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Bequest by Eunice de Souza Summary


  1. Read the poem
  2. About the poet
  3. Summary

About the poet

Eunice de Souza was an Indian English language poet, literary critic and novelist.  Among her notable books of poetry are Women in Dutch painting (1988), Ways of Belonging (1990), etc


‘Bequest’ means sacrificing something for the sake of others. Just like Jesus Christ sacrificed himself for the sake of humanity, the poet here compares this to the sacrifices made by a woman for their partners. The poem consists of five stanzas with irregular lines in each stanza. The speaker of the poem is a female, and it is written in first person perspective.

The poem begins with the image of Jesus Christ holding his bleeding heart. The main theme of the poem, i.e. sacrifice is highlighted since the very beginning of the poem. The speaker says that every Christian home contains a picture of Jesus holding his bleeding heart in His hand, to remind them of the sacrifice he made for mankind. However, the speaker doesn’t exactly like to look at this picture. It feels her with disgust because she relates this idea with the sacrifices made by women due to patriarchy. The image of Jesus represents truth and openness. He had always been truthful to the mankind. Similarly, the speaker is also truthful about her feelings. She doesn’t hide her true self to anyone, except the hairdresser. However, the society doesn’t allow her to be herself. They try to force her to follow the conventions of the Catholic society. She refers to Christ, who says that people should accept everything that comes in their way, without any opposition. They must accept whatever God has sent for them, rather it be good or bad. But, the speaker here calls Jesus as a symbol of patriarchy.

The speaker then expresses her wish to be called a ‘wise woman’. According to the society, a wise woman is one who keeps smiling endlessly, rather than being intelligent. They look like plastic flowers who keep smiling without any emotions. They are forced to hide their real emotions behind their fake smiles. The speaker says that Jesus teaches the art of smiling to his devotees. He says people to smile even if they are unhappy from the inside. In the concluding stanza, the speaker says that now she is going to perform a charity, just like Christ did to the mankind. However, she wouldn’t sacrifice for the sake of others, but for the happiness of hr own heart. She even compares her heart to a ‘spare kidney’. Here, she decreases the value of the most important organ of the body, by comparing it to a spare kidney. She wants to sacrifice her heart because it is the source of all her pains. the longer it will stay in her body, the longer she will keep suffering. It will make her realize the pain of being a woman in the patriarchal society. It is the dearest ones who cause her pain, instead of the strangers. That is why, she would like to give her heart away to the enemy instead of a friend.

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