Historical Context in Patterns

Historical Context Examples in Patterns :

Patterns 7

"Flanders..."   (Patterns)

With references to corsets, dukes, and ladies, and powdered wigs the reader may assume that the poet backdated the poem to the 18th century. Indeed, the English invaded Belgium during the Flanders Campaign in 1792. However, because of the overt connection to battles in WWI, these archaic words and practices might instead be read as the poet invoking traditional images to strengthen her point. The oppressive forces that act on this speaker have been ingrained in her society since men were dying on battlefields in the 1700s and will continue to be around as they die on the same battlefields today.

"Flanders..."   (Patterns)

Lowell wrote this poem in 1915 in the midst of WWI, a major global war originating in Europe that lasted from 1914 to 1918. “Flanders,” or Flanders Fields, was a name that the English used to refer to battlefields in the Belgian provinces of West and East Flanders. This reference suggests that the speaker died in the trenches of Flanders Fields during WWI.

"swoon..."   (Patterns)

By “swoon” the speaker means she might faint. Swooning has typically been associated with women and was attributed to their having “weak nerves” and “delicate sensibilities.” Women in the 18th and 19th centuries often fainted because they were wearing whale-bone corsets that restricted their ability to breathe and decreased the oxygen supply to their brains. While this fainting quality furthered the social perception that women were weak, this weakness was actually the result of the societal expectations placed upon them by fashion.

"woman bathing..."   (Patterns)

These lines could indicate that the speaker is looking at the figure of a naked woman bathing in this marble fountain and identifying with her. The naked woman in the fountain represents freedom from care and restraint. The speaker looks at the statue enviously because she can only be as free as this naked woman below the confines of her dress.

"bathing in a marble basin..."   (Patterns)

Showers and indoor plumbing were not introduced until the 1850s. Before these inventions, people took baths in large copper, marble, or wooden basins filled with water heated on a stove. The speaker imagining her naked body beneath her dress as a woman bathing could signify detachment from her own physical form. This perception of her own body demonstrates the speaker’s sexual repression and the restriction of the female form.

"whale-bone..."   (Patterns)

Since whale bones were commonly used for the boning in corsets, the speaker can use just this phrase to refer to the corset she is wearing. Corsets have historically been used to force a body to conform to a desired shape and style. The speaker then not only wears a dress of intricately defined patterns, but she also wears a device that conforms her body to a desired pattern.

"powdered hair..."   (Patterns)

In the 18th century, powdering one’s hair was a fashion statement used by the aristocracy as a sign of wealth and status. Men would wear powdered wigs, long curly hair covered in bright white powder. Women would not wear wigs but would powder their hair grey, or blue-grey. The speaker’s powdered hair suggests that she is of the upper-class and sets the story in the 18th century when such a fashion trend was popular.