Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word! by Edna St. Vincent Millay

‘Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay is a powerful poem about a woman’s decision to assert her independence.

Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word! Visual Representation

The poem uses a variety of literary devices and interesting examples of dialogue in order to depict a challenging relationship. The speaker provides readers with information about her life while at the same time quoting her husband. Her thoughts are personal in ‘Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!’, with the reader being allowed insight into her mind that her husband doesn’t have.

Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word! by Edna St. Vincent Millay


Read Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!

Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!
Give back my book and take my kiss instead.
Was it my enemy or my friend I heard,
“What a big book for such a little head!”
Come, I will show you now my newest hat,
And you may watch me purse my mouth and prink!
Oh, I shall love you still, and all of that.
I never again shall tell you what I think.
I shall be sweet and crafty, soft and sly;
You will not catch me reading any more:
I shall be called a wife to pattern by;
And some day when you knock and push the door,
Some sane day, not too bright and not too stormy,
I shall be gone, and you may whistle for me.

Edna St. Vincent Millay


Summary

‘Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay is a moving poem about one woman’s relationship with her husband.

In the first lines of the poem, it quickly becomes clear that the speaker is not in a happy relationship. Her life is completely under her husband’s control, and despite her best attempts, she can’t assert her independence while living with him. She decides that enough is enough and that she’s going to, one day in the future, break away from him. This will allow her to live the life she wants.

Themes

Millay engages with themes of women’s rights and independence. The speaker in the poem is living a life in which she’s continually oppressed and patronized by her husband. He controls everything she does and even has the ability to take her possessions from her. He’d rather see her act like a doll or his prized pet than engage her intellect in pursuits she’s interested in. Rather than accept her lot in life, the speaker determines that she’s not going to live this way anymore. She tells the reader that sometime in the future, she’s going to walk away from her husband and start a life in which she doesn’t have to come when he whistles.

Structure and Form

‘Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay is a fourteen-line poem that takes the form of a Shakespearean sonnet. This means that the fourteen lines rhyme in a pattern of ABABCDCDEFEFGG. The reader should also consider the meter. Millay uses iambic pentameter, the same metrical pattern that Shakespeare used throughout his sonnets as well. This directly connects Millay’s writing back to a longer and broader tradition of sonnet writing. It might be interesting to consider what relevance this has to the content. She was writing in a male-dominated world, using a form used primarily by men and discussing how oppressive marital relationships during her time were.

Literary Devices

Throughout Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!’ Millay makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:

  • Caesura: can be seen when the poet inserts a pause into the middle of a line. For example, “Oh, I shall love you still, and all of that.” Caesurae can be created through the use of punctuation or a natural pause in the meter.
  • Imagery: occurs when the poet uses especially vibrant descriptions. For example, “Some sane day, not too bright and not too stormy” from the end of the poem.
  • Dialogue: these are lines of speech shared between characters. They appear several times throughout this poem, denoting when the husband and wife are talking to one another. This makes the poem feel even more like a narrative.
  • Alliteration: occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of words. For example, “will” and “word” in the first line and “now” and “newest” in the fifth.


Detailed Analysis

Lines 1-4

Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!

Give back my book and take my kiss instead.

Was it my enemy or my friend I heard,

“What a big book for such a little head!”

In the first four lines of ‘Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word,’ Millay begins by using the line that later came to be used as the title. This is a common feature in poetry, especially in sonnet writing. The first line is addressed to the speaker’s husband. It feels playful, but it’s soon revealed that the speaker is not joking. She truly feels that one day, her husband, who is usually all-powerful in her life, is going to regret something he said to her.

She tells him that she’d like her book back, something that he’s taken from her and that she’ll trade him a kiss for it. She’s using what she has, her allure as his wife and as a woman, to get what she wants. This is a necessary part of her life if she wants to have any type of independence.

She also addresses her opinion of her husband in these lines, asking if he’s her “enemy or friend.” This reveals a lot about their relationship. It’s not a healthy one. This is furthered by the next line of dialogue, a quote from the husband where he patronizes his wife, suggesting that she’s not smart enough to read the “big book” she had been engaged with.

Lines 5-8

Come, I will show you now my newest hat,

And you may watch me purse my mouth and prink!

Oh, I shall love you still, and all of that.

I never again shall tell you what I think.

The second quatrain, or set of four lines, includes the speaker’s words. She’s still trying to get her husband to do what she wants. This time, she tries to tempt him into giving her the book back by playing the role of a simple wife. She’ll try on her “newest hat” and, like a doll, model it for him.

Her frustration with her situation comes through clearly in the next lines when she thinks about how she’ll never tell her husband what she thinks again. She’ll keep all her independent thoughts to herself.

Lines 9-14

I shall be sweet and crafty, soft and sly;

You will not catch me reading any more:

I shall be called a wife to pattern by;

And some day when you knock and push the door,

Some sane day, not too bright and not too stormy,

I shall be gone, and you may whistle for me.

The speaker decides that in order to get the life she wants, she needs to be “sweet and crafty, soft and sly.” This will mean that her husband has no idea that she’s planning to leave him. Her reading will be hidden, as will her intentions to set out and make a better life for herself.

The speaker will take on a pattern-like role of “wife.” Anyone could look at her and think that she’s the ideal wife for her time. But, eventually, one a “sane” day that not too “bright” or “stormy,” she’s going to be “gone.” He’ll “whistle” for her, and she won’t come. This final image is one of liberation, but it’s also deeply sad as it suggests that she, like many other women, is in a situation in which they’re treated like dolls or little less than a prized pet.

FAQs

What is the tone of ‘Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word?

The tone is determined and independent. The speaker knows what her life is, and she’s finally decided that she’s going to walk away from her husband. She doesn’t know when yet, but she’s determined to reassert her independence.

Who is the speaker in ‘Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word?

The speaker is a wife in an unhappy relationship. She’s likely living in Millay’s time, in the 1900s. Her husband patronizes and teases her, making her feel like a doll or an animal.

What is the mood of ‘Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word?

The mood is empowering and exciting. Readers should walk away from this poem feeling proud of the speaker and excited by the prospect that she is feeling strong enough to walk away from a man who is mistreating her.

What is the meaning of ‘Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word?

The meaning is that in some relationships, in order to be free and have one’s own life, it’s necessary to walk away. Such is the case when the man refuses to acknowledge a woman’s intellect and independence.

Why did Millay write,’ Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word?

Millay wrote, ‘Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!’ in order to convey the experience of innumerable women during her lifetime and in the years before and after her. The speaker is living a life that’s shared by far too many women, and Millay was likely hoping to show how another type of life is possible.


Similar Poetry

Readers who enjoyed ‘Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!’ should also consider reading other Edna St. Vincent Millay poems. For example:

  • Ashes of Life’ – is told from the perspective of a speaker who has lost all touch with her own ambitions and is stuck within the monotonous rut of everyday life.
  • Elegy Before Death’ – is about the physical and spiritual impact of a loss and how it can and cannot change one’s world.
  • First Fig’ – a well-loved and often discussed poem. In it, readers can explore a symbolic depiction of sexuality and freedom.

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Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word! Visual Representation
About
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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