What is the significance of the title of Lowell's "Patterns"?

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mlsldy3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem "Patterns" tells us of a woman who is longing for so much more than she is allowed to have. The age in which she lives regards women as a pattern that they must mold themselves after. The woman is in a garden, where every plant and flower is in a pattern. She feels like she and the flowers are alike, because they have to be a certain way, yet she comes to realize that the flowers and plants have a certain freedom that she just doesn't have. She is a woman who is forced to wear brocaded gowns and powered hair, all for show. On the inside there is a woman who is longing to be set free. She has thoughts of how it would be with a man. She was once engaged to a man, who has been killed in the war, and she wonders what life would have been like if he had lived, and she questions what all the patterns are for.

In a month he would have been my husband.
In a month, underneath this lime,
We would have broken the pattern;
He for me, and I for him,
He as a Colonel, I as a Lady,
On this shady seat
He had a whim
That sunlight carried blessing.
And I answered, "It shall be as you have said."
Now he is dead.

Amy Lowell makes us realize that everything is society is a pattern, and if we don't fit that pattern, we are not a part of society. The woman in the poem is trying to fit in the pattern, but she is questioning why the pattern is important. She was doing everything that she was required to do, yet the man she loved is now dead in a war that she questions. She wonders what the war was patterned after. Society has set forth a pattern that they think we should all be doing, and when a person doesn't do that, then they are cast out of society. This was in the 18th century where society was extremely important, but even in this day and age, we are still concerned with what society says is right. We see it every day. We hear it on the news and read it online. We get angry and fuss about it, but yet we are still living by what society says is right. Amy Lowell was a woman ahead of her times, yet if she could see us now, would she think we have come so far? "Patterns" is a cautionary poem of the labels we put on people. It makes us reconsider how we react to things, and when it is time to make our own patterns in life.

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