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Analysis of Emily Dickinson's Poem 'I'm 'Wife' - I've Finished That' through Feminist Criticism

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Throughout history, women have fought for equality in areas such as politics, religion, careers... Specifically, women fight to be treated with respect and equality in criminal justice and law enforcement careers. The poem ‘I'm ‘Wife’ - I've Finished That’ by Emily Dickinson is analyzed using feminist criticism. Feminist criticism is a type of literary criticism which may study and encourage for the women right. The poem is about women’s roles and how society looks at them in reality.

“I'm 'wife'—I've finished that—

That other state—

I'm Czar—I'm 'Woman' now—

It's safer so—”.

‘I'm ‘Wife’ - I've Finished That’ is one of Emily Dickinson's short poems, being only three stanzas, twelve lines, in length. The poem was written from a female perspective about a woman’s freedom before and after marriage. The author begins the poem by using “I'm ‘wife’”, even though in reality, she has not to get married yet. She almost uses her imagination to put herself in the marriage status. In lines 1-3, as we can see that she is not happy with the marriage. In her position, being a ‘wife’ looks more pressure than a ‘woman’. However, she believes that every girl needs to marriage one day to complete women. Once you are moving to the marriage status, you will have the ‘other state’ which is more complex. For me, I perceive that Emily wants us to understand that once you are getting married, you will enter another state which is much more responsible, much serious, and much stronger than you being a girl. Once you become a woman, you should forget the attitudes of being a girl, you have to mature and take care of your small family responsibly. This is may more pressure than being a small girl. However, a ‘woman’ can become ‘Czar’, but a ‘wife’ just only becomes a wife and lives with the husband as her adorable. Maybe you can feel happy with your marriage, maybe you will feel this is a sad event you did. Most of your emotions will be depended on your husband. In this poem, her life will be dominated by her husband. As her position, once you become a wife, you are considered as good as dead. Meanwhile, if you are a woman, you can be like a king and have full control of yourself. It is clear that there are pressures on becoming a wife, and the poetic voice is nervous that her life will become dominated by her husband after marriage. However, in the last line of the first stanza, she admits all of these feelings of being a woman is better than a wife, but the wife will be safer than women. It happens in contradictory. The author ridicules for this society which for imposing these stereotypical views on girls, pressuring them to get married. In my point of view, if you do not want to get married, you have to have a lot of strength and courage to stop following the norm of society. And if you do not have enough strength, you probably should get married, because this is a safe option at that time.

“How odd the Girl's life looks

Behind this soft Eclipse—

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I think that Earth feels so

To folks in Heaven—now—”.

In the second line of the second stanza, we can see the unequal of being male and female by the changing of the women from childhood to a wife. I realized this scenario was happened in 19th century, which I have learned so far that in the nineteenth century the women cannot protect themselves, they cannot vote and they do not have any right to say anything because men always have the right to do everything but women do not. This norm still exists in some Asian culture. The unequal of being a male and a female exists in the nineteenth century. However, she almost sees marriage as a best place for pain. As far as we can see that the author uses metaphor ‘Eclipse’ for marriage to compare ‘the Girl's life’ with the wife's life. Besides, the ‘Eclipse’ can be understood that a transformation has seen from the dark to the bright, it seems like a step a girl goes from the hell to the heaven. Thus, she uses the adjective in ‘soft’ in front of the metaphor seems to support the marriage; however, an eclipse itself can indicate darkness and reclusion. It is clear to say that Emily Dickinson wants to highlight the wife's insignificance by the side of her husband through this metaphor. For her, being a single and a married has a different gap, it looks like ‘Earth’ and ‘Heaven’. So, when the author stands in the ‘folks in Heaven’ and when she looks back people, most of them are ‘odd’, not fully look like how ‘the Girl’s life looks’. A month ago, I have analyzed the story which is telling about the women position in the 19th-century, girls cannot have any protection, most of them have to become a housewife, they cannot work to get salary, and they do not have any right to say or vote something. So that is why ‘it’s safer so’. Many of them announced their rejection of marriage because they wanted freedom. Maybe she meant it would be safer to have a person who can understand her as well so at least she can have someone willing to protect her whenever she needs.

“This being comfort—then

That other kind—was pain—

But why compare?

I'm 'Wife'! Stop there!”.

The last stanza of the poem emphasizes on Dickinson’s feelings about marriage. She points out that married life will bring ‘comfort’ to a girl. She suggests that marrieds’ life is finally painless. Thus, I believe that marriage sometimes can have some happy tones, sometime can bring some sad tones, like a song, there will sometimes be high notes, and sometimes there will be bass that exist in parallel in a song. As far as we can see Emily Dickinson constantly confused between being a wife and a girl by asking 'why compare?'. This confusion can simply understand that a wife's responsibilities and the expectations of those around her expect her. This is happening same as in my country, and I believe this scenario can happen in anywhere in the world: before you get marriage, you have to know some rule and your husband’s family will teach you some a ritual before going home to your husband. At that time, your parents-in-law and family will have lots of expectations that you will become a perfect wife. In the last line of the poem - 'I'm 'Wife'! Stop there!' almost sounds like a husband's voice, shouting and ordering the wife to stop asking the pointless question. I believe that in that time, man has the most powerful, and because they can. Marriage will be a safe option for a girl if they do not have enough to strength against this rule. Through this poem, Emily Dickinson wants women to know that being alone do not really a bad thing, but being married is the safer option. Emily Dickinson almost knows that getting married is a safe option, but she is not really want to do that, and that's why she keeps asking herself if she should not get married or not. She admits that when you get marriage, you probably need to focus on your relationship, do household, take care your family. It is clear to see that being a ‘Wife’ will be the safest place to stay the rest of life.

Throughout the poem, Emily Dickinson wants the reader to understand that marriage is the beautiful thing, but it also the pressure in a girl's life if a girl is not ready to marriage. In Asian, a girl has to get marriage no matter what happens. Besides, she hopes girls can independently better on their own even though marriage is the safer option, but it is what society expects of them, not really because of they want to do.

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Analysis of Emily Dickinson’s Poem ‘I’m ‘Wife’ – I’ve Finished That’ through Feminist Criticism. (2023, September 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 21, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-emily-dickinsons-poem-im-wife-ive-finished-that-through-feminist-criticism/
“Analysis of Emily Dickinson’s Poem ‘I’m ‘Wife’ – I’ve Finished That’ through Feminist Criticism.” Edubirdie, 08 Sept. 2023, edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-emily-dickinsons-poem-im-wife-ive-finished-that-through-feminist-criticism/
Analysis of Emily Dickinson’s Poem ‘I’m ‘Wife’ – I’ve Finished That’ through Feminist Criticism. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-emily-dickinsons-poem-im-wife-ive-finished-that-through-feminist-criticism/> [Accessed 21 Feb. 2024].
Analysis of Emily Dickinson’s Poem ‘I’m ‘Wife’ – I’ve Finished That’ through Feminist Criticism [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Sept 08 [cited 2024 Feb 21]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-emily-dickinsons-poem-im-wife-ive-finished-that-through-feminist-criticism/
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