When in Rome Essay

When In Rome Essay

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In the poem “When In Rome”, Marie Evans depicts a conversation between two people who, through use of dialect and implied images, share a mistress-servant relationship. As the poem opens, a direct statement of “Mattie dear” is expressed. This choice of wording, which relates an implied condescending tone, gives evidence as to the type of relationship that the speaker and the servant, Mattie, share. In the following lines, the speaker is further characterized through the description of “the box is full”, which indicates that she has a great deal of food amassed in her pantry. This occurrence, along with the speaker’s generous donation of anything contained therein, immediately suggests someone of great monetary stature, and thus the type to have a servant. Immediately Mattie retorts back, though only mentally, to tell of her distaste for the light cuisine offered to her. This lack of a verbal response, as well as her implied ignorance through the use of the word “ain’t”, gives strong evidence to the disparity of character between the two individuals, as well as the mistress-servant relationship shared. The speaker then proceeds to offer endive, a fanciful type of lettuce and thus befitting someone of her status, which the servant rebuffs. Mattie’s mental comment, which starts off with the exasperated expletive “Whew!”, denotes that she is now fed up with her food choices, and wanton of some of her own cuisine. These denotations, along with her suggestion of “black-eyed peas” as an alternate food choice, conclusively indicates that Mattie is a quick-tempered, black servant, and thus fulfills the relationship’s parameters. The second section of the poem further explains and adds validity to the mistress-servant association that the individuals share. As in the previous lines, the mistress goes on to offer Mattie more of her food, but this time, in correlation with the shift, with exception. In line nineteen, the speaker brazenly orders Mattie not to eat her anchovies, implying that they are to fine for her taste. Through a direct statement of “they cost too much”, the mistress is shown to hold herself in higher regard than the person with whom she converses, thus strengthening the servant implication. Mattie’s irritated response, “me get the anchovies indeed!”, shows her evident indigence at her mistress’s stinginess over the cuisine that she is forced to endure. Furthermore, through the numerous appearances of lower-class dialect such as “what she think” and “she got”, Mattie is fundamentally portrayed as ignorant and poor. With a final statement of her bountiful appetite, denoted through her cynical comparison of herself to “a bird”, Mattie is fully portrayed as a hearty, black servant. In the last segment of the poem, the mistress closes off her statements with a direct assumption of her generous attitude. Her assertion that “there’s plenty in there to fill you up”, indicates once again of the shared relationship as she talks matter-of-factly to Mattie, with no regard for her obvious discontent. The servant’s sarcastic response with the use of “yes’m” in her terminology, finalizes not only her unhappiness with her current predicament, but also her inherent low social status. Mattie proceeds to state her hope of living until she returns home, which is the first reference concerning her displaced state. Furthermore, by declaring this drastic ultimatum, doubled with her inclination that the “sight’s enough” to quench her appetite, an obvious knock on the insubstinant nature of the food, Mattie is shown to have an obstinate attitude. Finally, in the last phrase of the poem, once again littered with lower-class dialect such as “eatin” and “they eats”, the title is pulled back into the poem as Mattie states her obvious discontent with “what they eats in Rome”. Thus, she is conclusively shown to be a servant, unfamiliar with her surroundings, and desperate for her own way of life. Thus, through the condescending manner of speech and implied high social stature of the first speaker, as well as the likewise indignant, ignorant rhetoric of Mattie, Marie Evans definitively details a mistress-servant relationship in her poem “When In Rome”.

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