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Social issues are displayed in many poets’ work and their beliefs on these issues are exposed intentionally through the use of various techniques. Judith Wright conveyed her view on social issues in most of her poems, and built her argument by using a variety of poetic techniques which position the reader to comprehend her beliefs. By developing a socially critical perspective through her poems, Wright’s view of the world’s social issues is presented to the reader in a way that forces them to ponder on the aspects of society mentioned. “Woman to Man” and “Remittance Man” are two poems through which Wrights beliefs on pregnancy, the relationship between man and wife, and social dissatisfaction due to context are examined. Poetic techniques or devices such as rhythm, figurative language and rhyme all position the reader not only to be aware of the social issue, but also to understand it, often through Wright’s perspective. “Woman to Man” is an example of a poem which examines a social issue through poetic techniques, based on Wright’s context at the time.
“Woman to Man” by Judith Wright expresses a woman’s thoughts on pregnancy and was written when Wright herself was pregnant. Due to this fact, one can assume that the poem explores Judith Wright’s thoughts on pregnancy as she speaks to her husband through the poem, expressing her feelings through various poetic techniques. The poem displays an unusual strength for moving the reader through the emotional tension, the development of ideas and the structure as this delicate topic is handled with precaution and disciplined craftsmanship. The steady progression of ideas seen in the well laid out structure causes a more dramatic reading on a subject which Wright felt so strongly about.
The poem “Woman to Man” has evidently been written with confidence and emotional sincerity as Wright shows she knows what she wants to say. One can see this through the easy balance of the lines, even in line three which ends, or is maintained with a dash. This is meant to be a silence for the reader to ponder on what has just been mentioned. Again, the balance is maintained in the last line by a comma, which also indicates silence and thus stresses the four last words “for I am afraid”. These words portray strong feeling of anxiety and mirror Wrights feelings about her pregnancy at the time. The poem identifies with her emotions and the issue of pregnancy affecting marriage not only through structure, but also through speed and rhythm.
Wright reinforces her feelings about her pregnancy and her belief that pregnancy is sacred through the speed and rhythm of the poem “Woman to Man”. It also gives the reader a feeling about what is occurring in the poem, in this case, sexual intercourse. The increasing speed and urgency of the lines suggested by the use of short vowels, particularly in the last stanza, where the second last line can be seen as the orgasm. The image in this line is exaggerated through the power of its series of single syllables which alternate light and heavy stresses, combined with short vowels and plosive consonants (b, t, a), mainly in the stressed words, ‘blaze’, ‘light’ and ‘blade’. A relaxation after the climax is suggested in the last line as the vowels are longer and the consonants softer. The ‘d’s still suggest fear in the words ‘hold’ and ‘afraid’ replacing the passion of the sexual act. Throughout the poem, rhythm and speed create an atmosphere of beauty and excitement, all of which Wright feels during pregnancy. The solemn tone created by the previous stresses indicates the woman’s realisation about what she is taking on. Another technique which supports Wright’s feelings about the issue is imagery.
Imagery is one of the focal techniques used in Judith Wright’s “Woman to Man”. It creates an image in the reader’s mind supporting the emotion Wright felt when she wrote the poem. There are three kinds of imagery in the poem; abstract imagery, figurative imagery and literal imagery. “The eyeless labourer in the night” (line 1) is not meant to be taken literally, but is suggesting a living but less than human entity which is identified only through the action which is its most important attribute. “The blood’s wild tree” (line 14) is another abstract image which suggests the consequences of the wilderness that is ‘in the blood’ when a person is sexually aroused. Another assumption which can be made from this is that like a tree rooted in the dark earth, the woman’s form provides a vehicle for the continuing chain of life. These abstract images withhold Wright’s support for the woman’s role in continuing life and her feelings about pregnancy.
Figurative imagery in “the intricate and folded rose” shows the parallel between an unfolding rosebud and an unfolding personality in the child, but also in the mother and father as they take on parenthood. Wright also uses images metaphorically. The curve of the woman’s breast and the strength of the man’s arm are used to suggest the feminine and masculine essentials involved in conception. All of these images allow the reader to comprehend the beauty of conception and the way Wright feels about this. She shows her obvious joy and admiration for the concept through the images she creates.
Wright’s joy and appreciation of the birth cycle, from conception is shown through the poetic conventions in the poem “woman to man”. She upholds her social standing, suggesting that she is against abortion and values marriage and the beauty of its outcomes. Through structure, speed and rhythm and imagery, the reader can gain an understanding of Wright’s emotions at the time and can also see her view of pregnancy as being sacred. Another poem which validates the conjecture that poetic techniques are used to construct a socially critical perspective is “remittance man”, also by Judith Wright.
Throughout the poem “Remittance Man”, by Judith Wright, a socially critical point of view is maintained through poetic techniques evident in the poem. Wright’s love for the Australian lifestyle as opposed to a rushed English lifestyle is evident in a variety of ways. We also see her dissatisfaction with the genteel life of the time. An assumption can be made that the man was sent away from a country that he didn’t like anyway, “accepted his pittance with an easy air” (line2). The poem uses a binary opposition to view the Australian lifestyle as much more favourable over the English lifestyle. This can be noticed through the wording Wright uses to describe each place. Figurative language is often used in the poem to create a mood or set a tone to uphold the scene being described.
Figurative language plays a major role in the comparison of the country lifestyle in Australia as opposed to the lifestyle the remittance man once had. Symbolism is used in the fourth line; “pheasant-shooting” is a literal detail which is used symbolically to show the exclusive life of privilege led by land owners. “The aunts in the close” (line 4) symbolises the way women were treated back then, and shows women imprisoned in gentility. The society of the time was very male dominated, as shown through other symbols in the poem. “Rainy elms seen through the nursery window” (line 19) and “the formal roses” (line 25) can also be seen to signify the restrictive nature of the genteel life. Alliteration in stanza three creates a sound in the reader’s mind of swinging trees, suggesting a peaceful and relaxing place, “sparse swinging shadow of trees” (line 10). This in reinforced by “blue blowing smoke” (line 8) where the easy flowing ‘bl’ sound shows an effortlessness sense of freedom in the Australian lifestyle. Judith Wright shows her favourable attitude toward Australia over England in this poem through the techniques mentioned, and reinforces this when the reader gains an overall satisfaction with the Australian lifestyle.
“Remittance Man” is written and shows Wright’s admiration for the Australian country through poetic techniques, but also shows her dissatisfaction for the city lifestyle. The binary opposition between Australia and England can be indicating Wright’s obvious love for her country, no matter what it’s been through. Gentility in the world in the time of the poem was obviously looked down upon, but is gratified by the description of Wright’s cherished country.