A literary analysis of “to my dear and loving husband”by Anna Bradstreet
Anna Bradstreet (1612-72) is still remembered as one of the most outstanding New World woman poet. Born to an affluent Puritan family in England, Bradstreet took up reading at a relatively young age and was inspired by scholars such Du Bartas. Bradstreet’s family later settled in Massachusetts Bay Colony where she was married and started a family. It was here that she began writing poetry to document her experience in the colony and issues relating to her Puritan faith (Gale, 2016). As a direct product of the Elizabethan custom of valuing female education, Bradstreet penned some of the most remarkable works of poetry, chief among them being “To My Dear and Loving Husband” for which she is still remembered. This essay will, therefore, discuss the theme of this particular work, major characteristics of the period evident in the poem, and major narrative devices used by Bradstreet to communicate her message.
The main theme of “To My Dear and Loving Husband” is that of love. The author professes her boundless and undying love for her husband. It is apparent, from the author’s unreserved expression of love, that she values him and is satisfied with their union. Bradstreet underscores this point by emphasizing the joy she derives from her marriage:
“this union in marriage is more harmonious and passionate than all others across all of time” (Bradstreet, 2012).
The author also acknowledges the passage of time as a reality that she now has to contend with in her quest for eternal love. Additionally, the author applies a unique approach when discussing her love for her husband. Her discourse is presented as a philosophical truth which is remarkable considering the fact that this technique was initially thought to be the preserve of male scholars. Bradstreet further ensures that she lays particular emphasis to the theme of love using repetition throughout the poem as a subtle reminder to the reader of her feelings for her husband. She also does this to elucidate the veracity of her claims and further convince her audience of the authentic nature of her sentiments at the time. In essence, she endeavors to persuade them to also strive for this type of passionate union which she regards as the zenith of life.
Anna Bradstreet lived between 1612 and 1672 during one of the most significant periods in history. As a Puritan, Bradstreet’s family faced persecution back in England owing to misunderstandings. Many adherents had already immigrated to Flanders, but still felt unsafe. King James I (1603-25) was determined to pursue them and particularly why many resorted to migrating to the New World to start a new life devoid of religious persecution. Bradstreet’s family settled in Massachusetts Bay Colony during one of the first waves of migration from England in 1930. Here, they would now be free to practice their Puritan religion as opposed to the tyrannical Roman Catholic doctrine that led many to their deaths (Vickers, 2018, p. 56). It is worth noting that religious tolerance was not readily applied during this historic period. Authorities would routinely clamp down on this particular band of religious misfits to avert their growing influence within England. The Puritans were among the first religious groups in history to espouse the importance of religious tolerance in society as the glue that would eventually hold it together. It was also during this period that Puritans became pioneers in New World, contending with emerging challenges such as conflict with fellow settlers, witch trials, and continuous skirmishes with Native American tribes.
Bradstreet relies on elaborate imagery, alliteration, symbolism, and tone as major narrative devices throughout the poem. She expertly exploits imagery by relying on figurative language bound to appeal to her readers. Furthermore, her language is visually descriptive to create vivid mental pictures to bolster her message of love. Bradstreet refers to her love as one that cannot be quenched by rivers in line ten to express her deep-seated feelings for her husband (Bradstreet, 2012). Her simple, yet profound, words aim to create a sense of appeal bound to attract her audience. Bradstreet also employs alliteration by repeating consonants at the beginning of stressed syllables. The main objective of applying this narrative device is to create a sense of rhythm by repeating the “w” sound in “woman” and “we”. This creates a poetic feel to the piece which eventually improves its readability. Bradstreet also uses symbolism to express her passion and current state of mind. She particularly harnesses the power of symbolism to express the eternal love she has for her husband and even claims to place value on it more than “whole mines of gold” (Bradstreet, 2012). Additionally, Bradstreet uses a loving tone to describe her adoration and fondness towards her husband. This, eventually, allows the reader to gain a deeper comprehension of Bradstreet’s love for her husband and her level of contentment.
In conclusion Anne Bradstreet was among one of the most celebrated female poets in the New World. Her poem, “To My Dear and Loving Husband”, is a masterpiece in which she expresses her love and affection for her spouse during the colonial era. Readers now appreciate her work, given the historical context in which it is set in, her theme of love and the use of major narrative devices used to communicate her message.
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