Miss July's Seasons

Topics: Seasons

“Miss July Grows Older” written by Margaret Atwood is a piece that exemplifies aspects of the theme of aging and the growth of the woman throughout her journey in womanhood. Margaret Atwood, among many others, is well-known for making her female characters reflect the women and their experiences around her (poetry foundation). Atwood captures the image of Miss July and develops the character of Miss July from a young, gullible woman, to a more focused and refined woman. Atwood uses several forms of figurative language to define Miss July’s character and express the effect of aging and sexual attraction amongst women.

Margaret Atwood opens the poem with a particular question, “How much longer can I get away with being so fucking cute?” (Lines 1-2). By using this open-ended question, it makes for a sort of foreshadow for a huge point of growth and realization that will soon be discovered throughout the poem. This rhetorical question (which July later answers herself with “not much longer”) also helps to set up one of the tones that will be shown throughout the poem, which is confidence.

Atwood depicts Miss July as a beautiful and confident character. Miss July is fully aware of this beauty that she obtains and uses this to her advantage when it comes to men and getting what she wants. This tone of confidence continues as Miss July brags about the skill that she has for men. “Men were a skill… it was something I did well” (Lines 20/22). She takes much pride in the way that she attracts men and what she can offer them.

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As seen in the first two lines of the poem, Miss July knows that can she can get far just by being cute. In today’s society, this a very common misconception. Often times, women are seen as nothing more beyond the beauty and bodies that they behold. Miss July quickly comes to the realization that her “easy life” of just being cute will not last much longer for her. This sets up the rest of the poem to peak the beginning of Miss July’s change. As the poem continues, Atwood begins to turn to a melancholy tone. As the second stanza arrives, Miss July begins to reminisce on the way she used to look and carry herself when she was younger. This helps to advance the idea of a melancholy and nostalgic feel in the poem. In the second stanza, Miss July reminisces and reflects on her younger days and the things she does and wears for the glory of men. “When I was young I went with my hair hiding one eye, thinking myself darling;” (12), is an example of the flashbacks that occur in the poem and further this tone of nostalgia. By using these set tones, Atwood gives the poem a feeling that keeps readers intrigued and constantly wanting to know Miss July further.

Additionally, Atwood can be seen using symbolism to relate Miss July’s name (which is a part of the summer season), to her own personal changing “seasons” throughout her life. With this symbol, Margaret Atwood brings a new feel and idea to the poem. The relation of the name to the seasons gives the poem a more engaging meaning. Because July is a part of a season, Miss July’s name can relate to the phases she goes through during her womanhood and can be seen as season changes. “After a while, you forget what you look like.”(Lines 8-9) As years go on, season after the season begins to come and go. This name, Miss “July”, can be seen as a symbol of the actual month, July, which is a part of the summer season. July is well known for typically being hot and everything flourishing during this time. This closely connects with Miss July’s youthfulness and the way she flourished in the prime of her life. As time progresses, Miss July’s prime “season” begins to leave and she begins to grow older and wiser. Atwood gives Miss July this particular name to show that Miss July’s changes in her looks and sexual attraction can be seen leaving as like any other season. As the seasons go by, Miss July begins to forget what she once possessed before. “After a while, you forget what you look like,” Atwood calls attention to the change in Miss July’s demeanor as she grows older and moves throughout her seasons of womanhood. As the seasons come and leave, Miss July realizes that she has much more to offer than what the eye can see. In lines 24-29, Atwood mentions a standing pool filled with brown leaves. This symbolizes the beginning of the season, Fall when the leaves begin to change colors and fall to the ground. This focuses on the first change in Miss July’s physical and mental shift and her stance on the meaning of sex, as it is no longer summer (the peak of the year/her life). The “standing pool choked with brown leaves” indicates that no one is in the pool, which closely relates to there being no one sexually involved in Miss July’s life. As the stanza continues, the season changes to Winter, further progressing as is Miss July’s seasonal change. The use of the specific name “July” supports Atwood in building a well-rounded character.

Together with using rhetorical questions and symbolism, Atwood incorporates examples of figurative language such as similes and imagery to describe the passing of time and the change Miss July is experiencing. Margaret Atwood uses many examples of similes to relate Miss July’s experience and change to understand statements. “Back when my skin had the golden slick of fresh-spread margarine” is a simile that compares the youth and beauty/skin of Miss July to the golden look and feel of a stick of margarine. As it advances, Atwood features more similes that begin to display a shift in the poem. “But after a while, these flesh arpeggios get boring, like Bach over and over, too much of one kind of glory.” (61-63). Miss July compares her getting older and her fun with men, to getting old and tiresome like the same Bach song being repeated. Miss July acknowledges that she has grown as a woman and that sex and different men no longer excite her, as she has outgrown it. Throughout the poem, there is a transition in Miss July’s feelings and her demeanor towards the change she encounters. Margaret Atwood highlights this by firstly, setting up the first stanza in a way that analyzes how July used to carry herself and how proud of it she was. Miss July “pretends not to care” (11) that she is beginning to see a change in herself. As the poem continues, Miss July begins to recognize that she is becoming much more than just her beauty and that she has more to offer than just her body. She begins to use more of her common sense. “You grow out of sex like a shrunk dress into your common sense” (49-50). This is another example of a simile that proves that Miss July is no longer interested in what sex can offer her and that she has become much more than just a sexual attraction Atwood uses imagery to give readers a closer feel to Miss July. In the first stanza, Atwood gives many examples of imagery, allowing the poem to seem more realistic and somewhat relatable. Lines 4-5 give specific details of some of the things Miss July wore, allowing readers to get a visual image in their minds of how Miss July dressed like a younger woman. As the poem progresses, we get more details on Miss July, helping to grow the visual image, and focus more on the way her hair and makeup looked in addition to her clothing. The use of this figurative language brings more life to the character of Miss July.

In the final analysis, Margaret Atwood depicts Miss July as a beautiful character who goes through a stage where she finds herself and realizes that she is more than just her body and her looks. Atwood establishes this by using many concepts of figurative language such as the name Miss July as symbolism for changing seasons, the rhetorical question that opens up the poem and gives a confident tone, and the similies and imagery that gives the reader a closer understanding of who Miss July is. By using these examples, Atwood creates a strong-willed character who goes through a season of rediscovering herself while also becoming older and wiser.

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Miss July's Seasons. (2022, Jun 23). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/miss-july-s-seasons/

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