Theme of Abortion in Gwendolyn Brooks’ 'The Mother' and Lucille Clifton's 'The Lost Baby Poem'

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Words: 1962 |

Pages: 4|

10 min read

Published: Apr 11, 2022

Words: 1962|Pages: 4|10 min read

Published: Apr 11, 2022

Gwendolyn Brooks’ “The Mother” and Lucille Clifton's “The lost baby poem” describes all the filling that a woman experiences after having an abortion. This poem is about abortion and the narrator used the mother’s point of view to express her feeling about how she felt after she aborted her unborn child. The mother felt terrible and remorse about what she did. Moreover, Lucille Clifton's poem displays that a young mother who has full regret and guilt for her child that she had lost due to an abortion. Although the story doesn't really indicate she has an abortion. There are many ways that express the poet intentions and how it fits together. The poet uses a lot of imagery so intensely that one person reading it can almost feel the coldness of the winter chill. The poems of both authors claim that even after death the bond between a mother and a child can never be broken even after death. Furthermore, are social-cultural factors that can lead those women to abortion.

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On the surface, 'The Mother' is a poem about a mother who has experienced a number of abortions and now has remorse. She is regretful yet explains that she had no other choice. It is a heartfelt poem where she talks about how she will not be able to do certain things for the children that she aborted. Specifically, in “the mother” poem Gwendolyn Brooks describes all the filling that a woman experiences after having an abortion. In her poem she asserts, “Abortions will not let you forget” even that women decide to “kill the child” this decision “never leaves”. Brooks also says how ac-knowledge the child’s presence hits her filings more deeply “the children you got that you did not get”. Moreover, she describes what her children would have become and how she will miss the pleasure of bringing up the child when says “never wind up the sucking-thumb”. In fact, every mother feels guilty about abortion and suffer for her action but why other people have to judge her. This is a sad reality! Everyone has to imagine herself in “the mother” shoes and feel her guilt and pain that she feels. Her pain is so deep as she considers herself as her killer, “My dim killed children”. In her poem, Brooks brings up the sacred experience of being a mother and everything she feels on the road of motherhood. She asserts, “If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths believe that even in my deliberateness, I was not deliberate…You were never made. But that too, I am afraid” in those lines she is repeating her decision of abortion, that one the first time looks well planned, it was not well planned and thought enough because she didn’t know what she would take away from her. “I have contracted. I have eased” the materialization of the child in her womb made her suffering more real and deep. Like a typical “woman, 'this speaker is very sensitive, loving and sentimental. Like an experienced mother who has experienced the process of bearing and bringing up a child, she knows very well the typical experiences and pleasures of having and bringing up a child. Details in the poem like “Will never wind up the sucking-thumb” or “scuttling off the ghost that comes” are things which strikingly suggest that she at least knows every typical experience of a mother with a child. Despite her decision to abort them, she proclaims her love for them and how her bond with her child can never be broken even though she decided to abort the child and that are social circumstances that brought her to abortion.

Likewise, Lucille Clifton inspired by “the mother” wrote her poem “the lost baby poem” when she is mourning for an absent presence: the lost baby. She describes her emotion and how she aborted her baby forced by poverty. In all lines of the poem, she displays her guilt and regrets for the “lost baby”. She says, “The time I dropped your almost body down to meet that water under the city and run one with sewage to the sea what did I know about water rushing back what about drowning or being drowned”. In those lines, she feels shameless about herself and the act that she did. Actually, in life not always we do things that we really want to do but things that we really think it is the right one. The same thing can happen with a mother with a baby, she can make the decision that thinks it is there right one for the baby even though she may want the different thing. This is motherhood with or with not a baby. Moreover, in the lost baby poem Clifton tries to justify herself about her actions and says that “the lost baby” should have been born in poverty and cold time. She says, “You would have been born into winter the year of the disconnected gas and no car”. however, at the end of the poem she admits her act and makes a promise “ If I am ever less than a mountain for your definite brother and sisters let the rivers pour over my head let the sea take me for a spiller of seas”, she says that let good punish her if she makes the same mistake to the other children.

The importance decision about abortion make by both mothers in Brooks’ and Clinton’ poem cannot be fully understood without a knowledge of social and cultural factors in which both authors writes the poem. The patriarchal society, poverty, racism is some of the factors that can lead women through abortion. D. H. Melhem in her article writes that Brooks 'felt the stressed element in [the mother] poem and was not abortion but the poverty that made for ambivalence in the mother, thwarting her maternal desire'. Poverty is the single most common reason women cite for wanting an abortion and in the time when brooks wrote the poem the poverty was extreme. Moreover, Courtney Thorsson in her article mention that “in her early and mid-career writing, Brooks depicts individual, private experience as sphere of black agency with broad communal implication”. She says that “forceful practices of community occur mostly in domestic spaces”. Moreover, she gives an example of a women making breakfast in the murder of Emmet Till to explore the intertwined racism and sexism. Brooks uses the struggles of impoverished motherhood to comment on the stymied lives of adult black women. Brooks discusses and describes many of the cruel and unfair treatment that African Americans have faced throughout our civilization. Brooks’ not only speaks on the racial prejudice of African Americans, but she also discusses the heartaches, the life, and the growth of African Americans as a people. Brooks’ uses the symbol of death many times in her poem to show that in the mother’s imagination these babies still exist and grow, function, and die even while she knows they are dead. Karen J Ford in her article 'This old writing paper blues: the blues stanza and literary poetry' asserts that Brooks in her poems 'invoke a distinction between Anglo-European poetic forms and African-American expression which testify less to the fact of such distinction than to its usefulness as a trope for black and white racial relations, where factual, undeniable, and frequently insurmountable differences do indeed exist'.

