Be sure to check out other poems I have analysed on Ask Will Online. Also check out PoemAnalysis.com that has one of, if not the, largest database of poetry analysis online – if I have not analysed a poem you are looking for on Ask Will Online, you will find it on PoemAnalysis.com. Miss Gee, in the anthology unit for English AS, is a poem about a stereotypical women in the late 1930s that tragically dies of cancer. However, the poem can be seen as a comic which I will highlight why later. Below is a complete analysis of Auden’s poem Miss Gee stanza by stanza to help make it easier to read. It is important to understand that Auden is an entirely different poet to Robert Browning with the like of The Patriot and Pied Piper of Hamelin. I don’t think you can compare them much but only contrast if you choose to. Feel free to skip to the parts most relevant to you.
Title – ‘Miss Gee’
‘Miss Gee’ Stanza Analysis
- ‘Let me tell you a little story’ is a conventional opening of a blues song (it is the equivalent of ‘once upon a time’). This ties in with the comic juxtaposition.
- She lives on a middle-class terraced street being ‘Clevedon Terrace’.
- With her door number being ‘Number 83’ suggests she lives down a long road and is an anonymous person.
- There is a use of alliteration on ‘slight squint’ making her sound even more unattractive. This may be one of the reasons why she is unmarried.
- ‘she had no bust’ meaning she had no boons and flat chested again portraying her as unattractive.
- The whole stanza is a description of her appearance where she seems everything but attractive.
- This stanza (as well as stanza 4) describes her dress sense and the type of clothes she wore.
- A ‘grey serge’ is a heavy course woven fabric. To describe as a ‘costume’ makes her dress code seem ridiculous and surreal how unattractive she is in general.
- There is a repeated line from stanza 1, ‘She lived in Clevedon Terrace’, which is common in blues.
- The fact that she lives in a ‘small bed-sitting room’ suggests she is middle class and not rich: she lives in a one flat room.
- Her appearance is getting more unattractive from her dress code, ‘purple mac’, and, ‘green umbrella’. It is clear that purple and green don’t go making her dress sense terrible.
- ‘a harsh back-pedal brake’ – The bicycle is like her personality. When any excitement comes into her life, she puts the brakes on. When she goes fast with excitement, she breaks. This makes her come across with a boring personality.
- It is made clear she is a Christian as she knitted for the ‘Church Bazaar’.
- A voice is heard for the first time being Miss Gee.
- She sounds hopeless from the way she ‘looked up at the starlight’.
- With Miss Gee being on ‘one hundred pounds a year’ makes clear she is on a low salary or has a low inheritance. Many women in this era did not work and just lived of the interest earned from an inheritance left from their family.
- Pathetic fallacy is used with ‘a storm blew down the palace’.
- In her dream, she is biking through ‘a field or corn’ which can be seen to be her fatality.
- A ‘bull’ appears in her dream which can represent one of two things (AO3 interpretations). It could represent the cancer that killed her. But, you must have read the poem to understand this. For first time readers, they will associate the dominance and power of the bull to male sexuality. Therefore, it represents the male sexuality that she wants. This makes clear Miss Gee suffers sexual repression from analysing this recognisable Freudian dream.
- The bull charged at Miss Gee in the dream with a ‘lowered horn’ representing the use of a phallic.
- The bull ‘was going to overtake’. Using the representations the bull has, this means the cancer was overtaking her and killing her.
- The ‘bicycle’ and ”back-pedal brake’ is mentioned again making her go slower and the bull further away in front of her in the dream. This makes clear that her boring personality was a catalyst to the cancer and her death. If she didn’t have the back-pedal brake, it would have been harder for the bull (cancer) to overtake her and kill her.
- There is a passage of time from the use of mentioning ‘Summer’ and ‘Winter’. This is basically the same as saying ‘years go by’.
- Her sexual repression is made clearer through the use of describing her appearance again, ‘With her clothes buttoned up to her neck’.
- Stanza 11 has Miss Gee going to Church ‘sat down in the side-aisle / She heard the organ play’.
- The line of the stanza ‘At the ending of the day’ created a sense of foreboding: death.
- Miss Gee is trying to use religion to help to suppress her desires such as her love for the Vicar ‘Lead me not into temptation / But make me a good girl, please’. Therefore, we hear Miss Gee’s voice again.
- There is another of passage of time, ‘The days and nights went by’.
- A strong visual simile is used, ‘Like waves round a Cornish wreck’, making the comparison that Miss Gee is like a wrecked ship with the waves crashing in on the years.
- The sexual repressive line, ‘With her clothes buttoned up to her neck’, suggests she hasn’t changed at all since the last stanza where this line appeared.
- Here, she goes to the Doctor and there is now a fear she might have a serious illness.
- This stanza creates a sense of bathos where we feel pity for Miss Gee but it’s funny at the same time.
- The doctor implies that the illness is bad through the way he looks at Miss Gee twice, ‘looked her over / And then he looked some more’.
- The fact he walked over to his ‘wash-basin’ suggests that he can’t do anything to help as he’s too late to help. This makes the passages of time even more significant to the poem.
- A second voice is heard being ‘Doctor Thomas’.
- A sense of bathos is created in this stanza too.
- This stanza is located at the Doctor’s home now where he is ‘sat over his dinner’ talking to his wife.
- This stanza describes the nature of cancer.
- Cancer is personified to a ‘hidden assassin’ giving the illness a lot of power. This reduces the changes from the reader’s perspective that Miss Gee will recover from this illness.
- ‘It’s as if there had to be some outlet / For their foiled creative fire’. The doctor believes that Miss Gee’s sexual repression caused her cancer.
- It was common in the 1930s to have a servant, ‘His wife she rang for the servant’. This makes clear they are wealthy.
- She asks her husband (Doctor Thomas) to not be so ‘morbid’/dark at the dinner table.
- Bathos is used again alongside colloquial language, ‘she’s a goner’.
- There is a repetition of the strong visual simile of the Cornish wreck, ‘She lay there a total wreck’.
- ‘With her bedclothes right up to her neck’ is like an epitome of Miss Gee. She could never be the women she wanted to be because she was suppressed.
- Stanza 21 features Miss Gee who has passed away. This stanza evolves around an autopsy of her body.
- This whole stanza emphasises how tragic her life was that she’s laughed at as a corpse, ‘The students began to laugh’.
- Stanza 22 features the surgeon, Mr Rose, telling the students not to laugh as it’s a big cancer, ‘We seldom see a sarcoma / As far advanced as this’.
- This stanza describes the use of Miss Gee’s body as a medical experiment.
- The final ignominy for Miss Gee is to be hung from a ceiling, ‘They hung her from the ceiling, / Yes, they hung up Miss Gee’.