Close Reading of a Poem Essay

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Close Reading of a Poem
Celissa Brooks
Eng125
Karen Lawler
March 26, 2007

Close Reading of a Poem
Julia Alvarez’s poem Woman’s Work is about “the relationship between mother and daughter through the work that each performs.” (Barnet & Burto & Cain, 2011). Julia Alvarez tells a story from the point of view of the daughter, now a grown woman remembering her childhood. After reading this poem there are a few interpretations that one can make of Julia Alvarez’s thoughts and feelings about the relationship she had with her own mother, or the relationship between a mother and daughter, as the mother instructs her daughter. To communicate the meaning of the poem, Julia Alvarez uses several literary conventions and poetic devices, such as simile, imagery, alliteration, irony, and rhyme.
Julia Alvarez was born in 1950, in a time where most women did not work outside of the home, and woman raised their daughters to be housewives. An interpretation Julia Alvarez’s thoughts and feelings about a woman’s position in a household can be seen in several lines throughout the poem Woman’s Work; first through her eyes as a young girl, then as a grown woman. For example, Julia Alvarez takes the reader through a typical day of cleaning for the speaker with her mother:
We’d clean the whole upstairs before we’d start
downstairs. I’d sigh, hearing my friends outside.
Doing her woman’s work was a hard art

to practice when the summer sun would bar
the floor I swept till she was satisfied.
She kept me prisoner in her housebound heart. (Alvarez, 1996)

These statements can be interpreted to mean that as a child Julia Alvarez felt that her place was outside, playing; not inside doing the work of a mother or wife. From the line “She kept me prisoner in her housebound heart”, the interpretation can be made the Julia Alvarez felt some resentment towards her mother, for the missed opportunities of a child’s freedoms.
As an adult, Julia Alvarez gains a better...

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