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In 1678, many of Anne Bradstreets poems were published for public view. Throughout her poems Bradstreet tends to use symbolism to express her innermost thoughts and feelings. One of these poems is In Reference to Her Children, June, 1675. Three of the most significant symbols in this poem are the representation of her family as a flock of birds, the dangers in the world, and the expression of her feelings toward her children.
Anne Bradstreets representation of her family as a flock of birds symbolizes two different things. First, it symbolizes her connection to God and her desire to please Him. She represents herself and her family as birds because they were also creations of God; however, they are not human, therefore they do not sin. The bird family also symbolizes freedom. As her young grow up and spread their wings, they leave the nest to fly on their own. This represents one of the facts of life; children grow up and leave their parents homes to find their own way to make it in the world.
As Bradstreets poem progresses she explains what each of her children have done or what they will do. Four have already left home, one will leave soon and the other three still dwell in the house with her. She then begins to express the dangers of the world around her in a birds point of view. For example, she is afraid that her young will fall in a fowlers snare, be caught in a net or by birdlime on twigs, or hurt by a hawk. In a human world a fowlers snare might be fallings into the hands of trickery, robbery, or any other type of crime. Caught by net or birdlime might represent being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and a hawk-inflicted injury might symbolize being wounded or killed by an Indian or criminal. She fears for the lives of her children and worries that harm will come to them. This also represents an aspect of the parent-child relationship. No matter how old children get, their parents still worry about the things they do and the choices they make.
Lastly, Bradstreet expresses her feelings to her children so that they might gain wisdom or become more aware of certain dangers. Bradstreet seems almost frantic in line 60-66 when she is speaking to her children about danger in the world. She is warning them to not be ignorant to perils, to be aware at all times in order to avoid accidents and to you safety have an eye, so happy may you live and die. She is hoping that her words will not be ignored so that her children will be spared of any wrongdoing or harm. Also, Bradstreet finishes her piece by speaking of her last flight into an unknown country. She is representing dying and going to heaven. She feels that her time on Earth is coming to an end and wants her children to know that she cared for them and loved them very much. In the closing lines of the poem, she says goodbye to her children and tell them that she is happy as long as they are. She is representing another aspect of the child-parent relationship here because the statement is a true representation of a mothers love.
Anne Bradstreet uses symbolism to expree her thoughts and feelings to her children in such a way that might make them stop and listen. Her representation of the many aspects in the poem, In Reference to Her Children, June, 1675, are unique and not very subtle. I think she was trying to capture the attention of her children because she felt she had sent them out into the big, bad world unawares.
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