Furthermore, for Brooks “the distinction between white and black poetic forms provides a trope for cultural differences” (Ford 5). Brooks’ poetry and stories are very similar to her own experience growing up as an African American woman.

Moreover, Molly Littlewood McKibbin in her article “South Patriarchy and the figure of the white woman in Gwendolyn Brooks’ poems” analyze how patriarchy and the myth of chivalry implicated the death. She asserts that “Brooks’ apparent sympathy for the white woman as the pawn of domineering white men is subverted as she deconstructs the romance within the women’s mind and thereby holds the woman responsible for her complicity in the myth, and consequently, in the murder (McKibbin 667).

Abortion is a very common thing for the black community. I believe when Brooks’ wrote this poem, she was able to put herself into the shoes of an African American woman who has aborted her child. In a “Bronzeville Mother,” Brooks “is not merely condemning particular white men as a murderers,or attacking the southern society in general for its practice of lynching…she is insisting that white woman shoulder some responsibility for the violence carried out in their names”. As a black women brooks were a victim of racial society and it is impossible for her to avoid the theme of racism in American society. She expressed social concern in her writing, delving into poverty, racism, drugs. And while the influential poet was known for trying to foster an understanding of black culture through her poetry, she also suggested inclusiveness was the key to harmony. In her article, Mc Kibbin asserts that Brooks' poems 'suggest that racial violence and its attendant pain are not limited in a specific area, a certain class, or a particular moment, but instead are suffused through an entire country and its people'. The patriarchy and the struggle of the civil right to call for justice and equality for African Americans were considered from Brook's very important issue. Eric Sterling in his article asserts that brooks' poems 'focus on racially motivated murders that deal with prejudiced men who kill young African Americans while also desecrating their bodies, leaving their mothers to witness and bury the dismembered bodies of their children as they painfully mourn. Moreover, Kibbin strongly suggests that Americans have to accept responsibility for inequality and the place to start is with racism and white southern women.

However, Lucille Clifton in 'The Lost Baby Poem' makes it unclear whether the child has been lost through abortion or through miscarriage. Whether or not men and women would 'naturally' write differently about dead children, there is something about the connection between motherhood and death that refuses to remain comfortably and conventionally figurative. When a woman speaks about the death of children in any sense other than that of pure loss, a powerful taboo is being violated. Barbara Johnson in her article says, 'The indistinguishability of miscarriage and abortion in the Clifton poem indeed points to the notion that any death of a child is perceived as a crime committed by the mother, something a mother ought by definition to be able to prevent”. For the same poem, Katelyn Roth writes another article, 'The human Heart Speaking': Trauma in Selected Poems from Lucille Clifton in which analyzes that was abuse that brought her to make an abortion. She asserts that Clifton 'is meant to illuminate things which society seeks to hide' and 'enlighten others through the retelling of her experience'.

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In conclusion, both authors assert that the bond between a mother and a child can never be bro-ken-even after death. Both poems describe the pain and guilt that both women experiences after abortion. Moreover, in every word of both poems, the reader feels the pain and how those women live with that pain every day. Even though they took an abortion and their baby isn’t with them physically, they are linked with them emotionally. In their hearts and mind, they will be always there as their babies. Ultimately, both authors defend the choice the mother has made and emphasizes the humanity and pain of the woman. A glance at several other articles suggests that there tends indeed to be an overdetermined relation between the theme of abortion and the problematization of structures of address. Existing discussions of the legality and morality of abortion almost invariably confront, leave unresolved, and detour around the question of the nature and boundaries of human life. 

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Theme Of Abortion In Gwendolyn Brooks’ ‘The Mother’ And Lucille Clifton’s ‘The Lost Baby Poem’. (2022, April 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from
“Theme Of Abortion In Gwendolyn Brooks’ ‘The Mother’ And Lucille Clifton’s ‘The Lost Baby Poem’.” GradesFixer, 11 Apr. 2022,
Theme Of Abortion In Gwendolyn Brooks’ ‘The Mother’ And Lucille Clifton’s ‘The Lost Baby Poem’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 16 Jun. 2024].
Theme Of Abortion In Gwendolyn Brooks’ ‘The Mother’ And Lucille Clifton’s ‘The Lost Baby Poem’ [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Apr 11 [cited 2024 Jun 16]. Available from:
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