‘A Woman’s Work’ By Dorothy Nimmo ‘Woman Work’ by Maya Angelou Analysis

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Both poems that we were asked to look at focus on the roles of women and their work.

However, the subjects of each poem are very different, and both authors are writing their poem from different perspectives that border completely different cultures. Even though both the poems are about the roles of women, the idea of the work women do, from each poem, is different. The first poem, ‘A Woman’s Work’ by Dorothy Nimmo details the role of a woman in an unequal, divided and somewhat abusive relationship.The work in this poem is not the actual work we immediately think of, but the work a woman has to put in to a relationship.

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The title does not personalise the poem to the woman who is speaking immediately, but it implies that she has translated her personal experience to share with others. The woman in the first poem takes on the role of a supplicant, pleading for forgiveness for not fulfilling her role of serving her partner. The tone expressed in the poem is very apologetic for the inadequacy she has shown in her relationship.The poem’s main subject is about the role of women in a relationship, and as the poem is written in an extremely apologetic manner, I believe the attitude of the poem is an acceptance that there is nothing wrong with the subservient role of women.

There is a continuous blame on the woman in the poem for the way in which her relationship ended, even at the end where this woman has a more optimistic view there is still no mention of anyone else taking responsibility for the relationship. The second poem, ‘Woman Work’ by Maya Angelou has the opposite attitude to the first poem.The woman in this poem does not blame herself for anything and seeks to change her situation. This poem is a product of a completely different environment to the first.

This woman really is a slave and is severely oppressed because of her race; unlike the woman in the first poem, it is much more difficult for this woman to become free and exercise personal choice. The racial issue in this poem is still written as second and underlying to the fact that this person is a woman, which seems to make her situation a whole lot worse.The poem, however, still centres on the role of women in an unequal relationship, even though in this case the relationship is not with one person in particular. The poem tells the reader of the work this woman has to do and the excruciating pace in which she has to do it.

The second part of this poem is a simple appeal to relieve this woman of her burden. She turns to Nature for help to get away from the life she has to lead, which suggests that she has no one else to turn to.The last line of the poem reads, “You’re all that I can call my own” (which is referring to Nature) and seems quite tragic as this would mean she has no material possessions. Both poets use quite different language and imagery.

The main contrast is the fact that Dorothy Nimmo’s poem is written in quite formal, Standard English and has only one shortened word. The poem by Maya Angelou is much more informal; it has many shortened words and uses phrases like “I gotta”, which contains informal words and reflects the difference in culture between the two poets.Dorothy Nimmo uses the word “Forgive” quite a lot, which gives the poem an apologetic tone. I believe that it was intentional of the poet to create this kind of image at first, as it is only towards the end that the poem’s tone changes to a more positive view.

The poem is very negative almost all the way, through, where the reader gets an idea of how unhappy and negative the woman’s life was in her relationship. There is also the use of the word “couldn’t” which shows the woman thought that she was inadequate and is very critical that she could not excel on her performance.There is also a reference to “battles that neither of us won” which creates an image of her relationship being similar to a war- somewhat aggressive, but at a stalemate where neither of them could do anything unless the other retreated. The images portrayed in the last part of the poem are in contrast to the rest of the poem.

In this part, there are references to Nature to signify the changes that have taken place in the woman’s life. “Walk out to the sun” creates an image that says the woman no longer stays in darkness but can experience life in a lighter and more enjoyable way.The sea beats upon a wider shore” is a positively energising phrase that tells the reader that the woman now has new opportunities. This is the only part of the poem (the last verse) that is positive.

The other poem again contrasts with the first in that it is not negative and expresses a positive tone throughout. The first part of this poem is basically a list of tasks that this woman “must” undertake, and there is a compulsion to the woman’s chores because she describes that she has “got to”. The rhythm in this part of the poem is relentless, which mirrors the relentless pace to which she has to accomplish her tasks and live her life.The image the reader gets from the first part of the poem is that there is an extremely fast pace to the woman’s existence.

The second part of the poem is a complete contrast to the first part. The pace is calmer and there is an undulating gentleness to the rhythm. This section is a reference to Nature, which the woman sees as the only force that has the power to help her. She appeals to Nature for comfort and affection, which is shown in the delicacy and gentleness of the verbs, and probably signifies a lack of such things in her life.

She also appeals to the stronger forces of nature, “blow me from here with your fiercest wind”, which shows an urgency and desperate need to get away. The last verse in this poem describes all powerful and significant forces of nature that are “all she can call her own”. This, I think, creates an image of sadness to what is a fundamentally positive poem. However, I also believe that the woman is expressing her love of Nature and the beauty of life, where even though she has no material possessions she will always have the world’s magnificence.

The first poem is structured into four rhyming verses. There are six lines in each verse. The poem starts by posing a question of forgiveness that is rhetorical. The rhyme in the poem gels the whole thing together and gives it a distinguishable rhythm.

Each verse has the same repeated couplet at its end (which only changes very slightly in the last verse). The rhythm in this couplet flows from the penultimate to the last line with no punctuation markings, which mirror the continuous work that the woman in the poem had to do. The second poem is distinctly in two sections.The first section is one large block of verse made up from rhyming couplets, and it has no punctuation.

This is a reflection of the merciless pace in which she has to exist. The second section of the poem is split up into four verses, like the first poem, except that there are only four lines in each verse. The rhythm in this section varies from the first due to the use of punctuation and the rhyming of the second and last lines. Both poems have quite a regular form, although the second poem has two different parts that are in regular form.

Both poems make references to Nature, although in the first poem it is more subtle. In each poem the women are oppressed, and they both have an overall continuous feel to their lives. In addition, the first and second poems are appeals by the women in them, the first poem is an appeal for forgiveness, and the second is an appeal for freedom. Out of these two poems we had to study for coursework I think that I prefer ‘Woman Work’ by Maya Angelou.

Even though the poem by Dorothy Nimmo is based on personal experience and Maya Angelou’s is not, I felt that there is a more powerful emotion in her poem.I thought that the block of verse at the beginning was very effective in setting the mood of the poem by containing no punctuation. I also like the contrast within the poem between the first and second ‘sections’. I thought that the use of imagery in the poem was very effective, and overall created a much more vivid picture of the situation than the first poem.

However, I also thought that the clever use of title in the first poem was very effective and the subtle effectiveness of the flowing end couplets was successful in maintaining the mood and tone.

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‘A Woman’s Work’ By Dorothy Nimmo ‘Woman Work’ by Maya Angelou Analysis. (2018, Jan 06). Retrieved from


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