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The poems “Character” and “Border” are both about the patriarchy and how they hold the female speakers back in life. In the poem “Character,” the speaker has to take the first steps from her sheltered home, but if she does there will be men who are harassing her every step of the way, while in the poem “Border,” the patriarchal society is holding her from moving forward with things she wants to do in life.

“You’re a girl/ and you’d better not forget/ that when you step over the threshold of your house/ men will look askance at you.” This poem starts off speaking a truth that the readers can connect with. The last few lines of the poem are where the feminist theme comes in strong in this poem. “If you’ve got no character/ you’ll turn back,/ and if not/ you’ll keep on going,/ as you’re going on now.” These lines are where the theme shows up the heaviest, the idea to carry on if you have the strength to, to keep moving in a patriarchal society. The way this poem is set up, it is saying that the only way to move up in a patriarchy as a female is to force your way up and to keep moving.

“I’m going to move ahead./ Behind me my whole family is calling,/ my child is pulling at my sari-end,/ my husband stands blocking the door,/ but I will go./ There’s nothing ahead but a river/ I will cross./ I know how to swim but they/ won’t let me swim, won’t let me cross.” This poem is set up after this first stanza like a wave. She tries to move forward and life knocks her back. The waves take you where they want you to go, and the family and her husband are the metaphorical waves in this poem. This poem is about the speaker being forced to stay stagnant, like a lake, but the speaker has waves crashing back on her and pulling her farther and farther from her goal. She, at the end, decides that no matter what she is going to cross the river.

This is how the two poems are similar: that no matter how you need to do it, you move forward and make your own path in a society that men control. “Character” and “Border” end in similar ways. The ending of “Border” is “There’s nothing ahead but a river/ and I know how to swim./ Why shouldn’t I go? I’ll go.” Forcing yourself into the society dominated by men is, in these poems, the only way to make it in the world.

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