How do lines five and six affect your reaction to the woman in Gwendolyn Brooks's poem "the mother"?

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Gwendolyn Brooks' poem “the mother” is about the aftereffects of abortion on a woman, and various lines talk about experiences the woman will never have. Let's look at this in more detail.

The poem begins with the line “Abortions will not let you forget.” Then the speaker elaborates on exactly what she will not forget, namely, the children that she “did not get.” In lines five and six, the speaker reveals her insecurity and her fears about being a bad mother. “You will never neglect or beat / Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.” These are indeed negative ways of coping with a child, and perhaps the woman feels that she might have descended into such behavior if she had given birth.

We might feel a little sorry for the woman here, for we can see that she does not trust herself. We may also wonder if there are experiences in her past, maybe when she was a child, that made her think that she would have done such things to her own children.

As the poem continues, the speaker reflects on the positive things that she will not experience, like comforting her children, but the negative sneaks in as well, like leaving them or being too controlling. The next stanzas reflect more on the children the speaker has lost and on her love for them.

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