I, Being Born A Woman And Distressed

Categories: LoveWomen

This sonnet of Edna St. Vincent Millay is a literary piece shows many faces and expresses a lot of significances. However even if it has many significances, the basic message and significance is about unrequited love. It reveals subduing sensations; yearning and a desire for an enthusiast. The intriguing factor of “I, Being Born a Lady and Distressed” is the appealing functions of the sonnet contrasting message and desires expressed.

Stating that she is “born a woman and distressed” symbolizes that she surrenders to such fate that she is of the female gender with its ensuing situation surrounding ladies.

Followed by the sultry recognition of the “propinquity” (proximity) of a fan, the sonnet defines what pleasure such nearness brings. The sonnet yearns that the 2 bodies of the lover be near to each other. It is because such nearness makes it possible for the “fume to clarify the pulse and cloud the mind”, indicating such nearness permits the savoring of their mutual scents.

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Wherein, it is further expressed that such proximity and sensation of “undone, had” brings them to higher levels of pleasure.

Nevertheless, the sonnet defends that such extreme happiness of being together does not always suggest that it hinders rightful factor or believing as “stout blood” is “against my shocking brain”. It is just that such proximity constantly invoke cheerful vacation and leaves fond memories. In addition, such nearness reaffirms the commitment and conviction of love shared and treasured. Nonetheless, amidst all the “craze”, the confusion, the sonnet evoke the inability to truly reveal in words that could make an affordable conversation “when we reunite”.

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The entire sonnet is a slow mode of rising feelings from the beginning until the conclusion that apparently can leave one expressionless, wordless.   There is a possible paradox wherein the sonnet embody humongous run of feelings and yet could not find the words to say them.   There is also the possible inconsistency that inasmuch as the rise of feelings is joyous, yet, they may not be wanted.  Maybe it is because it is so difficult to contain enormous feelings of love and joy, that it might be better not to have the feelings anymore than not being able to contain them.  It is like as if the sonnet portrays a lover’s dual role of being “both [a] winner and [a] loser.  It is because there is “zest”, frenzy”, “seduction”, “staggering”.  (Hubbard, 1995)

The sonnet somehow refers to such incongruent thoughts and paradox to the fact that the feelings and emotions come from a woman – who is not capable of such enormity of feelings.  This sonnet explains that “being born a woman” is not the fault of anyone – thus, it is not anyone’s fault that the subsequent experience and nurturing such passion and joy could not be contained.

The ultimate interesting part is that despite all the paradox, the sonnet is convinced that there is complete reason and awareness as to what pleasure such passion and joy beings.  The sonnet finally intends to illustrate that even if there is confusion in such situation and such enormity of feelings, it is still right to nurture such feelings.  The sonnet confirms that love and passion is a right and it is logical.


Hubbard, Stacy Carson.  “On ‘I Being Born a Woman and Distressed”.  1995

Millay at 100:  A Critical Reappraisal

Modern American Poetry


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I, Being Born A Woman And Distressed. (2016, Sep 23). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/i-being-born-a-woman-and-distressed-essay

I, Being Born A Woman And Distressed

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