This poem is a compelling character portrayal reflecting the objectification of women in this historical context. In the poem, the speaker spends a great deal of time showing a guest a portrait of his former wife, asking this guest to sit while he explains the lady's demeanor captured in the portrait. Instead of praising her, he condemns his now deceased wife for being too happy. She was equally happy with a gift from him, a sunset, or a branch of cherries. Interestingly, this unparalleled joy is not valued by the speaker; it is clear that he needed to feel that he was special to her—that he made her happier than anyone or anything else. And when she failed to deliver, there is evidence that he had her killed:
Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together.
The "commands" from the speaker immediately precede the fact that her smiles stopped, and now he's in the position of...
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