Study Guide

A Late Aubade Women and Femininity

By Richard Wilbur

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Women and Femininity

"A Late Aubade" is told from a man's perspective. Though the speaker undoubtedly loves the woman about whom he's speaking, he does paint a picture of her (through his male viewpoint) that might be confined by the rules of what a man thinks as feminine—in other words, what a man thinks a woman is, does, or should do. While we can't point to anything explicitly negative in our speaker's portrait of a woman, we can point out a few examples as food for thought. Would the list of activities be any different if the sexes were reversed? There isn't any hard and fast example of sexism, but it's important to think about the role of the woman versus the role of the man in this poem, and if things would be different if the speaker and the beloved's roles were switched. Who'd be bringing up the pears then, eh?

Questions About Women and Femininity

  1. Which of the "could" activities listed seem like things only women do? 
  2. Do you think there are any instances of sexism in this poem? Where? 
  3. Would the purpose of the poem, or the feeling you get when you read the poem, be any different if the speaker were a woman and the "you" a man? Why? 
  4. What do you make of the phrase "by woman's reckoning"?

Chew on This

Busted: though the speaker loves the woman, he has sexist views toward her and thinks her activities could never be as important as spending time with him.

Come on, y'all. There's nothing sexist about this poem. Most of the "could" activities could be done by either sex.

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