Subservient Women in A Man’s Requirements and A Letter to Her Husband
Authors use poetry to creatively present attitudes and opinions. “A Man’s Requirements,” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and “A Letter to Her Husband, Absent upon Public Employment” are two poems with distinct attitudes about love that contain different literary approaches. In both of the poems, love is addressed from a different perspective, producing the difference in expectation and presentation, but both suggest the women are subservient in the relationships.
In “A Man’s Requirements,” Elizabeth Barrett Browning uses repetition, flowery language, and strategic role play to expose her regard for man’s perception of love. The narrator repeatedly pleads the phrase “Love me,” followed by his conditions, which are painted with adored language such as “with thine azure eyes, Made for earnest grantings.” For the narrator, the purpose of the poem is to request love; more specifically, it’s a demand for love, but Browning equips the narrator with a begging tone and flattering language, lightening his demand that it may be received as a virtuous and pure request. The narrator’s repetition of “Love me” is in itself a subtle way of encouraging an idea—for the woman to love him. Through all eleven stanzas, Browning speaks as a man (the narrator), but in the eleventh stanza, she reveals her mockery of man’s idea of love by saying:
Thus, if thou wilt prove me, Dear,
Woman’s love no fable,
I will love thee—half a year—
As a man I able.
Browning makes light of men’s expectation for women to give up everything in the name of love to a man who is capable of so much less. “A Man’s Requirements” tactically expresses Elizabeth Browning’s opinion of love through literary tools.
“A Letter to Her Husband, Absent upon Public Employment” also suggests a subservient role of women in love, but focuses more on the bond of love, comparing it to Nature. The narrator speaks about her husband: