Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Like a number of early twentieth century women poets, ranging in style from Dorothy Parker and Edna St. Vincent Millay to H. D. (Hilda Doolittle) and Laura Riding, Mina Loy was concerned with the nature of romantic attachment between men and women. Why, in an age that seemed otherwise so modern, did men remain dominant in relationships while women continued to be overly dependent upon them? This age-old “battle between the sexes” was no longer limited to husbands and wives; it now included lovers outside marriage as well as writers and artists of both sexes positioning themselves on the intellectual landscape. Loy’s response to this issue was somewhat complicated by her attraction to Futurism, with its underlying strain of misogyny. Although she would later reject this aspect of Futurism, Loy appears to hold both sexes accountable in “Three Moments in Paris.”

An emphasis on vision, through the use of withheld and explicit images, pervades all three poems in the sequence, suggesting that the first step in the transformation from flawed relationships to successful ones is clear perception. The female speaker in “One O’Clock at Night” cannot recognize the differences between men and women until she awakes and has to adapt herself to the male world of intellectual argument. Yet given the poem’s irony regarding the speaker’s knowledge, even these differences are satirized, since the poem is itself an argument against male posturing.


(The entire section is 526 words.)