Describe the relationship between the “she” and “I” in Eavan Boland’s “Anorexic.” Hint: Don’t identify either one as the poet.

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kmcappello eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When reading a poem, you must of course never assume that the speaker - the "I" - of the poem is the poet.  In the same way that a fiction writer can write in the voice of a different person, a poet often writes from a different point of view.

In Eavan Boland's powerful poem, the speaker of the poem (the "I") feels angry and betrayed by her body (the "she"), which is personified as a "witch." The speaker blames her body for her sickness, saying "she meshed my head/in the half-truths/of her fevers//till I renounced/milk and honey/and the taste of lunch." Boland is using this unhealthy, angry relationship to represent the way many anorexics feel about their bodies.  In the same way that an addict loses control of their actions and good judgment, anorexics are unable to stop fasting, despite the fact that they know it is bad for them.  In a later stanza, the speaker declares, "I am starved and curveless./I am skin and bone./She has learned her lesson."  Here, the speaker wants to punish her body.