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Woman's Work by Julia Alvarez

Who says a woman's work isn't high art?
She'd challenge as she scrubbed the bathroom tiles.
Keep house as if the address were your heart.

We'd clean the whole upstairs before we'd start
downstairs, I'd sigh, hearing my friends outside.
Doing her woman's work was a hard art.

to practice when the summer sun would bar
the floor I swept till she was satisfied.
She kept me prisoner in her housebound heart.

She's shine the tines of forks, the wheels of carts,
cut lacy lattices for all her pies.
Her woman's work was nothing less than art.

And I, her masterpiece since I was smart,
was primed, praised, polished, scolded and advised
to keep a house much better than my heart.

I did not want to be her counterpart!
I struck out...but became my mother's child:
a woman working at home on her art,
housekeeping paper as if it were her heart.

I love this poem---it reveals just how hard it is to be a woman keeping house. People sometimes forget that just because a woman’s husband leaves the house to “bring home the bacon”, that she just sits around in a bathrobe, eating bon-bons and watching soap operas. Okay, so maybe that mental picture is a bit of a cliché, but you get the idea. The woman has it easy, while the men have it rough. It was someone who said: “A woman’s work is never done.” Today, even though women make up a significant portion of the workforce, there is still a need to make sure the house is in order. There is a growing number of “Mr. Moms”, men who stay home to take care of the house and the kids, but tradition and history still tell us that society looks to the women to fulfill these needs.

It is hard work taking care of a house---laundry, dinner, vacuuming, dishes---and that’s just the short list. The speaker in the poem is a young girl, helping her mother clean the house. The young girl is frustrated; she’d rather be outside, enjoying her childhood. She is kept in her mother's prison, made to sweep the floor until she gains approval. The mother is repeating the cycle by teaching her daughter to clean at such an early age. This could be construed as part of a culture that is not to be questioned by the young. In other words, mother knows what's best. Toward the end, the young girl is determined not to have the same fate as her mother. However, she came out the same way, focusing on her art at home.

This woman is a subservient wife, paying more attention to cleaning a house instead of keeping her own heart. The husband is not mentioned anywhere is the poem, suggesting that he is elsewhere. His wife spends all of her time cleaning, while he is probably at work. There is no indication that she is happy or even content in her position of the household.

This idea that a woman is to be treated like a second class citizen in her own home should cease now. Today, a woman is capable of doing both, balancing her family and her career. I realize that there are still some people who believe that a woman's place is at home, keeping house and raising the children. Of course there is nothing wrong with this---but that position should be given respect and that person treated as an equal in the home.

Born in 1950s New York City to Dominican parents, Julia Alvarez has contributed several poems and novels to the literary community. Her other works include: How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, In the Time of Butterflies, and The Other Side/El Otro Lado. In her success as a writer and a poet, Alvarez has used her advantage as a Dominican-American to provide a different perspective. Her cultural upbringing shows presence in works like “Woman’s Work.”




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KaonKirokoThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Mar. 19, 2012 at 1:06 am:
I agree with your argument entirely and you have a strong argument. However, by inserting a poem at the beginning, you should put quotation marks to signify that the piece was not yours. In your first paragraph, I don't feel like there was necessarily a need to summarize the poem. Your first paragraph should focus on basically announcing what the subject/argument is, the. The next few should just be organized details supporting your statement. This leaves a window of opportunity for you to refer... (more »)
 
beautifulspiritThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Mar. 19, 2012 at 5:27 am :
Your comment was very thorough in your critique of my piece, which is appreciated. I wrote a paragraph summarizing the poem because I feel that some people get a different interpretation and I wanted them to understand my views on this particular poem. As you've stated, I didn't follow traditional format when writing. I can see that now. That really wasn't my focus. Thank you for reading my work and I look forward to reading yours as well~
 
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FluteFreak said...
Mar. 12, 2012 at 1:07 pm:
You have a great point in your essay. But I felt like the last paragraph was kind of randomly thrown in. It threw off your flow a little bit.
 
beautifulspiritThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Mar. 12, 2012 at 9:30 pm :
Thanks for reading~
 
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koolwords said...
Feb. 6, 2012 at 4:13 pm:
hey, i thought your essay had a good point. Though at one point you just kind of stopped and summarized what we had read. This is good, but you don't need to stop the whole momentum of your topic just to summarize the poem. You should pick out certain parts that make a point, and even quote them so that we're reminded of exactly what you're talking about. I like the idea of your essay, it's very empowering, and I can tell by how you wrote that you're very passionate about it. Next time just don... (more »)
 
beautifulspiritThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Feb. 6, 2012 at 5:38 pm :
Thanks for the feedback.
 
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Philosophication This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 5, 2012 at 9:14 pm:
Loverly. :) In all honesty, I had no doubts that women worked very hard all day every day. I only had a glimpse of this when I had to clean the entire house by myself, and my house isn't even that large. I whole-heartedly agree that women should be given respect and equality. I don't think I would want to be a woman any time soon.
 
beautifulspiritThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Feb. 5, 2012 at 9:45 pm :
Thanks for your thoughts Philosophication! And I totally get what you mean about having to clean the house by yourself---it is a task not for the weak of heart:)
 
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Cloudburst48 said...
Feb. 4, 2012 at 7:41 pm:
That is really cool:) 5/5 for me
 
beautifulspiritThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Feb. 4, 2012 at 7:42 pm :
Thanks Cloudburst48!
 
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Rainbow3 said...
Feb. 4, 2012 at 5:09 pm:
Your perspective on this article is refreshing!!! You seem to speak from experience:) Interesting to know what you want to do when you're all grown up.
 
beautifulspiritThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Feb. 4, 2012 at 5:19 pm :
Your comment is very much appreciated~
 
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LaceeJade This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 1, 2012 at 7:38 pm:
I really liked this, it brings attention to a real issue and women such as ourselves can relate to it. good job and keep writing.
 
beautifulspiritThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Feb. 2, 2012 at 5:39 am :
Thank you so much---I'm glad you liked it~
 
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Serena D. said...
Jan. 31, 2012 at 4:12 pm:
I think you wrote a great analysis of a poem that has much to do with an issue that has been present for quite some time. You're analysis itself is very well written and informational. Keep up the good work :)
 
beautifulspiritThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 31, 2012 at 5:21 pm :
Aww thanks! That means a lot~
 
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EtherealThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jan. 31, 2012 at 8:08 am:
good job, at first I thought it was a poem in the nonfiction section, but then I scrolled down to the real review- very true and descriptive! plus, I love the picture that you put with it.
 
beautifulspiritThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 31, 2012 at 9:10 am :
Thanks for your comment!!
 
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DinaTheDinasaur said...
Jan. 29, 2012 at 10:51 am:
This was very true. Our society definitely has not only underestimated the effort within households but the pressure to create them as well--I am always internally conflicted between what I want to do versus what is financially advisable versus what entails a "happy American family."
 
beautifulspiritThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 29, 2012 at 3:39 pm :
Thank you very much for your comment~
 
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