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Powerful Theme and Allusions to Sex in Anderson's Womanhood

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Powerful Theme and Allusions to Sex in Anderson's Womanhood

Catherine Anderson's poem "Womanhood" tells about a young girl and her transition to womanhood. In this intricately woven poem the reader will learn very little about the girl. Neither she nor her mother are ever named, and no information is given about them or their family life. What the reader does discover is what lies ahead for her as she begins her first day sewing rugs. The poem begins a few moments before she enters the gates of the sweatshop that symbolizes her entry into womanhood. Anderson uses metaphor within this poem to dramatize the difference in what lies ahead for her. She should be looking forward to a bright and cheerful future, instead, she is faced with the drudgery of a life working in a sweatshop sewing rugs. Anderson has woven this poem together so there is a link created between the first and second stanzas of the poem. Each line in the first stanza, describing the carefree attitude of the young girl correlates with a line in the second stanza illustrating how her life will be far different after she enters the gates of the factory and womanhood.

Within this poem there are many references or allusions to sex. Most women are considered to have entered womanhood when they have their first sexual experience with a man. Anderson plays up this aspect of becoming a woman in the poem to symbolize the girl's losing her innocence and youth to work in the sweatshop. In essence, she is losing her virginity to that same sweatshop. The first of these allusions to sex is in the opening lines of the poem; "she slides over/the hot upholstery" (1,2). The young girl is described as sliding over hot upholstery, like girls sometimes do to snuggle up next to their boyfriends when driving a car. This verse can also be seen as a metaphor for the hot young skin of a beautiful young girl. Another example of these references is when Anderson describes the girl as "loves humming & swaying to the music" (5). This can be seen as the act of sexual intercourse itself. The rhythmic swaying of bodies can be seen as little else especially when paired with line 25, "rocking back and forth"(25). This is further emphasized by Anderson by her use of the ampersand signs (&) which she only uses in these two lines.
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