The Madwoman in the Attic

by Sandra Ellen Mortola, Susan Gubar

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Explain the quote "If what I do prove well, it won't advance/ They'll say it's stolen, or else it was by chance" from The Madwoman in the Attic.

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The quotation in this question is quoting Anne Bradstreet. She lived from 1612 – 1672 in North America and she is known not only for being one of the first writers of North America, but even more so for being the first published female writer of North America.

The quote in question is taken from the poem “The Prologue”. It refers to the difficulties that Bradstreet was facing as a female writer in the 17th century. At the time, the role of a woman was seen to be solely in the household, raising and looking after the children. It was deemed not suitable for a woman to engage in intellectual activities, such as writing. Therefore, this quote could be seen as a very early example of feminist writing.

Through this quote, we can clearly see that Anne Bradstreet feels very frustrated. She says that it doesn’t matter if she is good at writing, as people will not give her credit for it anyway. They would either accuse her of having “stolen” it from someone else or they would assume that it was just “by chance”, so merely good fortune and luck that helped her produce a good piece of work, rather than her actual ability. Noone would appreciate her as a talented writer, merely because she is female.

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