Alice Cary

28 Nov

This artifact is female author Alice Cary’s poem “Pretty is that Pretty Does,” which was published in 1867. In this poem, Cary uses a the metaphor of spider and its web to discuss a woman and her home. The last stanza of the poem reveals the “Desperate Housewife” when Cary writes, “To see the spider set and spin,/ shut with the web of silver in,/ You would never, never, never guess/ The way she gets her dinner!”  The spider, which represents a housewife, is described as being confined to the web. The wife the poem is about, then, is understood to be confined to her house. The second stanza of the poem also reveals the “Desperate Housewife” of the poem, as she is described as always appearing to be content, yet on the inside she is unhappy and planning her escape.

This poem may also be a reflection of Alice Cary’s own life. When her mother passed away, her new stepmother was unsupportive of her dreams to be a writer. She, instead, insisted that Alice help with household duties. Just as the spider appears to be content in the poem, Alice obliged and helped her step mother, but always had and aspiration of being an author. She, too, can then be viewed as a “Desperate Housewife” of American poetry.

Source: From 1867 Cultivator & Country Gentleman Magazine

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