What literary devices are most important in Anne Bradstreet's poem, "The Author to Her Book"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In her poem "The Author to Her Book" Anne Bradstreet bemoans the quality of her work that has been exposed to the public because "alas [she] is poor."  Most importantly, the poem is written as an extended metaphor in which her literary endeavor is compared to "an ill-formed offspring," a child that has defects.  Bradstreet blushes at the return of her cast-off child whose appearance was "so irksome" in her sight, conveying her embarrassment that the work that "friends, less wise than true," have had published.

Within this extended metaphor, of course, there are other metaphors.  For instance, Bradstreet writes that she "washed" the face of the book, meaning she made attempts at improving its appearance and content, but in "rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw," in correcting one error she commits others.  The use of these metaphors describing her actions upon the book certainly personify the work as a child with an "irksome" face and "hobbling" legs that are metaphors also for the sequence of plot events.  The last line contains both personification and metaphor as the child/book (personification) is sent out of the door (metaphor), meaning it is put out for publication.  And "door" is an example of metonymy in which the door represents the whole house.

favoritethings's profile pic

favoritethings | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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Another poetic device which is central to this poem is Anne Bradstreet's use of apostrophe.  Apostrophe is when the narrator speaks to something that is nonliving as though it were living and could respond.  In this case, the narrator of the poem is speaking to her published book (a very imperfect "child" of her brain rather than her body, a comparison she makes via metaphor), as though that book could hear and react to her.  It is a sort of mild form of personification.

In addition to comparing her text to a flawed child of her own mind, Bradstreet also compares herself, via metaphor, to an imperfect mother. She says, for example, "In better dress to trim thee was my mind, / But nought save homespun cloth i’ th’ house I find."  She would have liked to have been able to make her text better, literally, but she was only able to "dress it" in homely cloth, figuratively, because that is all she has access to: she identifies the homeliness and limits of her own mind as the cause of her text's flaws.  The "child" is imperfect because the mind that produced it is, likewise.  Then, in the final lines of the poem, she instructs her text/child, "If for thy father asked, say thou hadst none; / And for thy mother, she alas is poor, / Which caused her thus to send thee out of door."  In other words, the text has no father and only a mother who is lacking, and this is why, though she would like to have put something better out into the world, she was unable.

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