Study Guide

Women Stanza 5

By Louise Bogan

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Stanza 5

Lines 17-18

They hear in every whisper that speaks to them
A shout and a cry.

  • …yeah that'd be a big ol' nope. Our speaker uses this stanza to bash women's hearing one last time.
  • To women, whispers should like shouts. One way to read this criticism is that women pay too much attention to things that don't matter. Figuratively speaking, a whisper might sound like a shout if you're paying too much attention to it. So, again, women seemed focused on all the wrong things—at least in our speaker's eyes.

Lines 19-20

As like as not, when they take life over their door-sills
They should let it go by.

  • These last two lines deliver perhaps the harshest critique of the poem. To really grasp it, it helps to know that "door-sills" are just the part of the door that creates a seal when it's closed—like a window-sill, only, you know, for a door.
  • So, why mention this architectural feature? Is our speaker watching too much HGTV?
  • More likely, this is a metaphor. If you take anything over a door-sill, you're bringing it inside a home. To "take life" across a door-sill, then, is to bring it inside, where—again, stereotypically—a woman is expected to have her domain.
  • We could read line 19 as a metaphor for a woman embracing life, taking a risk, going out there and experiencing life in a way that stays with her, even when she returns to her expected place in the home.
  • Of course, this is all just one big mistake, according to our speaker.
  • On the average ("As like as not"), women are better off letting life pass them by.
  • The message in these final lines is: "Meh, don't bother. Just stay home and forget about anything outside of the house. You're better off that way."
  • So, to sum it all up: women aren't adventuresome enough, they don't notice the world around them, they waste their energy being nice, they can't even imagine "men's work," they love incorrectly, don't focus on important stuff, and should pretty much just…let life pass them by.
  • Okay then. All you women out there, how great are you feeling about yourself? Or maybe you're too busy trying to look up this speaker on Facebook so that you can give her a piece of your mind.
  • We don't blame you, but we do suggest you check out the rest of our analysis before you go searching for fictional people online.

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