“Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law” is a ten-part poem, with each part composed of an uneven number of lines and stanzas. The speaker appears at first to address an older woman, probably the mother-in-law of the other, younger woman in the poem, a daughter-in-law. The two women are respectively “you” and “she,” but neither of the two women “converses” with the speaker in the poem.
In each part, the speaker refers or alludes to a literary passage or phrase. The references provide her with a foundation for a philosophical discussion with the two women. Italicized phrases in the poem indicate the speaker’s reference to another source, and at times she alters the original quotation. In part 3, for example, “ma semblable, ma soeur” is a variation of the phrase by the French poet Charles Baudelaire that reads, “mon semblable, mon frère.” By changing frère (brother) to soeur (sister), the speaker emphasizes her discussion of womanhood.
Although the parts are numbered, the poem as a whole does not develop into a chronological narrative. The speaker structures her thoughts according to emotions or experiences. The first four parts of the poem set up the strained relationship between the two women in a series of “snapshots.” The older woman, “once a belle in Shreveport,” still dresses and plays the part of a Southern debutante. The speaker is critical of her fineries and accuses the older woman...
(The entire section is 425 words.)