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Amanda Couture Ms.

Camargo ENGL 2100 02/12/2013 Writing about Poetry The most pronounced theme in a song in the front yard shows the extreme desire of a young girl to be free of her socially constrained life. Feminist criticism and rebellion are represented throughout the poem. The author conveys the meaning of the poem through figurative language, tone, and word choice. The speaker would choose to become a prostitute than to live a life as a woman with no rights. This poem truly shows the extreme decision of one girl who chooses not to live of life of second class citizenship. In the early to late 1900s, women were not educated and seen as children with no rights in their own society. In the first stanza, the speaker reveals the desire of freedom. Ive stayed in the front yard all my life./ I want a peek at the back, by using figurative language, the author conveys the feeling of being trapped in one confined realm (lines 1-2). The lines also hint at the age and innocence of the speaker. It shows that she has not been able to experience the world around her because she is forced to be what society says a young girl should be. Not only has she not been able to experience the world, it represents all women. Women are confined to one idea of what they should be; someone who stays in the kitchen and has no voice inside and outside of the house. A couple lines after that the speaker says, A girl gets sick of a rose, to show that she is not the average woman. A rose is the representation of beauty and perfection. The speaker says she is sick of roses to say she is sick of what the perception of a woman means, beautiful and perfect. The speaker does not want to be socially and politically suppressed by what it means to

be a woman. The speaker wants to reach the next level of deeper desire because the line says, And maybe down the alley to, (line 6). Not only does she want to go to the back yard, she wants to take the next step further and reach equality. If the backyard represents women being able to show desire, then the alley is becoming equal to all men. In the next stanza, the author says, To where the charity children play./ I want a good time today. (lines 7-8). These two lines show that she only sees one way out of her situation and thats because of the environment she has been raised in. The speaker has not been allowed to see the world around her and this severely blinds her to her surroundings. The world of high powered men has confined her to one idea of herself. She cannot be a business woman or a congresswoman; she must sell her own body to feel any sort of empowerment in this world. That Georgell be taken to jail soon or late/ (On account of last winter he sold our back gate.) George is the male dominant figure, most likely a pimp, in her life, he is used in this poem to constrain this young girl even after she reaches her freedom. The words in quotations are also interesting because the little girl says he sells the back gate. Instead of saying something out right, the author again uses figurative language to show the reader what he truly does for a living. This also shows the reader that he is dominant over the speaker. Even after the speaker would reach freedom, there will always be a man above her controlling her, telling her this is all she is good for and theres no hope of becoming something more. The tone of a poem creates the overall feeling the author wants the audience to feel. Tone is most pronounced in the third stanza to show the speakers fantasy of being a bad woman and how her mother feels about her daughters decision. The author writes, My mother sneers, but I say its fine/ How they dont have to go in at quarter to nine. (lines 11-12). These two lines show her true feelings of wanting to rebel and live her own life. The speaker admires how late

the women can stay out without being yelled at by their mother to get in the house. My mother, she tells me that Johnnie Mae/ Will grow up to be a bad woman./ That Georgell be taken to Jail soon or late/ (On account of last winter he sold our back gate. Johnnie Mae represents everything the speaker wants to be (lines 13-15). Shes a bad woman and the author uses tone to show that the speaker admires how bad she is unlike the outlook her mother gives Johnnie Mae. George, again, represents the male dominance women faced during that time period. The speaker shows that even if freedom becomes attainable, there is still a male figure enforcing fear and keeping women constrained. However, the speaker seems oblivious to what he truly means, again showing the innocence, because George would be going to jail because he sold their back gate. These lines show her mothers protection from the truth. The mother is trying to keep her daughter from wanting the desires of the bad life by saying he will go to jail for doing such things. One of the most important aspects when creating a poem is the authors use of word choice. Gwendolyn Brooks would not have been able to create such an allure if she would have chosen other words. The alluring words that the author uses are bad woman. The author almost wants to reel in the audience by saying being bad feels good. The speaker says, And Id like to be a bad woman, too, saying that she doesnt want to be the normal, cookie-cutter, stay at home mom, but a woman to has a voice and fights for something. The author writes, And wear the brave stockings of night-black lace/ And strut down the streets with paint on my face. (lines 1920). Typically, when describing a prostitute, many would not use brave stockings because prostitutes are thought of as the lower class society. The author uses this to capture how much the speaker admires the freedom of which they possess. These last two lines truly describe how desperate she is to get away from being treated as a second citizen. The author also chose to use

the word paint instead of makeup. Paint, in other works of literature, can also mean war paint and used in other means of rebellion. The paint she is wearing on her face could represent her rebellion against the social norms of being a woman. The makeup that is on her face is her war paint against the suppression of women. Desire is inside everyone, men and woman, and someone should not be discriminated against because they were born a certain way. The poem describes a young girl who is being suppressed from not only men, but other women, and will do anything to become free. Even if that means she will become a prostitute to gain her own freedom. Through the use of figurative language, tone, and word choice the theme becomes enhanced and more understood by the audience. The speaker will go to any extreme if that means she will no longer be constrained by the social norms of society. The speaker wants to break what it means to be a woman.

Good job so far Amanda. I love this poem. I actually got to meet Gwendolyn Brooks once, a LOOOONG time ago. She was real cool I think you are onto the right track with this poem, and I want you to keep digging for moretheres definitely a lot more there, and I think youll have room for it in your revisions if you cut back on some other areas. For instance, take out the feminist analysis and stick to a New Critical approach. Look at the title of the poema song for. And read the poem out loud. Talk about rhythm and rhyme (if you find that its a particular type of rhyme that means something too. If its feminine rhyme, THEN you can say that theres a reference to themes of what it means to be a girl/woman. Just a thought.) But the very first words of the title are that its a songso I think thats worth taking note of in your paper-But the point is, YES there are specific words that point to the importance of gender in the text (the speaker calls herself a girl, mothers and sisters are mentioned, the word woman is repeated) so stay focused on those. But you cant make any references to time periods, feminist theory/culture, anything outside the text. Focus on the form and devices in the poem. And save all these ideas for a class in which you can do a feminist analysis of a poem, and come back to this. Because you are definitely onto something with it. But even then, youll support it with close reading and textual evidence, so

Works Cited Brooks, Gwendolyn. a song in the front yard. The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. Beford/St. Martins, 2004. 1192. Print.