Emily Dickinson. 83 I gave myself to him …. I gave myself to him, And took himself for pay. The solemn contract of a life Was ratified this way. The wealth might disappoint, Myself a poorer prove Than this great purchaser suspect, The daily own of love
83 I gave myself to him …
Extended metaphor of legal and financial (fiscal) terms to suggest the nature of
American Civil War 1861-1865
Fought over right of all men – all people – to be equal
Thomas Jefferson : Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
L1-2: Immediate link between sacrifice of woman in marriage AND idea of ownership –slavery.
Contract – legally binding, ownership ‘of a life’
Ratified - approved
Use of formal legal terminology devalues the notion of a ‘love’ marriage.
‘took himself’ – 2-way agreement– she took him.
‘a life’ = a new life as a wife – as property
Legal terms = patriarchal society. Men in charge
Air of resignation. Tone clipped and final.
Ongoing satire of legal and fiscal references.
‘The wealth’ = purchased item. Suggestion of loss of identity – no longer a person, but a ‘chattel’.
Myself – literally, my identity, who I am
‘Poorer’ – contrast with idea of value. Idea of being a disappointment – not having the potential to meet expectations of ‘the ‘great purchaser’ (cynicism here?). Emphasised by ‘Poorer prove’ – alliteration
‘Daily own’ – expectation / obligation.
Jarring of ‘own’ and ‘love’ juxtaposed.
‘Depreciate’ - diminish in value,
‘Merchant’ – husband, slave owner, God??
Because, before the ‘merchant’ purchases the goods, the true value/potential is still ‘fable’ unknown.
‘Cargoes’ – suggests woman symbolically as ship, a trading/traded vessel. Her ‘value’ like a ship carrying exotic spices from the Orient etc.
Could the woman be ‘all at sea’ literally? At the mercy of the sea? Jettisoned as unwanted cargo??