"The Prologue" focuses on the trials of a female poet trying to make her voice heard in the world (in the days before feminism… or microphones). In a bigger sense, though, it's about men and women, and how they relate to each other. At times, it seems a little like a battle of the sexes (may the best poet win). For the most part, though, the speaker does a really amazing job of deferring to the men who might criticize her while also boldly and steadily insisting that she has a right to speak as both a woman and a poet. Preach, sister.
Questions About Gender
- Does the speaker of this poem really think that men are better than women, or is she subtly rejecting that idea? How can you tell?
- Would it be right to think of this as a poem that defends women? Why or why not?
- Are the last four lines a satisfying resolution to the speaker's problems? Do you wish she had handled her male critics differently? Why or why not?
- Is there a set way that men and women should behave? What would the speaker of "The Prologue" say about that?
Chew on This
While she starts out by defending the rights and abilities of women, the speaker of the poem finally gives up on that idea, and settles for comfortable inferiority (sad).
The speaker of the poem succeeds in making herself look humble, generous, and smart, while her male opponents wind up looking arrogant, mean-spirited, and stupid (in your face, crusty old dudes).