The Symbol of Motherhood in “The Author to Her Book”

Traditionally a woman’s place was in the home. They were normally not formally educated. This lack of education led to the literary world being one of male domination. As women began to write, men considered them to be inferior and only capable of writing only about topics related to motherhood or homemaking. Anne Bradstreet was one of the privileged women who were educated and chose to use that education to share their ideas through writing. In The Author to Her Book, Bradstreet uses the symbol of a mother to her child to relay to her readers her thoughts about her writing.

The opening line of The Author to Her Book introduces the reader to the idea that Bradstreet sees her writing as her child. The idea is seen when she refers to her writing as her “ill-formed offspring” (line 1). Later in the same line, Bradstreet states that this “offspring” is formed in her “feeble brain” (line 1). This idea indicates to reader the idea of her brain as a womb that creates her writing. These motherly symbols are used to express herself  in ways that are relatable to other women as well as showing her male counterparts that she is capable of not only feminine thought but deep reflection on her writing as well.

In lines 10 through 12, Bradstreet alludes to the notion that her writing is a direct reflection her psyche, similar to a child being in the likeness to its parents. She goes on in lines 13-18 to describe how she worked to prepare her “offspring” for the world at large. For example, she describes how she “stretched thy joints to make thee even feet” (line 15). The “even feet” in line 15 allude both to how a mother works to help her child walk and how a poet works to create meter in their works.This, again, is another example of how Bradstreet uses feminine themes as a way to express herself in relatable ways to both her male and female readers.

Bradstreet’s feminine symbol of motherhood is seen throughout her poem, The Author to her book. This symbol is used to relate to her female readers as she compares her writing to a child and she its mother. Bradstreet also uses this feminine symbol to create a relatable comparison of an author to their work that her male counterparts would understand. Ultimately, Bradstreet is able to write using stereotypical female symbols, while showing her ability to think critically about her writing as well.

Bradstreet, Anne. “The Author to Her Book”. The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Traditions in English. 3rd. Sandra M. Gilbert, Susan Gubar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, 2007. 152. Print. 




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