Analysis Of A Valediction Forbidding Mourning By John Donne

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Seventeenth century poet John Donne’s “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” tells the tale of separated lovers, while Adrienne Rich’s “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning” tells the tale of mid-20th century feminism. Rich crafted her valediction in 1970, in the thick of feminism’s second wave. For these feminists, a primary concern was ensuring reproductive rights for women (Burkett). Rich discusses bodily rights, but also responds to second wave feminism by reminding the reader that a woman’s body also includes her brain. Rich’s words pivot on an extended metaphor that relates women’s liberation to poetry’s liberation. Furthermore, she employs paradoxical images to depict the 1970s-era’s oppression of women’s bodies and minds. Finally, an allusion to a seventeenth century John Donne poem comments on how women should react to second wave feminism.
The central metaphor analogizes the history of rigid poetic structure to the history of rigid patriarchal society. For instance, Rich personifies strict grammatical rules through the line, “the grammar turned and attacked me” (Rich 2). In this phrase, grammar becomes an oppressive force because poets must abide by its rules, hindering their free expression. Likewise, women find themselves confined within oppressive boundaries, forced to follow gender norms, within the spheres of both poetry and society. Rich’s inclusion of violent imagery, such as the grammar “attacking” her, depicts enforcers of structure as violent against those
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