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The Mother by Gwendolyn Brooks – Analysis Essay for English 101

2012 April 29
by recessionjuice
Gwendolyn Brooks - Picture Courtesy of Poetry Foundation

Analysis essay of, “The Mother” by Gwendolyn Brooks. This paper focuses on the “dramatic situation” and how the speakers attitude about that situation changes throughout the poem. Additionally the essay considers how the formal elements of the poem help convey that meaning and attitude.


When thinking about personal experiences, “The Mother” by Gwendolyn Brooks touches on the often emotional topic of abortion. This poem was produced decades ago, yet still remains relevant to this day. Accepting abortion and the outcome can indeed be a challenging task for many, while others adapt to it without much of a problem. Gwendolyn Brooks writing allows us to take a look at the mothers view point of abortion and how a mother responds to her unique situation. Throughout the poem the speaker shows signs of grief concerning the topic of abortion and its outcomes by presenting to us her point of view, memories, love, subtle triggers, and confusion.


From the first stanza of the poem, the speaker provides us a quick snapshot of her feelings about the abortion. The first stanza is set in a second person point of view, with much of it explaining how her children will never realize certain fulfillments in life. Reading the second stanza in the poem, there is a sudden change to a first person point of view, where the speaker references herself multiple times. From this section in the reading, it becomes apparent this is much more of a personal matter to the narrator.

In the beginning of the poem the speaker shows a mother unable to forget the dramatic events, which have trapped her emotionally. We can see an example of the narrator facing more than one painful memory of abortion in the very first line, “Abortions will not let you forget”; followed by a mention in the first line of the second stanza, “…voices of my dim killed children”. Both the words “abortions” and “children” are given plural reference, which can be interpreted to mean more than one abortion is being spoken of in the writing. The memories of a mother dealing with the hardship of one abortion is hard enough, while additional abortions just adds to the discomfort of a grieving mother. What about the relationship between the narrator and her unborn children? Does she actually love them?

Not having a loved one around can dramatically change a person or entire family. Losing more than one loved one only compounds the emotional impacts of grieving. We can take a present day example from military members, who are away from their families for extended periods, causing both anxiety and grief. If the mother really loves her children, it is understandable why she may grieve over them. This notion is conveyed in the second to last line of the poem when the speaker says, “Believe me, I loved you all”. This line confirms the speakers love for her would-be children. Grief and love may go hand in hand together, especially when the love is true and viable. Most families and individuals agree separation from a loved one, can most certainly set off processes of grieving.

Expressions and signs of grief vary by the individual and the unique circumstance. At times, something very subtle yet so simple may set off the emotional response of grief. The speaker tells the audience that as a mother she would never see the opportunity to, “buy with a sweet,” (line 6) her children. This references encouraging your child to comply with your wishes, with the commonly used treat or snack. These simple triggers show just one of the many memories she will never find due to the outcome of her abortions. Other than the very subtle triggers of grief, mixed emotions can play a major part in a grieving soul.

Confusion is definitely a factor in the reading, which is a relatable attribute to grief. Confusion appears as one of the longer lasting results of her abortions. Near the end of the poem, the narrator is speaking of her abortions:
“Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made
But that too, I am afraid,” (29-30).
The reader can also see 3 ideas given in the four lines. Digging into the meaning of the lines we see she believed the aborted children to be dead; or perhaps or potentially, never created; followed by confirming all of the aforementioned ideas to be discouraging and scary to believe. With a mix of both confusion and denial, the narrator shows disagreement with herself about the ideas and thoughts she is facing. Confusion is a natural occurrence, especially for a grieving mother, who has gone through more than one abortion.


While reading through the entirety of the poem, the narrator provides the reader clear signs of grief via confusion, subtle triggers, love, memories, and the point of view of a mother. The speaker confirms for us the love she has for her dead children as well as the painful memories, which expose themselves during the process of grief. Reading the poem also reveals the fact this is not the only abortion the speaker is writing of, proving to be a major contributor to the grieving in the poem. The poem is a great read for any first timer or anyone experienced with poetry. With a variety of topics throughout the poem, one may find that there is more than just grief, which shows itself in the poem. Other than abortion, one must ask what other major attributes play a part in this amazing poem by Brooks?

Works Cited

Brooks, Gwendolyn. “The Mother”. Poetry Archive. New Directions, 2002. Web. 12 Jan 2012.