How does the lady feel about her dress? How does the dress contrast with nature around the lady? How many times does the lady repeat the word "stiff" and why?  

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Amy Lowell's poem "Patterns," there is a strong contrast between the freedom of the natural world and the constraints of society. This contrast is most strongly demonstrated by comparing the garden paths and dress of the lady narrator to the natural world around her. 

The language...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

In Amy Lowell's poem "Patterns," there is a strong contrast between the freedom of the natural world and the constraints of society. This contrast is most strongly demonstrated by comparing the garden paths and dress of the lady narrator to the natural world around her. 

The language used to describe the lady's clothing shows its restrictive nature. She wears a "stiff, brocaded gown" (ln 5), without any softness, only "whale-bone and brocade" (ln 18).

Despite the fact that the gown is "richly figured" (ln 10) and must be very fancy and expensive, the lady is not happy with it. She feels that is inhibits her, saying "For my passion / Wars against the stiff brocade" (ln 20-21) The stiffness of her gown represents the society that keeps her from expressing her sorrow at the loss of her intended. Instead, she wishes to be more like the natural world around her. She notes several times that,

"The daffodils and squills
Flutter in the breeze
As they please," (ln 22-24)

while she is forced to stay on the garden paths and hold herself in. She declares that she would love to take off the gown and leave it crumpled on the ground, so that she could be "the pink and silver as [she] ran along the paths" (ln ___). The lady's desire to leave the constraints of society to return to the freedom of nature is clear.

The word "stiff or "stiffened" is repeated 6 times. The reason for this is the same as the contrast between society and nature. Society is stiff and formal with rules that the lady must follow, no matter how in love or how heart-broken she is. She feels restricted from her true and natural self when she is wearing her "society-approved clothes" and doing her "society-approved action."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team