In “Market Women’s Cries,” each stanza of the poem depicts a woman selling a different product. The first woman sells apples, the second sells onions, and the third sells herrings. Each of the women must sell their product to live, though only the apple and herring sellers directly reference their...
In “Market Women’s Cries,” each stanza of the poem depicts a woman selling a different product. The first woman sells apples, the second sells onions, and the third sells herrings. Each of the women must sell their product to live, though only the apple and herring sellers directly reference their poverty in the poem.
In Marxist Critical Theory (MCT), a reader would use the ideas of marxism to analyze a text. Things that MCT focuses on include differences in social class, the abuses of the capitalist system, how does the work as a whole interact with the current system, and how do characters or others overcome oppression in the text.
In “Market Women’s Cries,” the three central characters of the poem are women selling food in the market place. The women are all lower-class, and they reference their social status by talking about the precarious nature of their financial stability. For example, the herring seller says:
“Come, sixpence a dozen, to get me some bread,
Or, like my own herrings, I soon shall be dead.”
Using MCT, we can see the oppressive state that this woman exists in—having to sell fish to live. She has no safety net, and no one is protecting her from the harsh realities of capitalist society. She must sell the fish, or she will starve for lack of money.
In the same way, the woman selling apples supports her entire family with what she makes from her sales,
“My children are seven,
I wish them in Heaven;
My husband’s a sot,
With his pipe and his pot,
Not a farthen will gain them,
And I must maintain them.”
The apple seller is even more oppressed than the herring woman—explaining that she has seven children whom she wishes were dead. The abuses of the capitalist system are apparent in this section. This woman cannot make enough to provide a quality life for her family, and she must participate in this low level of work to make a subsistence living.
Swift shows that he is critical of the current system because these women are not happy with their lot. The danger they face from the inequality and inhumane nature of the system shows that Swift was ultimately critical of capitalism. The poem is not capitalist propaganda but instead is a revolutionary piece meant to expose the oppression of the system.