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Why is Anne Bradstreet's "The Author of Her Book" ironic?

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rrobley | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 15, 2011 at 12:53 AM via web

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Why is Anne Bradstreet's "The Author of Her Book" ironic?

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 26, 2013 at 9:43 PM (Answer #1)

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Irony,  when defined, implies that something is not as was expected.  This is true of the poem “The Author to Her Book.” No one expects the extended metaphor comparison of the newly published book to a child.

From the first to the last line, the poet’s work is her offspring---her baby. Initially, the baby comes ill-formed.  The great writer with self-deprecating language implies that her cognition comes from her weak mind.  Nothing is farther from the truth. Bradstreet was a brilliant poet particularly for the time in which she wrote and because of the lack of acceptance for her gender.

How does she ironically describe her work?

  • After writing the book [ill-formed offspring], she kept it to herself.
  • Her friends apparently took her work and showed it to the public.
  • The work had errors which were opened to be judged by those who read it.
  • The writer was embarrassed by them when the work was returned to her.
  • She refers again specifically to the book as a traveling brat.
  • The face of the baby [look of the work] was distasteful to her.
  • Since the book or infant belonged to her, her affection returned and she corrected the errors. She washed the faced or cleaned up the mistakes. In doing so, she found other errors [blemishes].
  • When the author tried to fix one of the mistakes, she rubbed too hard and made a spot on the page.
  • She added and changed words [joints] to amend the meter [feet] of the poetry.

I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet,

Yet still thou run’st more hobbling than is meet;

In better dress to trim thee was on my mind…

  • The errant infant [the writing] still was not satisfactory.
  • There are no fancy words or trim; it is  just home spun thoughts in the poem [house].
  • If the child [poetry] asks if it had a father, reply: No.
  • If the child asks about the mother, reply: She was poor and had to send the book out to be published because she needed the money.

The entire poem is ironic.  Her clever way of describing her writing or poetry denotes a loving parent, yet a parent who hesitates to share with others.  She worked hard on her poetry and does not want readers to misunderstand her work. 

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