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It is hard to sympathize with someone when you have no idea where they are coming from or what they are going through. It is similar experiences that allow us to extend our sincere appreciation and understanding for another human being’s situations and trials of life. Anne Bradstreet’s “The Author to Her Book” expresses the emotions that Bradstreet felt when her most intimate thoughts were published to the world without her consent. The average person would not see the cause for distress that Bradstreet feels in this situation. She had written a collection of near perfect poetry, which expressed her feelings in a way that the majority of women during that time did not have the talent or training to do. Many would wonder why she would be disturbed about these works being printed when they had brought many people pleasurable reading and had brought Bradstreet herself much personal fame. Therefore, Bradstreet can not just write a straightforward poem to tell how she feels about her stolen thoughts. Unless her reader happens to be a writer, he or she would not be able to sympathize with Bradstreet in this matter. Instead, she had to use a situation in which her readers could comprehend the many emotions she experienced. No doubt, many women read her poetry, and the majority of women during that time were, or would one day be mothers. This similarity opened a door for understanding. By comparing her writing to a child, Bradstreet is able to win the compassion of her readers and help them understand the feelings that she experiences.
Bradstreet sees herself s the “mother” (line 23) of this work, which she calls an “ill-formed offspring” (line 1) and she gives the work many human characteristics to enhance the effect of the conceit. She says that the “child” had been by her side until “snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true” (line 3). Bradstreet’s works would probably never have been published had it not been for her brother-in-law. A person she thought she could trust saw fit to take her works back to England and have them published without her consent. He took her most intimate thoughts and placed the future of them in his own hands and she was never consulted. She shares an intimacy with her work like that of a mother and child and that intimacy was infringed upon when her work was “exposed to public view” (line 4).
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Ironically, in this perfect piece of poetry, the next thing she talks about is the mistakes and shame she feels at not being able to perfect the work before it was published. She compares her work to a child clothed in “rags” (line 5). She feels shame that the “errors were not lessened” (line 6) and refers to her work as a “rambling brat” who is “one unfit for light” (line 8-9) Because her “child” was taken so suddenly and without her knowledge, she had no time to correct its mistakes. She feels a sense of shame, just like a mother would feel shame for her child who has misbehaved or a child whose mother has not had proper time to train them in the correct way to behave. Her shame is not necessarily in the fact that she may have made some mistakes in her writing. A mother feels her most shame, not when a child misbehaves, but when a child misbehaves in the sight of others. This reflects badly on the mother- making it look like she does not discipline or try to correct her child. In this same manner, Bradstreet does not feel shame because she made mistakes, because everyone makes mistakes, but instead because the mistakes in her works were made public so that “all may judge”.
But just as a mother loves her child unconditionally, so Bradstreet loves her works. A child is a product of its parents and, of course, parents wish they could correct every aspect of their child that is not perfect, but they can not. There will always be some flaws, but a mother’s love overlooks these. In the same way, Bradstreet wishes that she could clean up her unedited works. However, then she realizes that any corrections she would make only bring another flaw into light. I washed thy face, but more defects I saw, and rubbing off a spot still made a flaw. I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet, yet still thou run’st more hobbling than is meet in seeing that trying to correct these errors only brought to light another mistake, Bradstreet can take pride in knowing that this is the best that can come out of this work. A mother is proud of her child for being the best he or she can be, despite any imperfections and this is exactly how Bradstreet feels.
Lastly , like any mother, Bradstreet wonders what the world will think of her offspring. Mothers know that the world can be cruel and no one will love their child as they have loved that child. Bradstreet knows the same about her work. It will be
“ ‘mongst vulgars” and “in critic’s hands” She worries because she knows that no one can appreciate the written work, a product of the most intimate part of her mind like the writer of those thoughts.
By using this extended metaphor, Bradstreet is able to reveal the way she feels about her work in a way that people other that writers can relate to. By comparing her work to a child that was taken a way for her, people are more likely to sympathize with her and understand how special this work was to her. The intense emotion in this poem shows how seriously she took her writing and how much it meant to her. It is because of this strong devotion and commitment to her writing that her poetry is considered so superb and is still reverenced today.