Saturday, December 15, 2007

PATTERNS by Amy Lowell

"It makes you want to rip your clothes right off and run about naked."
-from a blogger

Of the many images in this poem, the constant motions of the flowers and water drops, the dress the woman is wearing, and her daydreams of her lover are most crucial in developing this theme of freedom.

In "Patterns," Amy Lowell explores the hopeful liberty of women in the early
20th century through a central theme. A woman’s dream of escaping the boundaries that society has placed on her dissipates when she learns of her lover’s untimely death.

Consider the daffodils and other types of flowers moving freely in the wind. Using imagery to appeal to the reader’s sense of sight, these flowers are given motion, and they are described as, "…blowing," and "Flutter[ing] in the breeze,". This creates a sense of freedom and flexibility. The woman in the poem, presumably Amy, wishes to be like the moving flowers, carefree and jaunty.

The, "…plashing of water drops," and, "…plopping of the water drops," describe liquid in motion.
The fact that she notices such little details in a fountain shows how intent the woman is on being free and able to move about as she pleases. The unconstrained movement of the flowers and the water manifest a way of life that the woman would like to live. What is keeping her from the liberation that she longs for?

The images in the poem name the binding dress as the culprit, but upon reading deeper into the signs of the imagery, one will find that there is a more complicated reason for her misery. The "…stiff, brocaded gown" is mentioned many times throughout the poem. Of course, back in that time, the woman was not only in a rigid, uncomfortable dress in the heat of summer, but she was also most likely wearing a corset.

The Random House Webster’s College Dictionary gives the definition of brocaded as, "a fabric woven with an elaborate raised design, often using gold or silver thread." This stiff, imprisoning piece of clothing symbolizes the boundaries that society has placed on women during their time. They had to act properly, look nice, and uphold all standards—especially if they were to be courted and married to a respectable man.

"…the train
Makes a pink and silver stain
On the gravel,"

This training leaves behind a blemish, or stain, of high order (pink) and eloquence (silver) that she merely knows how to uphold, and does not want to be a part of her true self. She feels that learning the way the public wants her to act and look has somehow hindered her true being.

"… run along the paths
And he would stumble after"

" ..choose
To lead him in a maze along the patterned paths".

These lines show how the presence of her lover allows her to lead him, thereby breaking free from the boundaries held on her. She is also running through a maze, not walking along the paths. This shows that she is no longer doing what others have done and have told her to do, but she is creating her own path and displaying free will.

This imagery is used to show that in her future with this man, she will not have to live her life the way others have patterned it out for her. Through his love for her, she will be allowed to break the mold and be her own person. Unfortunately, her lover dies at war and she is back to where she began, wearing a stiff dress, following the paths already made, and waiting for another man to come along to rescue her from this prison cell.

what do you think became of this woman in the poem?

"In a pattern called a war.
Christ! What are patterns for?"

reveals that the speaker, much like the author views society's "patterns" in a negative way.

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