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Alice Walker 4 Essay, Research Paper

A Woman s Place is in the Heart

The poems A Woman Is Not A Potted Plant by Alice Walker and I Knew A Woman by Theodore Roethke both speak about women having an aura about them of beauty and magnificence. In A Woman Is Not A Potted Plant Walker uses the metaphor of a plant to explain the nature of a real woman. The image of a potted plant is confined to a small ceramic circle and rooted in one place. Potted plants have to be taken care of and cannot exist by themselves. Women are not like that according to Walker. She is saying that women cannot be bound to any certain thing or by anything. They are not in need of someone to take care of them despite what someone may have told them or what some men think. In the second stanza she says that a woman s leaves are not trimmed to the contours of her sex (lines 8-10). Walker is saying that her physical shape does not have to be any certain way for her to be a beautiful woman. Women are beautiful just because they are women. Walker goes on to use the metaphor of a fence to represent the confining of a woman to her race, country, motherhood, and husband. The inclusion of her man in that list is powerful, because women are very often labeled by whom they are married to (line 18).Women themselves sometimes use their husband or boyfriend to define who they are as a person. This is not right. Walker does not think that women should be labeled or controlled by their husbands as they so often are or allow themselves to be. The statement that a woman is wilderness unbound puts women places women almost above men in the whole scheme of the world (line 30-31). This is a characteristic possessed only by women, because no one would ever venture to say that men are wilderness unbound. Women tend to be associated with the Mother Nature image and Walker is saying that this is a good thing. Men do not have that magnificence that women possess in and no one knows quite where it comes from, but most people, including Alice Walker, know it is there. This poem describes the beauty that a confident and unbound woman possesses.

In I Knew A Woman Roethke explains how much of an impact the type of woman from Walker s poem (strong, confident, and beautiful) had on the narrator. He also uses nature to describe how magnificent she is in line 2 where he says, when small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them. The narrator, who is presumably Roethke, felt disconnected with her, though, because she was so intimidating. This is apparent where he says that she possesses qualities that only gods and English poets who grew up on Greek can properly put into words (line 5-6). The latter is obviously a small attempt to make the reader smile at his wittiness, but he says that she is somehow unattainable to him and he does not even have the privilege to speak about her. The narrator is in awe of this woman because she taught him turn, counter-turn, and stand which are parts of Pindaric ode poetry (line 9). This suggests that she was his muse of some sort. The woman was poetry in motion and it compelled him to write it. The fact that he nibbled meekly from her proffered hand states feelings of subordination that a beautiful woman can make come over a man (line 11). Comparing her to a sickle, though, is a strange comparison (line 12). One would not expect a woman to be called a sickle. It seems to suggest that she knocked down everything is his and her way and he came by as the rake to clear out the mess left behind (line 12). This is a strange comparison to try to comprehend because a sickle has negative connotation, whereas a beautiful woman is positive. Also where he says that his eyes dazzled at her flowing knees is a strange line and is tough to understand (line 18). Maybe Roethke is talking about how she is metaphorically above him so he is at her knees, or she just had really pretty knees. That is a feature on a woman that is not normally gushed over so one would tend to assume the former. In the last line of the poem he says that he now measures time by how a body sways (line 28). His concept of the world, eternity, and time was altered by her presence in his life. This poem speaks about the colossal impact this beautiful and highly confident woman had on the life of the narrator.


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