What does the cow symbolize in "The Woman of Three Cows"?

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The cows symbolize their owners' pride. The speaker claims that he has seen many people with "twice [her] stock" who are "not half so proud as [she]" is. He claims that her good fortune to own three cows is only the result of "luck," and yet she still "scorn[s] the...

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The cows symbolize their owners' pride. The speaker claims that he has seen many people with "twice [her] stock" who are "not half so proud as [she]" is. He claims that her good fortune to own three cows is only the result of "luck," and yet she still "scorn[s] the poor" and despises them, though her "worldly wealth" will, one day, mean nothing.

She is "haughty" and "stiff" as a result of her pride in owning three cows, as so many people own none, or fewer than three, but the speaker insists that she is nothing compared to true heroes of the land who deserve to feel proud. He argues that her pride is misplaced because she has achieved nothing nor bettered the country in some way, and so he asks her what right she has to be proud. It is only her cows that seem to differentiate her from others.

Further, she must not be wealthy herself, as three cows is really not so very many; however, it is more than most relatively poor people would have. Her neighbor, for example, has two cows, and yet the Woman of Three Cows "wags" her "tongue" about having just one more cow than she. The speaker claims that one day, this woman's bones will lie "mouldering" in the earth, and the number of cows she has will hardly matter then.

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