"Flower Feet" by Ruth Fainlight contains two stanzas. The first stanza contains seven lines and the second stanza contains eleven lines. The poem does not contain any rhyming pattern nor a pattern in the number of syllables per line. There are two words that Fainlight uses repeatedly which are the words in the title of the poem, flower and feet. The word "flower" appears twice in the poem and the word "feet" is used three times. Though there is not a consistent pattern in the number of syllables that each lines has, seven of the lines contain nine syllables and another seven lines have eleven syllables in each of them. Even though this does not fall in any particular order or pattern, I thought I might mention that most of the lines had either nine or eleven syllables in them. The poem seems to be best defined as an open form poem because there are not any apparent patterns, whether it be of thymes, number of syllabes per line, or any major repetition of words. All the lines in this poem are rather long, there are no short, choppy lines. The first stanza contains two complete sentences and the second stanza contains four complete sentences.
The poem's two stanzas each give a different perspective on the poem's subject. The first stanza describes the "beauty" of these "flower feet". Fainlight chooses to use "delicate" words in her first stanza such as: "toys", "apricot silk", "flowers", "hearts", "coral", etc. The second stanza is quite different from the first. The second stanza describes the pain that these pretty little flower feet caused the women. Fainlight focuses more on the pain and the emotions behind this tradition by using much harsher sounding words such as; "raw stumps", "broken toes", "twisted back", "points of pain", "gnawed like fire", "fought and cried". Fainlight uses a lot of imagery words in this poem.
This poem tells a story about the Chinese tradition of foot binding and I believe that the form that Ruth Fainlight chose to write her poem was appropriate because she gave her poem thye type of seriousness it needed. If Fainlight, for example, had not been so descriptive in her poem, the reader may not have gotten the full effect of the pain that this foot binding caused. If Fainlight had used a rhyming poem, the rhymes might have taken away from the seriousness of the poem's subject, since most rhyming seems to add a humorous feeling to a poem. I think the number of stanzas that Fainlight uses in this poem adds to the poem's meaning because it shows two different views to the subject. The first stanza mainly talks about the pretty shoes and the second stanza describes the emotions and pain behind the shoes. A shorter poem might not have grasped the feeling as well as this longer poem does.
GROUP MEMBER RESPONSES:
When I first looked at the title of the poem, I was very intriged. I must admit, I did not expect it to be about tradition practices. I thought it would be about dancing or at least something to that nature.
When I read through the poem, I realized it was a much more serious topic then previously thought. After I finished reading the poem, I felt very bad for the young women who have gone through this sort of painful act for tradition. I had never heard of foot binding before reading this poem. I am very grateful I did not have to experiance these acts. I do feel that young women today still experiance societies expectations of beauty. So many young women have surgery for apperance, this reminds of the poem flower feet.
Reading Ruth Fainlight's "Flower Feet" was a great pleasure. She describes the traditional feet binding tradition in this poem with graphic detail, and gives her readers the knowledgable insight needed to understand this crippling Chinese custom. My first reaction looking at the title "Flower Feet", was that the poem would be about a person's beautiful feet. As the poem progressed I realized the horror involved in Chinese Foot Binding. The comparison between ".. the feet ..cut off and the raw stumps thrust[ing] inside the openings, surely It could not hurt more than broken toes, twisted back and bandaged tight.", that passage of the poem was an eye opener, and made me realize the severitry of this troublesome tradition. This poem has given me great respect for the woman who had to live this tradition and are able to tell others about it. And as the poem states " ..glad the times have changed. Otherwise, they would have crippled their daughters".
After first reading this poem, I didn't put too much thought into the words and just took it at face value for a simple poem. Yet after weeks of analyzing the poem and rereading it over and over again, I have gotten a lot more out of it then I originally had. I thought it was interesting to learn about this tradition in Chinese culture that caused so much pain to women. It was sad to see the pictures of these little girls' feets all deformed just so that they could appear to have smaller feet. The poem does a good job of imagery. Fainlight provides a descriptive little story of this tradition. These women were very brave to endure such pain for so long. I think the poem was interesting because it was informative, clear, and an interesting read.
The poem "Flower Feet" made me both smile and frown as I read it. At the beginning of the poem it explained how beautiful the shoes are that were worn by women in Chinese villages. She also goes into great detail about the different materials used to creat these shoes. I thought to myself these shoes have to be a beautiful sight in everyone's eyes. As I started to read the second part of the poem it explained the darkside to these beautiful shoes, which was the pain and agony the young girls had to go through to wear these shoes. After reading the whole poem I realized that women have been torturing themselves for many years. Even though, this particular form of torture has stopped society has created other forms that are still going on all for the sake of beauty.
When I first read this poem, I thought that the title was rather deceiving. Of course, I didn't think that it was literally going to be a poem about flower feet, but I was not expecting what I found. The first stanza of the poem has a very beautiful descriptive of these delicate small shoes. However, the second stanza of the poem talks of the extraordinary amount of pain these women went through in order to fit into these shoes. On the outside, the feet were beautiful in these gorgeous shoes. On the inside of the shoes though, there was blood, broken bones, tearing flesh, and burning pain. It really makes one realize that beauty is only skin deep.
I have known for a while that in the Chinese culture, women put binding around their feet in order to keep them small. Before researching the topic I really did not understand what kind of pain came with this tradition. I, having worn a size 10 in women's shoes since I was 11, always thought that if I had known that I could have kept my feet small by simply binding them that I would have. I simply thought that this was a clever painless way to stay delicate. I was very wrong. After reading the poem, I realized just how much Chinese women had to endure just for the sake of culture. It really makes me sad to think that the mother was often the one to inflict the horrendous pain of foot binding on her daughter. It makes me wonder if I would do the same to my daughter if I lived in that culture.
On this page you will find some interesting links on Ruth Fainlight. Enjoy!
A Ruth Fainlight interview
Ruth Fainlight Bio
More info on Ruth F.
History of Chinese Foot Binding
San Francisco Museum's site on Foot Binding