‘On Being a Woman’ is a humorous short poem about the poet’s unpredictable mind. This poem highlights how the poet thinks about love.
Dorothy Parker, one of the famous American poets and a renowned satirist, shares her simple but random thoughts on being a woman. A woman who is not sure what to do or think at a particular moment gets featured in this poem. It seems that the poet is talking about herself. However, it is also true that it is a satire on the thought process of modern women. Nowadays, finding true love is a far cry. Nobody has time to think about whom they can be in love with. However, when they find their so-called true love, after a few days they become exhausted. In this poem, one can find such exhaustion in the speaker’s attitude.
Summary of On Being a Woman
In this poem, the speaker shares what she has on her mind. According to her, when she is in Rome, she feels it is better in his home. But when she returns to her native land, she starts to miss Rome. In the second stanza, the speaker refers to her beloved. She is “spectacularly bored” in this relationship. For this reason, she does not hide her feelings. She asks him to leave. Lastly, she humorously asks him whether he can return when she screams to have him back.
You can read the full poem here.
Structure of On Being a Woman
This poem consists of two stanzas. Each stanza contains four rhyming lines. Parker employs a regular rhyme scheme in this poem. The rhyme scheme of the poem is AABB CCDD. It means that like a rhyming couplet, the consecutive lines of the poem rhyme together. As an example, in the first two lines, “Rome” rhymes with “home”. And, in the following lines, “be” rhymes with “Italy”. There is also regularity in the metrical scheme of the poem. Each line contains 8 syllables and stress falls on the second syllable of each foot. So, there are a total of four iambs in each line and the overall poem is composed in iambic tetrameter.
Literary Devices in On Being a Woman
Parker uses several literary devices to make her short poem, ‘On Being a Woman’ more interesting to the readers. The poem begins with a rhetorical question. This device is present throughout the first stanza. This section contains irony and sarcasm as well. In the third line, there is a metaphor in “native heart” and the last line contains a hyperbole. Thereafter, in the second stanza, the poet connects the first line with the last line of the previous stanza by the use of enjambment. There is repetition in the phrase, “my love, my lord.” The poem ends on an ironic note. Moreover, the poet uses alliteration in the phrase, “why with”.
Analysis of On Being a Woman
Why is it, when I am in Rome,
My soul is sick for Italy?
Parker’s poem, ‘On Being a Woman’ begins with a question. Here, the poet directly asks questions to readers. This interrogation also reveals how random the speaker’s mind is. Whatsoever, in the first stanza of the poem, the poetic persona asks herself why she feels bad when she is in Rome or any other place. When she is not in her homeland, she always thinks about it. In contrast, when she returns to her native place, she starts to think about Rome. Such a dilemma troubles this person’s soul.
It is important to note here that, here the poet explores how a woman thinks and reacts. Not everyone reacts in this way. But this particular speaker reacts in this manner. It seems as if she cannot concentrate on a particular thing. Whenever she does so, the thoughts about the other distract her mind. In this way, the first stanza of the poem helps the reader to get an idea of the speaker’s character.
And why with you, my love, my lord,
I scream to have you back again?
In the second stanza, it becomes clear to the readers why the poet refers to “Rome” and the “native earth” of the speaker. Here, the speaker talks about her beloved. Firstly she addresses him as “my love”. Thereafter she addresses him as “my lord”. Here, the poet uses a literary device known as an anticlimax. This phrase, “my lord” is used ironically for criticizing the thraldom of women. Whatsoever, in the following lines, the speaker remarks she is spectacularly bored in this relationship. So she requests tersely her beloved to get up and leave her. In the next line, she humorously asks him to return if she screams to have him back again.
After reading this stanza, readers can understand that the speaker seems to be fed up in this relationship. It can also be true that the speaker has found someone else and started to like him. For this reason, she somehow wants to walk out of that relationship. If she feels anytime that she has made a wrong decision, she will return to her old love. Moreover, the reference to “Rome” in the previous stanza seems to be a hint to the new person with whom she wants to be in a relationship. Whereas the “native earth” is a metaphor for the person she is breaking up with.
Historical Context of On Being a Woman
Dorothy Parker, one of the best-known 20th-century American poets, was a poet, writer, critic, and satirist. She was famous for her wit and an eye for the urban follies of the century. She was also popular as a “wisecracker”. In this poem, Parker criticizes the attitude of women. Her main focus is on how women treat men and play with their hearts without much caring about their feelings. This poem is a satire on these ladies who makes fun of the essence of fidelity and trust. However, in this humorous piece, readers can find how the speaker of the poem breaks up a relationship only for her fickle mind. She cannot stay with a person, not for a problem in the relationship but her infatuation with a different person.
Here is a list of a few poems that are similar to Dorothy’s poem, ‘On Being a Woman’. Readers can refer to the following poems for further reference.
- Woman’s Constancy by John Donne – This is one of the best John Donne poems. In this poem, the speaker is doubtful about the truthfulness of his lover of one night.
- I Knew a Woman by Theodore Roethke – In this poem, the poet describes a relationship between a devoted man and his lover.
- A Woman to Her Lover by Christina Walsh – The speaker of this poem addresses his lover to tell him that she will not tolerate it. She refuses to be conquered by his will.
- I, Being born a Woman and Distressed by Edna St. Vincent Millay – In this poem, the poet describes the emotional turmoil that relationships can evoke in women and how one should walk away from a relationship without any regret.