Marriage is relatively long for a non-narrative poem, nearly three hundred lines. The unidentified speaker retains distance from the subject, offering comments as a neutral “one” and as a more personal “I,” but depending throughout on a technique characteristic of Marianne Moore: the interpolation of quotations as part of the poem’s statement. The general tone is of detached, wry observation.
The poem opens with a characterization of marriage as either an institution or an enterprise, followed by a query as to what Adam and Eve would think about it. The speaker then extends the Adam and Eve allusion to describe a generic bride and groom. The Eve-bride is characterized by beauty, accomplishment, and contradiction; she upsets the careful rationality of ordered creation with the disturbance of passion. The story of the snake in the garden of paradise is referred to as a convenient exoneration of Adam. The lengthy description of the Adam-groom begins with a vision of Adam in paradise as if depicted in a highly detailed Persian miniature. The speaker goes on to enumerate the man’s assertive qualities, which can lead him to overlook the potential dangers of women as he maintains a formal pose, speaking with a specious sense of ownership of public accomplishments and external qualities; eventually, he foolishly begins to believe in his own image, satisfied that he has become an “idol.” In the next several lines, he is described as being...
(The entire section is 560 words.)