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‘Woman Work’ is a poem about a black working woman set in the southern states of the U.S.A. In the poem, the woman is very busy, as she lists all her chores in the first stanza. All this working makes her tired and she cries out to the elements to take her away from the frustration. The main theme in ‘Woman Work’ is work. We know this because of the long list of household jobs she’s got to do in the first stanza. Another theme in the poem is loneliness. We can see this by the fact that she only mentions her children and not her partner/husband, if she has one. The message that the poet is trying to get through to the reader is that life can be horrible, and you have to do anything to survive.
The way that Maya Angelou has written this poem is on purpose. The first stanza makes the reader feel as though the woman is over-worked because of the long list of chores. Note that the poet has not used any commas in the first stanza. This makes the pace intense and arouses a feeling of breathlessness and exhaustion in the reader. The lines being short and quick also add to this. We know that this woman is from the U.S.A. because she uses a southern dialect ‘gotta’, ‘cane’, ‘cotton to pick’, ‘chicken to fry’. This capture’s the woman’s voice, so it’s as if she is talking to us. The next four stanzas are four lined stanzas. This slows the pace right down. The purpose of this is so that it reflects what the woman is actually saying
‘Fall gently, snowflakes
Cover me with white
Cold icy kisses and
Let me rest tonight.’
The use of the comma is here to slow it down. ‘Fall gently’ is something that makes it feel more relaxed and calm. The four lined stanzas have a regular rhythm, which conveys comfort and security. The title ‘Woman Work’ is chosen because that is what the whole poem is about. The work that she is doing in the poem is for women only. There are examples of metaphors in the poem
‘Storm, blow me from here
With your fiercest wind’
‘Cover me with white
Cold icy kisses…’
She wants the wind to blow her away from all the stress and work, and the snowflakes to cool her down with their ‘kisses’ and make her feel relaxed. The poet evokes a strong feeling of desperation in this poem
‘Storm, blow me from here’
She is desperate because she calls upon the elements to whisk her away, which is not possible. The poet also creates a lonely atmosphere in the poem;
‘Sun, rain, curving sky…
…You’re all that I can call my own.’
The things that she calls her own are not human; therefore she has nobody to talk to.
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