his amorous Fits,

Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia shits! (115-118)

The poem goes on to explain� that Strephon's perception of Celia is forever altered and that he can no longer look at a woman without thinking of "all her Stinks" (122). After the Deacon's sexual assault and subsequent discovery of Clareese's menstrual cycle, "he drew back in disgust-no, _hatred-_then rinsed his hand in the kitchen sink and left without saying a word," and then
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