Robert Frost’s Feminist Poem?

Christian traditions argue that Eve is the reason for the damnation of human soul and their exile from heaven because she tempted Adam in committing the “original sin.” In this tale, Eve is blamed for the misery of humankind. “Never Again Would Birds’ Song be the Same” is a poem about the influences of Eve on nature and on the world. In this poem, Frost indirectly questions this story by focusing on the positive legacies of Eve on earth. By criticizing the discriminatory and unjust perceptions about Eve, who exemplifies women in this poem, Frost makes one feminist claim, but whether or not this text a feminist one is debate worthy because Frost does not question the story of the “original sin” directly; in fact it is not even mentioned in the poem.

In “Never Again Would Birds’ Song be the Same,” the narrator writes about Eve’s sound as if it is a gift to nature. The phrase “an eloquence so soft” and the references to the interweaving and sharing of sounds between the birds and Eve portray the legacy of eve, women, in the world as a collaborative addition to the beautiful sounds of the woods in contrast to the portrayal of women’s participation in the history of human kind through the “original sin,” and the eternal doom of human soul. However, this contrast is not mentioned in the poem and we cannot assume that the poet meant to criticize the unjust views about women that exist in the story of creation. In addition to that, this poem defines Eve, in other words women, from the point of view of a man and the woman’s view and perception about herself or womanhood is completely ignored from the text. Even, the intention of Eve’s existence, to share her song with the birds, is defined by a man, therefore even in this text, the woman is not given the chance to explain her intentions and define her impact on the world. A man, limited by his own perceptions of the woman, tells the story from his point of view. Granted they story is flattering and positive, but it still excludes the woman’s voice.

On the other hand, Monique Witting, in One is not Born a Woman, argues that women are not a natural group and that the idea of womanhood exists because we re-enforce it through our actions everyday. Based on this principle, Monique would argue that to destroy one perception and definition for womanhood, in his poem, Frost has presented a another one, that may be more positive but it still re-enforces gender definitions and roles. Monique would argue that Frost has taken a materialist approach towards gender, because a materialist feminist sees women and men as separate classes, which she argues will mean that if there is no longer a group called “men,” there won’t be one classified as “women.” Unlike Frost, who attempts to redefine womanhood as a positive contribution to the world, Witting calls for the rejection of the myth of “woman” altogether because she believes that equality will be reached when sex is destroyed completely and humans are defined based on personal identity.

A feminist text, according to the Dictionary of Critical Theory, brings to light the inequalities that exist in the society. Therefore, even though this poem portrays a positive picture of Eve, because it does not even discuss the injustice that exists in the story of the “original sin,” we cannot assume that the author has written the positive story with the intention of making a feminist criticism of how Eve is portrayed in the story of creation. The poet could have written this poem simply to portray the relationship between human beings and nature or the grief of a man who has lost a woman who was important in his life. The lack of direct references to the injustice of human perceptions about women and the one-sided-ness of the story of the “original sin” that holds women responsible for human misery and banishing from heaven, and the fact that the poem defines womanhood and women’s contribution to the world from a man’s point of view, prevent this text from being a feminist one. A feminist text, according to Witting is one that eliminates sex and gender interpretations and because Frost identifies gender and defines womanhood, Monique would argue that Frost’s text is not a feminist one.

4 thoughts on “Robert Frost’s Feminist Poem?

  1. A very interesting take on the poem! I wonder as to your thoughts on two aspects of the poem. The first: who is the “he” in line 1? The second: what do you make of the line 14 “And to do that to birds was why she came.”

    My thoughts on line 14 is that it is decidedly nonfeminist. If we take Eve to represent all women (let’s leave Wittig aside for now), then the implication that they were made for a certain purpose is restrictive and can be used to limit the scope of thought as to what women can do.

    As to the “he,” it could be Adam. Or, because the poem, by using the past tense, implies that Eve is no longer in the Garden, I would argue that the “he” is actually “He.” Is the Big Man himself pondering the beautiful impact his sinful creations have had on the now empty garden? If that is so, it is rather subversive to established Christian theology (though still harmful in its attitude to women.)

  2. Christian traditions argue that Eve is the reason for the damnation of human soul and their exile from heaven because she tempted Adam in committing the “original sin.” In this tale, Eve is blamed for the misery of humankind.

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