Elizabeth Jennings ‘Old Woman’ Analysis

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 10 November 2016

Elizabeth Jennings ‘Old Woman’ Analysis

This poem is written to tell us the fact that no matter how much we think we can control the directions of life, but as time passes, we will be convinced to accept our destiny. This is illustrated through an old woman who tries to arrange her life and the things around her to the way she wanted but it all turns out that she has little control over them and mostly are gone as years go by.

This poem is a metrical verse of 4 sestets. The first two sestets shows the disappointment of the old woman despite how badly she “arranges” and wants her husband or children to stay with her but her “love is now a flicker or memory” and “no child or man, and where I live is what remains when men and children go”. In the third sestet then, shows how the old woman comforts herself that actually not all is lost and “ she owns more than residue of lives that she has marked and altered.”

That she is able to stop the mysterious force of time and “control” the flowers from wilting “by keeping flowers fed” and take care of her silver by polishing them. In the last sestet, however, she finally realizes all these do not matter anymore as she ages and feels “her years grow less and less”. Time, which she once feared that took away many things she cherished does not bother her as before because she knows that time eventually is going to take her life away too. It is also time, that made her understand the significance of what previously happened and she has to learn to accept. “her own life she places in the vase” – Like the flowers she arranges, her life is arranged by time too.

This poem is written in a series of run on lines. “Warns time from too much touching her possessions/By keeping flowers fed, by polishing/ Her fine old silver” gives a dragging, monotonous and “controlled” feeling which probably illustrates how time reduces the life of the old woman and taking things away from her slowly and naturally. The run on lines also give a very repetitive effect that time will continually alter one’s life.

Jennings uses very domestic and ordinary language: “…cool walls of the house…flowers in a vase…fine old silver” to present to us that this is very typical of life and we may experience the disappointment of the old woman too.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 10 November 2016

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