Anne Bradstreet--Themes and Discussion Questions

tenthmuse.gif (40815 bytes)


Bradstreet's poetry can be divided into three major categories:
  1. Public poetry, which includes du Bartas-derived pedagogical poems, didactic meditations on Puritan issues, celebratory poems in praise of individuals such as Philip Sidney and Queen Elizabeth I, and public verse that reflects on her own role as a writer and poet. We will be looking at two of these--"The Prologue" and "The Author to her Book."
  2. Quasi-public verse that fulfills the public role of dutiful child, They reveal elements of her private world, but they also serve a community role in honoring one's parents. We will be looking at one example of this.
  3. Private, domestic poetry. These poetry tends to focus on the costs of family loss, the lessons that illness brings, her constant thought for her family's safety, and tender expressions of love for her husband. We will be looking at several poems exploring loss and love.

Key considerations in her thought include:

  • The providence, mercy, and wrath of God revealed in illness, loss, suffering, and safety.
  • The order and plan of human personality, the natural world, human history, and faith
  • The gifts and limitations of the poet
  • The glory due to women
  • The Puritan community--its ideal hope
  • The duty and respect due to parents
  • The love and care of husband and children

Discussion Questions

"The Author to Her Book"

  1. How and why does Bradstreet use the metaphysical conceit of an illegitimate orphan to describe her book of poetry?
  2. What does this poem reveal about Bradstreet's view of herself and her role as a woman and a poet?

"The Prologue"

  1. How does Bradstreet picture her relationship to du Bartas?
  2. How does she conceive and describe her poetic muse?
  3. What does this poem reveal about Bradstreet's view of herself and her role as a woman and a poet?

"Before the Birth of One of Her Children"

  1. What is she afraid of? How does this shape the poem's concerns?
  2. What instructions does she give concerning her children? Why?
  3. What concern does she have for her husband?
  4. What role does her faith play in this poem?

"To My Dear and Loving Husband," "A Letter to Her Husband, Absent Upon Public Employment," "Another," "Another (II)"

  1. How does the first poem reflect on the couple's essential love and unity?
  2. How does her economy of style shape this poem?
  3. How is their unity and relationship pictured in the conceits of the second poem?
  4. How does the poem's theology undergird its eroticism?
  5. How do the two "Another" poems describe Bradstreet's sense of distance and longing for her husband?
  6. What images are used in these two poems? What do they reveal about the feelings of unity and distance the couple must feel?

"To her Father With Some Verses"

  1. What does the monetary metaphor reveal about the daughter-father relationship?
  2. How would you characterize Bradstreet's feelings towards her father?

In Memory of My Dear . . ." (4 poems)

  1. How would you characterize Bradstreet's attitude toward each death?
  2. How does she respond to God in each poem?
  3. Is there a pattern across the four poems in regards to loss, faith, and hope? Why or Why not?

"Here Follows Some Verses Upon the Burning of Our House July 10th, 1666"

  1. How does she describe the events of the fire?
  2. How does her faith respond to the loss?

A Few Reflections on Bradstreet's Style

The Puritan "Plain Style"

  • Works tend to be didactic in their purposes

  • Language is simple and straight-forward

  • Language should be accessible to a broad audience

  • Rhetorical Ornamentation is discouraged

  • Order and outline should be clear and easy to follow

"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding