Subject The young housewife
Posted by Zoe
Posted on Thu Oct 29 09:27:59 1998
From IP  

American Poetry
Prof. Ray Schulte
Journal on W.C. Williams
Zoe Chiou

poem that I would like to interpret is Williams' "The Young Housewife." In this poem, the persona uses an indifferent tone to describe a plain but also cruel scene in our daily life.
In the first stanza, the persona drives on the street and coincidentally looks inside a house at ten A.M. Within the house, he sees a young but lifeless wife in sleeping gown walking to and froth "behind the wooden walls of her husband's house."
This is such an easy job to picture the scene through reading this stanza because it seems to be what my mom probably appears in the Sunday morning. Well, the difference is that, my mom is a career woman, so she deserves one day off in a week that she doesn't have to dress up for people in her office. However, it is the different case that the young wife seems to lose the power to do some makeup or dressing job on her main stage. As far as I'm concerned, she may be a full time housekeeper and probably doesn't have to work outside like her husband. If it is in this supposed condition, the house should be the very stage that she every day plays her role on. Nevertheless, as the persona describes, she moves in her domain without energy, and she even seems to lose all that she is supposed to have-the house. For housewives, all the domestic housework they have to deal should all relate to their house; thus, seeing from this perpective, the housewife should somehow have authority or domination in where she spends all her energy in. Here, we can interesting see that she has lost her passionate towards life, so she even gives up to defend her equal or dominating right in "their" own house. But as the persona says, she's just doing what she does every day in "her husband's" house. The unusual use of possessive may give us a hint that she loses the value of being in her home. Her husband may just treat her as a free housekeeper, or it may be possible that he doesn't love her anymore. Therefore, she doesn't even have to work on makeup stuff because she thinks it's useless to get her husband's attention anyway. But it's very hard for me to judge who gives up who first. Does the husband's lukewarm affection cause the wife's losing passion of her life? Or does the wife's shabbiness cause the husband's indifference? I don't know. The "wooden wall" even strengthens the idea of the isolated relationship between husband and wife, who are supposed to be close living under the same roof. The "wooden wall" is probably the image of the thick, tough obstacle to communication. If it is in the way between them, so they hardly can spiritually make contact with each other, though they're in such short distance physically. And the atmosphere is so strong that the notion of isolation and loneliness even spread to a passenger like the persona.
Next, the persona continues to observe what the young housewife does and meanwhile how she appears. Thus, he sees her doing the boring domestic housework. The word "again" shows the repetition of the duty day after day, and obviously it is dull. While one interesting that I can't figure out is why the young housewife, who still doesn't dress herself very well while calling the others, "stands shy?" Since she has deal the same things with the same people every day, then why does she look shy? Oh, one possibility, she is newly wed, but she could be also young but married to a man for couple of years; if in this case, then I can't figure out why she has to be shy. Anyway, she standing there shy and low-spirited makes the persona associate the "fallen leaf," which is the obvious image to describe how lifeless this woman is.
And in the very frightening ending of the last stanza, the fallen leaf is run over by the persona's car. This ending confuses me most because why should the woman deserve to cruelly end up with her life like this? Or Williams just wants us to warns us that don't lose our enthusiasm about our life, though it may be inevitably repeating and plain for often times? Well, maybe Williams broadens the notion of marriage to any kind of commitment, and I think the utmost commitment that we make is with our life. Everybody has singed up the contract with his destiny since the moment he starts breathing in this earthy world. Since we sing up the contract, being offered the right to live, then why don't we lead a splendid life. Thousands of days that we have to live in our lifetime, some are boring while the others are wonderful. That's the way things are, and we've got to learn and then admit this fact; thus, we can still live our ordinary life with vigor. If we don't do this way, we may be like whithered flowers or fallen leaves and someday pathetically die in the tine crackling sound that few people will hear. That's what he intends to tell us, I guess.

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