How can I analyze the poem "The Forsaken Wife" by Elizabeth Thomas?

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hmartin17 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first stanza of "The Forsaken Wife" sets the overall mood of the poem and critiques her husband for being inhumane. When Elizabeth Thomas writes, "one pitying look, one parting word" in line two, it's clear that the poem is a lament, or a poem of loss. Based on the title, we know that the husband has deserted the wife without a single look of pity or even a goodbye. A tone of sadness and pain is established. The next two lines say, "Humanity claims this as due, but what's humanity to you?" meaning that to have pity on the wife and to at least say goodbye is humane, moral, and right. However, the husband leaves without either of these things, and the wife claims that he therefore has no humanity, and furthermore that humanity does not matter to him.

The second stanza finalizes the somber tone and sheds light on the wife's situation. "Cruel man!...your infidelity I find," the stanza begins (lines 5-6). Though the husband has cheated, it is the wife who is ruined emotionally and even socially with a broken heart and a cheating husband. Not only that, but evidently the husband now hates her (line 9). At the end of the second stanza, in lines 10-12, the wife vows "to be forever the same," meaning that she will adhere to her marriage vows and still be true to her husband. She will not sink to his hateful and adulterous level, instead remaining a virtuous though broken-hearted woman.

In the final stanza, the wife bitterly prides herself on her strength despite her situation. She begins, "Show me a man that dare be true, that dares to suffer what I do," claiming that no man she knows can suffer as deeply as she already has (lines 13-14). A critique on societal standards for men at the time, the woman claims that no men can remain truly remain faithful or strong, while women are expected to suffer their infidelities in silence while remaining true. The final lines of the poem say that until society can conjure up a faithful man, the wife will say goodbye to all men, and remain alone and yet superior in her virtues and values. 

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