The Bangle Sellers Critical Analysis
Naidu’s poetry is best known for her use of imagery and contemporary Indian themes. Among her other poems, this poem stands out as a social message that discusses the lives of Indian women and the lives of bangle sellers. Although the poem focuses extensively on the stages in the life of women, it portrays the lives of the bangle sellers as well. Not once is the poverty or the hardship of their vocation mentioned in the poem save the ‘shining loads,’ which denotes the heaviness of the bangles. The bangle seller employs a joyful voice which makes us forget that their livelihoods depend on the sale of these bangles. The women in their lives are all portrayed as happy, probably because the happiness of the bangle-seller relies upon the happiness of these women. In a nutshell, their livelihood depends on these bangles, and thus, they must be presented as tokens of happiness.
The poem progresses step by step as if it is passing through each phase of a woman’s life with her. The first stanza relates to us the premise of the poem. The second stanza focuses on maidenhood. By maidenhood Naidu means virginity. Thus, the colors chosen represent purity, like the blue and silver mist of mountains, shades of pink of yet-to-blossom flowers, or the clear dew drops on newborn leaves. This has connotations of new beginnings and the promise of life. The third stanza talks about a woman who is about to become a bride. The color chosen in this group is a lively yellow representing the hope she has for her future and her happiness. The imagery used here is energetic and lively, like cornfields bathed in sunlight. The second part of this stanza portrays the love a new bride has for her husband. Naidu chooses the apt color scheme of reds and oranges. The ‘flame’ Naidu talks about has sexual connotations to it. It is a euphemism for the consummation of her marriage with her husband. The fourth stanza talks about the pride of a woman who has lived girlhood and bridehood, and motherhood and earned a position as a matriarch. It is the phase in her life when her struggles have borne fruit. Therefore, this stanza has the air of royalty and pride etched in it. That is why the colors chosen to describe the bangles for a matriarch are purple and gold. The specks of grey add the touch of maturity that comes with age.
However, critics have questioned Naidu’s portrayal of women in stereotyped boxes in this poem. Her poem discusses only three categories in a woman’s life-maidenhood, wifehood, and motherhood. On the one hand, the poem fails to recognize other areas of a woman’s life where women have an independent identity, free from restricting labels made by a patriarchal society. Even when Naidu talks about a woman bearing children, she mentions only boys. Perhaps, the role model for this poem was a specific woman she knew. But on the other hand, she writes a poem that has strong sexual connotations. It is also probable that this is an ironic take on women’s lives during the time she was writing this poem. Naidu was instrumental in encouraging women’s empowerment. She encouraged women to get involved in the freedom movement against colonial rule. She herself was a big part of the movement and became the President of the INC. it could have been her way of speaking out against patriarchal constraints in ironic terms.
The Bangle Sellers Annotations
‘shining loads’- this denotes the weight of the shining bangles
‘rainbow-tinted circles of light’- another way of describing the multi-colored bangles the bangle-seller is carrying
‘lustrous’- radiant; bright
‘meet’- fit for; suitable
‘cleaves to’- sticks to
‘limpid’- transparent; see-through
‘luminous’- emitting light
‘tinkling’- a sound made by bangles or any glass objects when struck against each other lightly
‘blest’- archaic way of spelling’ blessed.’
‘cradled fair sons on her breast’- this means that she has borne her husband sons whom she has nourished herself.
‘fruitful pride’- the pride that comes with an achievement or the fruit of one’s struggles.
The Bangle Sellers Poetic Devices
‘rainbow-tinted circles of light’- this is an instance of a metaphor. The colors of the bangles are likened to the colors of the rainbow. And the light reflected by the bangles gives it the appearance of being made of light.
‘silver and blue as the mountain mist’-this is an instance of a simile. Here, the color of the bangle is compared to the mist of mountains.
‘some are flushed like the buds that dream…stream’- this is an example of imagery. Some bangles are likened to the flushing(pinkish) buds that seem to be sleeping on the banks of a woodland stream.
‘some… leaves’- imagery. This represents some of the bangles by comparing them to the transparent glory of the newborn leaves.
‘some are like fields…corn’- This is a simile. Here the comparison is made between the yellow cornfields bathed in sunlight and the yellow-colored bangles.
‘Some, like…desire’- This is also a simile. The red bangles here become symbolic of a new bride’s love and desire for her husband.
‘tinkling…tear’- The tinkling of the bangles is compared to a young bride’s laughter, and the luminosity of the bangles is likened to her tears. Thus, this is a simile.
‘cradled fair sons on her breast’- the imagery here shows that she has borne sons and nourished and cradled them close to her breast. It denotes that she has diligently performed her duties as a mother.
The Bangle Sellers Rhyme Scheme
The poem is made up of 4 stanzas, consisting of 6 lines each. Each stanza is divided into a quatrain and a couplet. The rhyme scheme the poem follows is aabbcc.
Central Idea of The Bangle Sellers:
The poem’s central idea is that the bangles represent a woman’s life and each color or type of bangle represents each stage of an Indian woman’s life, from puberty to midlife.
The Bangle Sellers Central Idea
The stages of an Indian woman’s life are represented through the color of bangles in this poem. Each color represents each stage she crosses. Silver and blue, or pink -maidenhood; yellow- morning of her wedding; red or orange (fiery shades) symbolizes her bridal night; purple and gold- motherhood and matriarchy.
Naidu incorporates nature and the various hues of nature to represent her subject matter. She covers all kinds of colors to present emotions like hope, happiness, desire, love, and pride. The aftereffect is a rainbow encompassing the different emotions in each passing phase of her life.
Although it is only alluded to in innuendos, the patriarchal ideology lurks beneath the poem’s surface. The women are described as either happy ‘daughters’ or ‘wives.’ Every phase she passes is referred to by a man in her life, father, husband, or son. The woman in this poem fit into boxes that limit their existence to being a possessed object of patriarchy. Even if this poem is ironic, it still discusses the ideas propagated by the patriarchal society.
The Bangle Sellers Tone
The tone of the poem is joyful and lively. Each stanza has a certain tone. The first recalls the cry of bangle sellers who travel on foot to sell their products. The second and third stanzas have a profound sense of happiness and lively energy. The tone of the last stanza is dipped in pride and a sense of fulfillment.
You may also want to look at this video playlist to learn more about this poem in an Audio-Visual format!
Ultimately, this is a poem as much about the bangle sellers as it is about women. It talks about the mutual happiness of the two as they are interdependent. The bangles are symbolic of women and their happiness. Similarly, happy women can ensure the sale of more bangles, thus, becoming the symbols of happy bangle-sellers.
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