In Sister Maude, Rossetti explores a bitter relationship between two sisters whereas Mew explores a relationship between a husband and wife whose relationship is marred by the wife’s fear of men. Both poems have been written in the form of a dramatic monologue in order to explore the bitterness and frustration felt by the characters from their point of view.
Both Rossetti and Mew use the title of their poems to introduce the person with whom the narrator has a negative relationship. ‘The Farmer’s Bride’ immediately suggests that the wife is the cause of the negative relationship, whilst the word ‘bride’ suggests that the marriage has not been consummated. This immediately suggests a hole in their relationship and there is evidently a reason why they haven’t had sex. Rossetti uses the word ‘sister’ to suggest the relationship is a family one. However, unlike Mew, Rossetti also names the antagonist. This emphasizes the fact that, as sisters, the two may once have been close but because of Maude’s actions the relationship has crumbled. In ‘The Farmer’s Bride’ the anonymity of both characters highlights the fact that they were never close. The poem later informs us that the Farmer never bothered to court his wife– ‘More’s to do/ At harvest-time, than bide and woo.’ In this way, the farmer does not truly know his wife so she remains little more than just any woman.
Mew expands on the idea that the ‘farmer’s bride’ is just a woman by making the narrator is the active participant with the bride passive. An example of this is ‘We chased her.’ This shows that the husband has complete power over his wife and she is treated as though she is little more than his possession. This emphasizes the treatment of women at the time in which the poem was written, particularly in traditional rural communities. Not only is the wife a possession, she is also expected to perform the ‘womanly’ jobs, which include providing children and satisfying the farmer’s desires. This is the one job that she is unable to fulfil, yet it is the one thing that the farmer wants the most so in his eyes she is failing to fulfil her ‘purpose.’
In ‘Sister Maude,’ on the other hand, the narrator performs more of a passive role whilst Maude is the one who performs actions against her. For example, Sister Maude ‘lurked to spy and peer.’ This emphasizes that Maude was the one who betrayed her sister, and not the other way around. Furthermore the narrator suggests that Maude will receive her punishment in the afterlife: ‘But sister Maude shall get no sleep,/ Either early or late.’ She suggests that this…