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A Thematic Analysis of Linda Pastan's "Marks"

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“Marks” is a poem about a woman who is constantly being judged from multiple standards on her performances as a day to day mother. Her family takes care of setting these standards, differing from her husband, son, and daughter. Even though she receives fairly good marks from her family “[she’s] dropping out].”(12) The speaker is trying to show us that one who is constantly being judged by others may take a turn that shows they can defeat the system.
The speaker makes it clear that she herself takes care of many of the family duties. She had to make “last night’s supper”(2), iron her family’s clothes, and satisfy her husband’s needs in bed. Not forgetting that she also takes care of two children which is more than a full-time job in its self. What does she get in return from her family for doing all this? She gets constant judgment from each and everyone of them.
Each family member has a different grading scale in which they give the speaker her marks. The speaker’s husband grades on a typical A through F or incomplete grading scale. He gave her an A for dinner, “a B plus in bed”(4), and “incomplete for ironing.”(3) The speaker’s son grades on a less than average, average, and better than average grading scale. He has gave her the mark of “an average mother.”(5) As for the speaker’s daughter, well she simply grades on a pass/fail grading scale. Her daughter has informed her that she passes.
Overall the speaker receives fairly good marks from her family. That is not the point!   The speaker doesn’t care that her family approves of her household duties. She doesn’t feel that she should have to deal with these constant marks for doing things that they need done, she feels like “dropping out.”(12)
By dropping out does this mean that the speaker is going to abandon her family or kill herself? No, the speaker merely wants to show her family that she can defeat the system. She doesn’t have to keep doing all the family duties she does. If she was to stop doing her...

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