Discuss the structure of Gwendolyn Brooks' poem "The Mother."

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jk180's profile pic

James Kelley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

Thanks for the clarification!

What I mean here when I talk about structuralism is an approach that looks at a large number of stories (or other short pieces) and seeks to identify the overarching pattern (the super-structure, if you will) that can help us make sense of each individual story. Examples of this method include the "morphology of the folk tale" study of Vladimir Propp and the myth studies of Claude-Levi Strauss.

A structuralist approach to the poem, then, would probably have to connect this poem to a set of other writings in order to identify a pattern across the writings. These writings might all be about life and death, about motherhood and birth, or any other range of topics.

Structuralism (as I understand it) does not stop at examining patterns in just one work. Formalism or New Criticism are often those sorts of approaches.

jk180's profile pic

James Kelley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

Gwendolyn Brooks is a highly accomplished poet, and her poem "The Mother" reflects her ability to work with language on a number of levels. The poem uses a variety of elements to give it structure, but it doesn't seem bound to any one of these elements.

End rhyme is used throughout, for example, and while the poem's rhyme often follows the format of couplets (AA, BB, etc.), it occasionally breaks out of that pattern and sometimes uses alternating rhyme (ABAB, etc.).

End rhyme is, of course, the repetition of sounds at the end of lines of a poem. Repetition is used in other ways, too, to lend structure to the poem. Key words and phrases are repeated or closely imitated, such as in the parallel grammatical forms in lines 3-4:

The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair, The singers and workers that never handled the air.

The source cited below, at enotes.com, talks about how the speaker in the poem is vacillating between various ways of making sense of the abortion or lost child:

An important unifying device in the poem is memory. Memory is constantly functioning in “the mother.” The narrator is in a fluid and changing relationship with the past, and specifically with her decisions that have drastically affected the present.

It may be possible to connect the changes in the poem's very structure to the changes in the speaker's "changing relationship with the past."

NOTE: I didn't understand the question in its original form. There's really no such thing as "structuralism in" a specific poem. Structuralism is a theoretical approach that transcends individual pieces of literature and looks for large patterns that organize and explain the individual pieces. In your question, I thus changed "structuralism in" to "structure of."

lola21's profile pic

lola21 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Honors

Posted on

You are welcome.

I'm absolutely with you in what u said about structuralism but i just wanna know how could this poem be analysed from a structuralist point of view and i really hope u can give me this structuralist analysis for this poem cuz i couldn't find anything on it via searching Google.

lola21's profile pic

lola21 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Honors

Posted on

Thank you so much for replying my question.

Actually what i meant, is what is the relationship between structuralism and this poem?? or in other words, what is the analysis of the poem according to Structuralism??

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