How do you characterize the spectrum of tones in the poem, "The Author to Her Book" by Anne Bradstreet?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If we assume that the poem is autobiographical, as most people tend to do when reading Anne Bradstreet, her tone initially seems somewhat embarrassed.  She feels her work to be the "ill-formed offspring of [her] feeble brain:" a deformed production of her weak intellect.  This text was "snatched" by friends who meant well, but they exposed it to the public and had it printed when she was not ready.  She says her "blushing was not small," which again implies her embarrassment.

The tone then becomes more than embarrassed, it is even ashamed.  She calls her text "a brat" and something that is "unfit for light" with a face that had become "irksome" to her: now she is irritated.  Soon, however, because the text is her own, she begins to feel affectionate toward it.  She tries to clean it up, though she only sees more defects.  Each attempt to fix it only makes it a little worse.  She had wanted to "trim" the work in "better dress"—to make it the best it could be—but she has only homely "cloth" to put it in (another self-deprecating reference to her own intellect, which she seems to think is underdeveloped).  Ultimately, she is resigned to her limitations, and she hopes that her work will avoid the judgment of critics.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The tone shifts from frustrated to longing as the author describes the painful process of releasing a work into the world.

Tone is the author’s attitude toward a subject.  At the beginning of the poem, the speaker seems frustrated and annoyed.  Harsh language like “ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain” is used.  As the work is exposed to the world, there is a combination of resentment and worry, as if the work is at once part of her and not.

In the middle of the poem, the speaker begins to take responsibility for the work.

I cast thee by as one unfit for light,

The visage was so irksome in my sight;

Yet being mine own, at length affection would

Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.

Soon she is describing it as a child, and she as its mother. The speaker begins to describe attempts to perfect the book, eventually acknowledging that she had to send it out into the world perhaps before it was ready, because she had no way to make it better.

During the seventeenth century, women had few rights.  Women writers were rare, and completely at the mercy of men.  Bradstreet's poem demonstrates this conflict.