Gender Representation And Sexuality In Gwendolyn Brooks’ “Anniad”

1476 words - 6 pages

In “The Anniad,” an epic poem from Gwendolyn Brooks’ collection Annie Allen, Brooks puts the reader into the mind of a young woman—probably Annie—awaiting her sexual “awakening.” Through the motifs of gender representation and sexuality, Brooks portrays Annie in an unusually complex way. The reader sees her as an insecure young woman, but also as a temptress and seductress. These descriptions are also troubled by the fact that she is initially depicted as a virgin. This multilateral characterization is a departure from other works in which women are presented within a limited “box,” so to speak, yet, at the same time, Annie seems to be a combination of different stereotypes about ...view middle of the document...

1-5). The diction that Brooks uses in these lines definitely associates the man with aggression; however, at the same time, words and phrases such as “eat[ing] by easy stages” and “nibbl[ing]” also give the illusion of tenderness. The following lines: “But no ravishment enrages/No dominion is defied” expand on this image of gender politics—a relationship in which, even during an activity in which mutual pleasure and participation is expected, the male partner is still dominant over the woman.
Despite this inequity, Annie is still able to derive some pleasure from this encounter. In fact, she experiences what seems to be a combination of complete ecstatic pleasure and an almost religious subservience: “What a hot theopathy/Roisters through her, gnaws the walls, /And consumes her where she falls/In her gilt humility” (Brooks, 7. 4-7). Brooks has produced the ultimate image of ecstasy. The reader is almost able to simultaneously experience the pleasure that Annie feels, such as the intense body heat and fatigued collapse after a loud and “roister[ing]” climax. Yet, through this, there is also a sense of submission. The use of the term theopathy refers to worship. With the last lines “she falls/In her gilt humility,” Brooks’ audience is presented with a character who is consumed with a devotion that is not servile, but better suited to the confines of a romantic relationship. Therefore, Annie sees her tan partner within the context of what is now considered a stereotypical gender role construction: as a man whose responsibility is to exercise his power over her. However, later in the poem, it appears that Annie is being overpowered by her partner and seeks a form of respite or escape.
Annie “makes a chapel of” the room in which she and her partner are together, “where she genuflects to love” (Brooks, 10. 1-2). Such diction conjures an image of a young woman distancing herself from a negative experience, in this case, an unpleasant sexual encounter. By mentally transforming a “lowly room” into a sacred space, Annie is retreating to an alternate reality, praying—begging—for an encounter that enables her to feel love, not just physical arousal (Brooks, 9. 7). Brooks uses multiple instances of religious imagery, which add to a general sense of desperation. Annie is desperate for a relationship in which both parties will have a tender emotional connection. In stanza 10, Brooks writes: “All the prayerbooks in her eyes/Open soft as sacrifice/Or the dolour of a dove” (3-5). Despite the pleasure that Annie is experiencing, she is still sorrowful. Even the use of alliteration emphasizes this emotion. The repeated consonants in “soft as sacrifice” and “dolour of a dove” highlight this desperation and despondency.
In contrast, Annie’s “tan man” is presented with much more agency and authority than is given to his female counterpart. His character is active, while Annie is more passive. Stanza 15 appears to be describing the actual act, including his “less...

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