Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Farmer’s Bride” is about innocence and ignorance. The bride is too young to marry and to have sex with a man she hardly knows. The imagery of the first stanza is of a smiling, attractive, competent girl whom the farmer has chosen because she will make a good farm wife. Unfortunately, her youthful innocence is matched by the farmer’s insensitivity toward the young, sexually naïve, frightened girl and his ignorance of a woman’s needs and humanity. He chooses her as he would his cattle, seeing no need to woo her. Having no concern for her feelings, he expects her simply to step into the role of his wife.

To him, as a farmer, human nature is not much more complicated than animal nature. The pairing of two people is not guided by more than the natural urge to procreate, the social roles of man and wife, and the man’s need for someone to keep house for him.

Mew also indicates that the man is not cruel, only conventional, in her description of the townspeople’s (probably the men) chasing her and locking her up. They seem to think the same way the farmer does: A wife, even a young, frightened wife, belongs at home with her husband. Even the women make little attempt to help her; they are perhaps busy with their chores or have forgotten their own transition into married life.

Their expectations and actions are based on what “should properly” be done. Although they run after her and bring her home forcibly, they are...

(The entire section is 471 words.)